OPINION: Inclusive Governance: The path is laced with several hurdles

Parliament of Guyana

The following is an opinion piece by Dr Tara Singh

A colleague says emphatically; “I am all for inclusive governance but to the exclusion of the PNCR riggers.” I asked rather sarcastically:  “But who are the riggers?“ He retorted: “Everyone knows they are attached to the governing party.” The PNCR -AFC’s (referred henceforth as PNCR) operatives are making it very difficult for any party or group to embrace them in any inclusive governance arrangement.

A debate on inclusive governance is restricted by some conceptual problems such as the lack of trust among parties; the proliferation of  disparate ideas that are not part of any coherent model on inclusive governance; failure to show how inclusive governance will be better than the existing system; and ignoring the importance of attitudinal transformation.

In the early stages (first year in office) of the APNU-AFC government, former US President Jimmy Carter encouraged both President David Granger and Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo to engage in talks regarding inclusive governance. Both leaders agreed in principle and President Granger named his Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo as his chief negotiator. The PPPC immediately rejected Moses’ candidacy saying that he was a ‘rubber stamp,’ and couldn’t therefore make any meaningful decisions to move the process forward. Negotiations never happened; they collapsed because of a lack of trust.

It’s not that the PPPC is averse to inclusive government; rather they stated publicly that they embrace some form of inclusive governance and has included it as an important promise in their manifesto. But the PPPC has insisted that the 2020 elections results must first be declared on the basis of the recount before talks on inclusive governance could proceed. However, proponents believe that the conversation on inclusive governance should begin now, probably to get a head start in developing a model!

Apart from the lack of trust, the debate on inclusive governance has been devoid of a conceptual framework or model as I have stated before. (My letter of 5/22/20:Elections Results First: Inclusive Governance Afterwards). There is also a huge difference between power sharing/shared governance and inclusive governance. The former as conceived by proponents is essentially grounded in power distribution proportionate to electoral or numeric strength. The latter (inclusive governance) is based on the majority party determining, after consultations with stakeholders, their level of participation in the power structure at every layer of governance.

Here are some nagging issues: (1) How do we know that inclusive governance will lead to better and more responsive government? (2) How do we know that inclusive governance will produce equality of opportunity and the good life for all? (3) How do we know that inclusive governance will heal the social and ethnic divisions of Guyanese society? (4) What is the compelling evidence for inclusive governance? (5) Should one rely only on ideology or political polemics to push forth inclusive governance? (6) Or is inclusive governance being advanced only because the current “winner-takes-all” (WTA) system has not worked well to solve or mitigate the country’s problems? (7) Does the failure to produce beneficial results under WTA due to systemic defects or to management ineptitude?

It’s also important that for the introduction of any new system of governance, the players should go through a process of orientation. Attitudinal transformation is an important pre-requisite to the establishment of a new system of governance. While some old ideas may be useful, these should not necessarily be the foundation of a new system, and any new system must be integral to constitutional reform.

My model of Inclusive governance if adopted, will ensure that an effective opposition is in place to help check governmental excesses. Without this opposition, a dictatorship could easily creep into the system. There is still much work at the conceptual and analytic level that has to be done to set the stage for inclusive governance.