PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To the Press Conference on Thursday, November 25, 2004, Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• Continued oppression of Guyanese by the backwardness and incompetence of the Government
• the PNCR approach: satisfying vital public needs through performance and results in Public Sector operations
• Elections watch


PPP/C GOVERNMENT AND GPL CONTINUE TO OPPRESS GUYANESE

The efficient, adequate, reliable and affordable supply of energy for the development of the economy is the responsibility of the Government. Therefore, Guyanese have to look for solutions to a Government that seems to have specialized in a “not me” culture. It seems that the Jagdeo Government knows no other approach than the avoidance of its responsibilities through the device of blaming everyone else and everything else except its own incompetence and backwardness.

In all parts of the world, particularly in countries which are highly dependent on the use of imported petroleum fuel for the supply of energy which is vital for economic development, Governments have prepared, presented and implemented structured, rational, sensible and sustainable plans for reducing the dependence of their economies on imported fuel.

In the case of Guyana, the Government, while retaining institutions such as the Guyana Energy Agency, has failed to deliver the nation from the albatross represented by the high dependence of the economy on imported petroleum fuel.

We now have the situation whereby the Government is hiding behind the Guyana Power and Light Company, the monopoly provider of electrical energy – the most convenient form of energy for industrial development – which is pretending that all of their major problems are due to the price of fuel.

Let us step back to 1992 when the IDB and others were funding and supervising the implementation of the rationally thought out programme for the rehabilitation of the then Guyana Electricity Corporation and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of its management. One of the first acts of the incoming PPP/C Government was to stop this programme, claiming that the managers responsible were receiving “super salaries”.

In the case of GEC, now GPL, it was evident that it was urgently necessary to deal with the following:
• Increased generation capacity;
• Reduction of unacceptably high technical and commercial losses;
• The strengthening of the high voltage coastal grid to ensure the safe and reliable supply of electricity to all coastal communities;
• Strengthening the medium and low voltage distribution network, particularly in urban communities, such as Georgetown;
• Completing the 60 cycle conversion programme;
• Encouraging the generation of electricity from indigenous bio-mass waste materials, such as bagasse, rice husk and wood;
• Medium to long term development of hydro power capacity to reduce the heavy dependence on imported petroleum products for the generation of electricity;

Like all other Guyanese we have been waiting in vain to see the Government’s programme and policies to deal with the issues of energy security and sustainability of supply.

Whilst we recognize that the steep increase in the price of imported petroleum product is an important contributor to energy costs, in Guyana no one can ignore the unconscionable consumption tax imposed and retained by the Government. It must be possible for some relief to be given to Guyanese domestic consumers of electricity if the Government is willing to give up some of its “windfall gains” from increased receipt of taxation income due to higher prices of imported fuel.

Mr. Ronald Alli and Mr. Winston Brassington, were key members of the Board controlled by ESBI/CDC. They owe the Guyanese people a satisfactory explanation of why they did not pursue a commitment for investment to reduce the high levels of technical and commercial losses experienced by GPL.

It is well known and understood world wide that the cost of generating electricity from centralized grid-based systems should be lower and more economical than the generation of electricity from small, stand alone and uneconomic facilities. The Government of Guyana should seek to ensure that the nation is not forced to pay the high foreign exchange cost which results from major consumers of electricity importing their own equipment and having to maintain stockpiles of fuel to enable continuous and reliable power supply. Why is it, therefore, that the Jagdeo Government seems blissfully unconcerned over the fact that all major bulk commercial consumers of electricity, such as DDL, DIDCO, Banks DIH, etc, have either committed investments or have completed investment programmes for self-generation of electricity? Surely, the Government must be aware of the increased foreign exchange burden which these decisions impose on the already devastated Guyana economy. Apart from these national costs, this development will now significantly increase the cost of electricity to domestic consumers who are already finding difficult it to survive under the depressed economic conditions created by acts of this uncaring Government.

We note Mr. Ronald Alli’s proposal to increase generation to the grid through the purchase of electricity from Independent Power Producers. However, we cannot be indifferent to the unfortunate and painful experiences of initiatives such as the Wartsilla matter. If only corruption and nepotism can be removed from these matters beneficial effects can be obtained. Does anyone expect the Jagdeo regime which is “hooked on” corruption to ever allow such a programme to be pursued solely in the national interest?

THE PNCR APPROACH: SATISFYING VITAL PUBLIC NEEDS THROUGH PERFORMANCE AND RESULTS IN PUBLIC SECTOR OPERATIONS

The PNCR has always recognised that while shared governance provides the necessary platform for the economic and social reconstruction of Guyana, it will not magically by itself transform the country into a place where all can enjoy peace and prosperity. Lots of sustained effort and creativity would still be demanded of the Guyanese people to achieve desired results and objectives. Accordingly, the PNCR has been continuously exploring and researching the kind of policies it can propose and adopt to capitalize on the shared governance environment. The party has always emphasized that for Guyana to move forward it needs a bold vision, creative ideas, and open minds. It needs the kind of political management that is people-oriented, business-minded, performance-driven and results-oriented.

