By The Piper
We are approaching the hundred-day mark for the new APNU+AFC administration to meet promises it set during the election campaign and soon after assuming state power. Time moves fast. For its part, the PPP has at least settled their leadership through Jagdeo’s assumption of the Opposition Leader office. The PPP must also keep its promises to the Guyanese people to provide robust and responsible opposition in parliament. In what follows, I identify some key issues where the administration and opposition should focus.
The APNU+AFC must immediately stop all firings; including mass firings until a proper set of protocols have been put in place. These protocols should be arrived at through the efforts of an independent body constituted with the assent of both the APNU+AFC and the PPP. Failing such a move, feelings of discontent will fester and further deepen the angst faced by groups that feel victimized.
The new administration has made some useful statements about public security, not least the announcement regarding assistance from independent, foreign professionals. Whether advice about policing from the USA is a good or bad idea is still a question to be settled. What we do know is that policing in America is noted for heavy-handedness, extreme coercive tactics, militarization which is visible by the equipment carried, and also for widespread discrimination against minorities. African Americans are the most discriminated against population by the police. It might be better to look elsewhere.
Finally for the APNU+AFC, a much clearer strategy for balanced growth and equitable development is needed. The focus should be on the medium-term. After oil revenues start to flow the whole game is likely to change. The budget presented last Monday is rather tame, with not many fresh ideas. The new bridge across the Demerara River is a great idea, but we need to know more about the financial arrangements to fund the construction. What and who are involved?
The PPP also has its work piled up. It is vital that the PPP take seriously the role of the opposition and that this opposition reflects broad interests across party lines. PPP representatives should do detailed analytical work that is data grounded for all the key projects under parliamentary consideration. Bluster will not do the trick. The party may very well find it necessary to devise a competence-based division of labor.
It is well known that since the days of Cheddi Jagan the PPP has always placed foreign affairs on the back burner. It can no longer afford such a position of withdrawal. A vibrant democracy in Guyana is partly dependent on having regular overseas input – with IFIs, the ABC countries, and the Commonwealth and CARICOM countries. Brazil is also an important strategic partner as is China. PPP officials should establish strong working relationships with foreign embassies. It is no good to run to them only at election time when things go wrong.
Finally, the PPP has a poor record of providing information to the Guyanese population. Many important issues are never publicly addressed and allowed to wallow and then die. Backyard analysts then take over. As the parliamentary opposition, the PPP should ensure that it regularly holds press conferences, and that information is provided on a regular and systematic manner.