PRESS STATEMENT By the People’s National Congress Reform To Press Conference on Thursday, July 28, 2005 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:

• Any responsible administration would have anticipated the consequences of the escalating fuel prices and taken positive measures to cushion the hardships imposed on consumers.
• Infrastructure is important in promoting economic growth, reducing the vulnerability of the poor and underpinning livelihood improvements.
• The State media continue to serve as a propaganda outlet for both the government and the PPP/C party.
• The Flood Relief Secretariat is now a faceless creature of President Jagdeo and an impervious and mean custodian of state resources.
• Equally important is the house to house verification of the 2001 official list of electors (OLE) so that the preliminary list of electors for the 2006 elections, comprising the OLE and the new registrants, will not be littered with names of the dead and migrants as well as there would be no registrants with two ID cards as was the case in 2001.

THE COST OF ENERGY DRIVING GUYANESE DEEPER INTO POVERTY

The state financed and provisioned PPP propaganda machine seeks to lull Guyanese into believing that everything is going well. However, the dismal record of the Jagdeo regime daily demonstrates their callous disregard for the welfare of the Guyanese working people. This is most starkly demonstrated by their bumbling reactions to the depressing and ever present experience of the escalating cost of energy, particularly electricity, which is driving us all deeper into the abyss of poverty.

The cost of living is killing. This situation is made worst by the inability of the Jagdeo regime to understand the ramifications of the high dependence of the Guyana economy on the use of imported petroleum fuels for almost all of our energy needs. The Guyana Energy Agency recently estimated the current foreign exchange costs as US$160.00M/year. This is compounded by the multiplied impact of high fuel import prices on almost all of the elements which determine the cost of living. Any serious and caring Government would recognise this as a manageable challenge to be confronted as a matter of national priority through a sensible Energy Policy and a sustainable Programme of remedies to ameliorate the adverse social and economic impacts over some realistic time frame.

The Guyana Energy Agency Act 1997 (Act No 31 of 1997) provides the Government with all of the institutional authority and powers to undertake a planned, structured, rational and comprehensive programme to reduce the heavy dependency of the Guyana economy on imported petroleum fuels by the management of the national energy problem in a short, medium and long-term context. Instead of endowing the Guyana Energy Agency with the capacity and the capabilities to undertake this vital national task, the Government has restricted the attention of the Agency to the marking of fuel to prevent smuggling and the recording of the c.i.f. price of imported petroleum both of which activities are directed towards enabling the Ministry of Finance/The Guyana Revenue Authority to grab the proceeds of the imposed Consumption tax. Such an approach is short-sighted and does not address the root cause of the problem.

It is the constitutional and moral responsibility of the Government to manage the affairs of the State in such a manner as to enhance the welfare of its citizens through the creation of conditions for real development and growth. Unfortunately for the Guyanese people, the Jagdeo regime seems to be averse to any pro-active management approach, preferring instead to resort to reactive short-term, band aid and seat-of-its-pants, solutions.

Any responsible and competent administration would have anticipated the consequences of the escalating fuel prices and would have taken positive measures to cushion the hardships imposed on consumers. Characteristically, the Jagdeo regime has continued to sit on their hands and seem to have decided that it is beyond their capacity to actively manage the nation’s energy problems.

The Guyanese people, contrary to the contemptuous and arrogant view of the regime’s spin doctors, are not easily fooled by the propaganda spewed on the well misused NCN. The people continue to suffer from the negative impacts of the blinkered and incompetently managed programmes of the Government which, by visiting maximum frustration on Guyanese, have caused:

 the acceleration of emigration, particularly by our young people and skilled artisans;
 The growing and threatening menace of organised crime and the increased feeling of insecurity in all communities;
 Endemic corruption at all levels of the Administration;
 The pervasiveness of money laundering and narco-funded business enterprises;
 The widespread and deepening of poverty within all segments of the population;
 The rise of business failures and other evidence of the continued contraction and depression of the economy;
 The failure to create an investor-friendly environment to attract needed large investments;
 The breakdown of the Rule of Law and loss of confidence in the Police and the Judicial system;
 The lack of jobs and real opportunities for the advancement of our young people; etc, etc
The misuse of the state media to conceal the foregoing reality will not succeed.