Among the set of issues that the party has reflected on is the question of how can a PNCR-led government effectively address the vital needs of citizens, given a fixed and limited budget for public expenditure. The current PPP/C government likes to boast that each year’s budget is the biggest ever. In 2003, for instance, the government spent over G$66 billion of public money, with G$17 billion expended on capital items such as infrastructure works. Likewise, the PPP/C is fond of measuring success by quoting the percentage of budgetary allocation spent by RDC or a Ministry. This approach to measuring performance is Jurassic, misleading and at times mere political gimmickry. Over the years, Guyanese have not benefited as fully as possible from this government’s expenditure. Our social services and standard of living remain poor. We have no confidence that the billions of dollars of tax money and borrowed funds are all coming directly to us. For one, we know that a significant portion of public expenditure is lost through endemic corruption, a problem the government is reluctant, for its own self-serving reasons, to address.

At this press conference, however, the PNCR wishes to focus more on the lack of “value for money” due to inefficiencies, poor policy directions and inadequate financial management in government operations. Because we believe these factors and conditions significantly deprive citizens of their due, our approach to delivering benefits and measuring performance will be significantly different. Under a PNCR-led executive, the focus will be on achieving results that bring improvements to the lives of citizens. Government expenditure will be assessed on such measures as changes to people’s quality of life; community satisfaction; responsiveness to needs; and scope and sustainability of impacts.

The PNCR is convinced that citizens can derive far more benefits from available public expenditure if:
• program goals are adequately articulated and guided by clear government policies;
• citizens themselves are involved in articulating needs and monitoring program implementation;
• performance measures are installed and enforced;
• more attention is paid to effects and impacts rather than on straight outputs and actual expenditures;
• public accountability is strengthened; and
• the public sector is adequately trained, rewarded and imbued with a new sense of purpose and culture.

Against this background, the PNCR has been reviewing a piece of US legislation, titled “Government Performance and Results Act of 1993". This legislation emerged as a result of a US Congressional finding which stated that “waste and inefficiency in Federal programs undermine the confidence of the American people in the Government and reduce the Federal Government's ability to address adequately vital public needs”.

Under this legislation, federal agencies are required to set strategic goals, measure performance, and report on the degree to which goals were met. Additionally, agencies are required to work out annual performance plans to show the direct linkage between the strategic goals outlined in the agency's strategic plan and what managers and employees do day-to-day. Performance budgeting is also included to show the direct relationship between proposed program spending and expected program results and the anticipated effects of varying spending levels on results.

The PNCR recognizes that such an approach to public sector management requires a highly committed, disciplined and trained public service. We intend to work towards creating such a public service. We intend to review wage policies, revamp training programs and adopt a consultative approach that involves stakeholders such as the trades union and the private sector. Specifically on training, we intend to discuss with the University of Guyana the required modifications to academic courses (for such programs as Public Management, Business Management, Engineering Management) that may be necessary to accommodate this new dispensation.

Finally, for the PNCR, providing for the vital needs of citizens through direct public expenditure has more to do than eradicating corruption, improving accountability and effectiveness of expenditure. It also has to do with increasing government’s income through creating a wealthy and ever-expanding economy. The PNCR government’s tax base, therefore, will not depend on squeezing more from those who already are paying too much (such as public servants), but on garnering taxes from new sectors, industries and other economic agents.

We intend to make public more of our thinking on building a new Guyana economy and society.

ELECTIONS WATCH

As the clock ticks on, the PNCR is becoming more concerned that the activity and energy, which should be emanating from GECOM, if they are to deliver an election of an acceptable standard on or before March, 2006, is not forthcoming. There is an oozing sense of a GECOM which is feeding on the PPP/C’s pronouncements that all is well with the database; the MIDIS system only needs updating to cater for biometrics, which can be based on the photographs and finger prints which are already in the system; and minor legislative amendments are all that is required.

The PNCR has co-operated fully with the Elections Commission and has held talks and made timely submissions to the effect that there is need for house-to-house verification of those who are eligible to vote. The PNCR has also reiterated its commitment to the implementation of continuous registration with the introduction of at least a new biometric feature which would comprise multiple finger printing for the purpose of eliminating multiple registration and multi-voting in addition to the implementation of the Mc Dermont report, which speaks to the development of new software and the creation of a secure environment for GECOM’s information technology operations. The PNCR has also signalled its support for the Mike James recommendations with regard to the efficient and effective determination and conveyance of the results of the elections from the places of poll to GECOM’s Secretariat.

It is the PNCR’s conviction that all of these measures and others are necessary for the conduct of an election that is acceptable to all Guyanese. The PNCR is also aware that making these things possible will take time and is therefore apprehensive of the manner in which GECOM is proceeding. The PNCR is therefore alerting the Nation to the present state of affairs and imploring Guyanese not to fall prey to PPP/C pronouncements, which suggest that all is well. All is not well. There is much to be done and the PPP/C can only be setting the stage, for tension and confusion as the elections draw nearer by its insistence that all is well.

The PNCR has not forgotten the timeframe, which GECOM presented to the meeting at the Office of the President with the President, the donor community, the Elections Commission and local stakeholders, including the PNCR, for the holding of election and is equally aware that time is quickly slipping by given that timeframe. The PNCR therefore calls upon all concerned parties to act responsibly and swiftly and not allow themselves to be party to what is definitely not good for Guyana. The PNCR will continue to play a positive role to ensure that another disaster is averted.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, November 25, 2004