One year has elapsed since the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) declared the APNU/AFC Coalition the winner of the 2016 General Elections and they formed the present government of Guyana. After winning a majority of the seats in the National Assembly but losing the Executive Presidency in the previous Parliament, the coalition had trenchantly criticised the outgoing PPP administration and made 21 specific promises they would achieve in the first 100 days and then in the remaining years of their term.
This column will first consider the status of the first set of promises and the following one will consider, with one year of the term elapsed, whether the coalition is at least following the trajectory of their 5-year plan.
The reduction of the Berbice Bridge toll (#1), was thought to be a gimmick to wean away the PPP-dominated constituencies in Regions 5 and 6. This however was achieved by the government subsidising a small reduction from the Consolidated funds. This however, defeated the thrust of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) for the public to bear the market cost of public infrastructure.
There was a “significant” increase in Old Age Pensions (#4) but not in the salaries of Public Servants (#2). The government said it would await the report of a COI it established to review the Public Service before proceeding. This report was just submitted but the President signalled he might tie increases to productivity.
Other promises achieved were the return of a TV station to Linden (#7), Local Government Elections (#9), and implementation of an amended Anti Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act (#21). While there were efforts made towards the achievement of changes in VAT (#3), issuing passports in Berbice and Essequibo (#9), liberalisation of telecommunications (# 19) waiving of duties for small miners equipment (8), the holding of various Conferences (#10, 11,12,13,14, 15, 17, 18) were perfunctory at best or still unconsummated.
One of the most egregious was #10, the promised establishment of the Public Procurement Commission (PPC). The PPP had been blamed for years for not constituting a PPC so that it could then benefit its own favoured contractors and receive kickbacks. In this way the government parties APNU/AFC, when in Opposition, claimed hundreds of billions of dollars were “siphoned off” from the Consolidated Funds.
It has now been one year and the PPC has not been formed but the Minister of National Resource and prominent government spokesperson has outlined a position that goes against the grain of their former protestations. He claimed businessmen who made contributions to political parties were making “political investments” from which they should expect “returns”.
Another unconsummated promise was a Code of Conduct for Ministers and government officials (#16). While a draft was submitted months ago, the government claimed it is awaiting submissions from the public.
However from a standpoint of the overall development of the country, it has been the inability of the government to consummate its promise #20 – Adoption of a long-term sustainable economic development plan to realise the vast potential of this country – even after a year that has most disappointed analysts.
The President has conceded its failure in this area and if he could follow up on his oft expressed desire to work with the Opposition his government might save the day in the remaining four years of its term. Quite positively, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has also committed to working with the government in this area.