Why hasn’t the PPP/C Government presented an Energy Policy to the National Assembly since 1992?

When will the Government increase the capacity and capabilities of the Guyana Energy Agency to manage the national energy problem?

When will the Board of the National Energy Agency be appointed?

GOVERNMENT USING INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT AS A CAMPAIGN TOOL

It is no accident that Government’s increased spending on infrastructure projects has coincided with a protracted period of political campaigning; it is the main beneficiary of this patent misuse of public funds. It is after all a responsibility of government to give high priority to infrastructure both in policy and in investment. The People’s Progressive Party/Civic’s well worn approach is to withhold these physical improvements until elections are in sight and then orchestrate a frenzied effort to tackle the problems that have undermined economic development and marginalized whole communities. Just as there is no sense in developing feeder roads in the absence of trunk roads or building housing schemes where there is no electricity, or building schools without teachers and equipment, police stations without enough policemen or hospitals without adequate medical personnel, so it will not work to pursue economic growth that has even a minimal impact on poverty reduction. It is foolhardy to focus purely on direct physical benefits for the poor when the wider environment in which they seek to secure a livelihood remains hostile. There is no getting away from it. Guyana, if the truth be known, has the highest level of unemployment and underemployment in the entire region.

There must be more than one hundred thousand (100,000) men and women of working age in Guyana who have been officially unemployed or underemployed for over one year. As these numbers are swollen by people leaving school or university or are being laid off as the economy contracts, Guyana will rank only below Haiti as having the highest proportion of long term unemployed in this hemisphere.

This dubious honour comes despite government’s boast that we’ve never had it so good. Not withstanding the PPP/C’s daily drumbeat of insistence that more tourists are visiting Guyana, more investment dollars are pouring in, the Private Sector is functioning as the engine of growth and that crime is on the decrease, the brutal facts tell otherwise. Guyanese will not be fooled by monotonous PPP/C propaganda as practiced 24/7 on the State owned television, and radio nor false promises of a better life if the Jagdeo government is returned to power in 2006.

Spending on infrastructure does not always contribute to pro-poor growth by maximizing their opportunities to use skills, time and physical resources. Benefits have often been less than anticipated, especially because of inadequate attention to governance and institutional frameworks. “White elephant’ infrastructure projects are far from unknown. With political gain as the main objective and high levels of personal and political corruption, facilitated by weak systems, government has rejected a demand-led approach. Its inept and opportunistic infrastructure programme continues to distort public investment choices, diverting benefits from the poor and encouraging shoddy work and neglect of maintenance. When will the Jagdeo administration learn that infrastructure by itself is not development and that its mismanagement of the economy creates a formidable barrier preventing poor people from gaining access to the economic opportunities that can be created by infrastructure? What is worse is that Guyanese are not getting value for money. Roads and other construction are poorly done and are not lasting.

Infrastructure is important in promoting economic growth, reducing the vulnerability of the poor and underpinning livelihood improvements. It must provide an enabling environment for business. Such interventions to reduce poverty must be planned and coordinated across sectors and not just a knee jerk reaction to falling political fortunes. The PPP/C infrastructure work is not geared to achieve developmental objectives. There are avenues for corruption, making the PPP/C elite wealthy and for political campaigning purposes.

The underlying economic rationale for such irresponsible public spending is too weak; and the attempt to win votes by stealth too nakedly self-serving.

Guyanese will not be tricked once again.

PNCR TO CONSIDER ADVOCATING FOR A PUBLIC BOYCOTT OF THE STATE MEDIA

The PNCR General Council at its recent meeting directed that serious consideration be given to the launching of a campaign to encourage Guyanese citizens to boycott the State media, in particular the Guyana Chronicle and NCN Television. The State media continue to serve as a propaganda outlet for both the government and the PPP/C party. The abuse and misuse of these public assets have grown worse in recent months as the Jagdeo PPP/C has become more desperate in its bid to cover the tracks of its failed economic, social and political policies and positions.

The Jagdeo PPP/C believes that by bombarding the Guyanese public with both one-sided and lop-sided information, it can deceive the people into accepting or ignoring the stagnant economy, the high crime rate, its complicity in turning Guyana into a narco-state, the disarray in the education system, the massive exodus of skills, and the ever-present corruption and discrimination.

