iNews introduces to you our weekly column – The Piper – which will analyse social, cultural and political issues in our society. The Piper would be featured every Sunday morning.
By The Piper
Few things in a nation’s life are more exhilarating than a general election, and the May 11 polls in Guyana demonstrate that our country is no different. For months the contesting parties sung their mantras and mobilized their forces. That is now the past. The posters, flags, buntings, and balloons may soon have now come down and the task of governing by the newly controversially elected APNU-AFC coalition has begun.
If the first week in the life of the new administration is any indication of things to come, the nation is about to witness both sweeping changes and dogged persistence of the familiar amalgam of contentious politics. And yes some amount of confusion in the naming and renaming of ministries.
Through all of this, the citizens of Guyana showed the restraint and discipline that textbooks on politics in ethnically divided societies dream about. You see, against tremendous odds, this small laboratory of postcolonial politics has shown that democracy is possible even under the most aggrieved circumstances. For these reasons, the Guyanese people should stand up and take a bow.
The PPP/C governed for twenty three years, albeit the last three were very much defined by the loss of its parliamentary majority. In a little over two decades the party that has historically claimed to be on the side of the working class delivered real benefits to the masses, but also left sufficient problems to warrant both careful scrutiny and deep reflection, not least on its own part.
The accomplishments of the PPP/C are many but mostly economic in nature, some of it but by no means most, building on the new path introduced by President Hugh Desmond Hoyte. The macro-economic environment went from structural debilitation to structural stability, the latter widely acknowledged even by the ABC countries and international financial institutions. The GDP expanded voluminously and new sectors of economic activity, especially in services, are bound to be of long term benefit.
The PPP/C can also justifiably claim that it put into place infrastructural capabilities and the requisite environment for such large scale investments as in oil exploration. At the consumer end of things, Guyanese were availed all the products associated with mass consumption.
Despite its accomplishments on the economic side of things, and putting aside the current claims of GECOM irregularities on May 11, the party would be well advised to ask what went wrong. A few things come to mind, but they all fit into one grand miscalculation.
The PPP/C has always assumed that if you get the economics right, good shall come on the political front. Two problems arise with this assumption. Firstly, big projects yield results only in the long term. Secondly, human beings want more than things material. The rush to build roads all over the country was particularly harmful to the PPP because it became riddled with pot holes not long after completion. Long lines for government services as is the case with getting a driving license or passport gave the impression of abandonment. Upon retirement workers encountered an NIS more as a nightmare than a source of comfort.
The dark economy of everyday bribery for small things at government agencies and traffic police stops continued without aggressive intervention. A dysfunctional emergency 911 system accentuated an already dismal sense of personal security. The list is long but I know you get the point. Narratives of incompetence were easily culled from these mundane problems.
The people wanted change and either with or without irregularities at GECOM (which it must address), a new administration has been sworn in. One can only hope the APNU+AFC realises that promises at elections are easy to make but hard to keep. Some are already pointing to signs of nepotism, infighting and confusion within the one-week old new coalition government. Be careful because at election time, the small man is the real man.