It is worth remembering that in 2001, the Hoyte-Jagdeo committee on broadcasting had put forward comprehensive recommendations on the use of the media. The bipartisan committee had, for example, proposed that the goals of state-owned broadcast media must be to:

1. “reflect the diverse social, cultural, political and economic nature of the Guyanese society by providing varied programming, a balance of information, education and entertainment for men, women and children of all ages, interests and tastes;

2. promote and reflect shared national values, customs, aspirations and culture;

3. provide important news and public affairs programming which meets the highest standards of journalism, including fair and unbiased coverage, impartiality and balance.”

In December 2001, both Mr. Jagdeo and Mr. Hoyte fully endorsed these recommendations. Needless to say, like several of the other bipartisan agreements, Mr. Jagdeo did not match his words and postures with action.

As the abuse of the State media continues, many Guyanese have voiced their outrage to the leadership of the PNCR. These public expressions cannot be ignored. It is clear that the government has no intention of complying with the spirit and letter of the broadcast committee’s submissions. The four years since the adoption of the committee’s report have provided all the evidence of the Jagdeo PPP/C’s deception and bad faith.

Against this background, and in response to widespread and deep public dissatisfaction, the PNCR is giving consideration to organizing a national boycott of the State-owned NCN television and the Guyana Chronicle. This is one aspect of a programme aimed at ensuring the end of the abuse of the state media. While we are aware that the Guyanese people have already reacted by turning away from these media outlets (we know, for example, that circulation at the Guyana Chronicle has dropped over 65% in the last few years), the fact that tens of millions of our tax dollars are still being used for partisan purposes is a fundamental act of defilement that must be responded to. The PNCR intends to respond as outlined.



FLOOD RELIEF WOES

While some communities are still being flooded with the flood relief ration, there are those which are still to witness a transparent distribution of the flood relief monies. Firstly, there is no public notification of where and when the relief is being paid out. Secondly, the persons who are effecting the pay out are not given information on the persons for whom no cheques have been prepared. Such persons are once again provided with numbers to call, which are forever busy or not answered. Persons, who make the efforts to go to the Flood Relief secretariat are not allowed to see anyone, instead they are provided with the same hoax numbers. The Flood Relief Secretariat is now a faceless creature of President Jagdeo and an impervious and mean custodian of state resources. This seems like another attempt to rouse people into action with those against whom the action should be taken ensconced while the poor and powerless and all sides of the divide are pit one against the other.

While encouraging the people to demand what is rightfully theirs and at the same time intervening and making representation where possible, the PNCR sees as its major objective, at this time, as ensuring that a free and fair election is held in 2006 so that this incompetent government can be removed from the pinnacle on, which it is presently perched and from which it launches its lethal attacks on the people of Guyana. The day reckoning is nigh.

ELECTION UPDATE

Elections are drawing nearer and we are now advised that GECOM is going to invite experts to render advice on the issue of introducing electronic fingerprinting and cross checking. The PNCR has argued for the longest while that GECOM`s original position of introducing a new biometric feature is a key ingredient to ensuring that there is no multiple registration and multiple voting. Equally important is the house to house verification of the 2001 official list of electors (OLE) so that the preliminary list of electors for the 2006 elections, comprising the OLE and the new registrants, will not be littered with names of the dead and migrants as well as there would be no registrants with two ID cards as was the case in 2001. 2006 is the time for GECOM to get it right and produce an election of unquestionable standard that would engender the confidence of all of the stakeholders and give the country a fair chance in the post elections era to focus on issues of governance and development. To deny the country that opportunity is to be enemy number one of the Guyanese people. The PNCR will not find itself in that position and will do all within its powers to ensure that no one imposes such a state on the nation.
No stone should be left unturned to ensure that GECOM conducts an election of an acceptable standard. Our expectations are very simple and clear.

1. Elections must be held by the constitutionally due time.
2. Elections must be held with a thoroughly cleansed voter’s list.
3. There must be a proper system of biometric checks.
4. There must be equitable use of the state media: on this matter the recently held General Council of the PNCR gave specific directives which the Party Leadership will be resolutely implementing.
5. The PNCR will hold the government and GECOM accountable if these conditions are not met.

People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, July 28, 2005