PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Thursday, January 4, 2007 Media Centre Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• The PNCR hopes that this New Year will be more satisfactory and fulfilling than the one that has just passed;
• This year, our Party will be celebrating its 52nd Anniversary and its 50th year of operating under the name - the People’s National Congress;
• Guyana has emerged from a very difficult year and there can only be any real hope of a future or prosperity and reconciliation if all stakeholders put their shoulders to the wheel to control and end criminal violence, reach a consensus on the economic way forward for this country, and deepen the level of involvement of all of our citizens in the development of the country;
• The PNCR hopes that the Cricket World Cup 2007 event will be treated as a national one and that all related benefits are extended to the Guyanese people regardless of political affiliation, race or religious beliefs;
• The PNCR believes that VAT must not become a windfall for the government and a burden for the people and businesses;
• If small nations like Guyana are to survive then they must bring to bear to the task of national development all of its available human and physical resources.

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL GUYANESE

The PNCR wishes all Guyanese a very Happy New Year! The Party hopes that this New Year will be more satisfactory and fulfilling than the one that has just passed. As we welcome the New Year this is an occasion for celebration as well as sober reflection.

The New Year will be filled with challenges as well as opportunities. We must therefore work hard as a nation to ensure that our people experience a greater level of prosperity in an atmosphere of improved security, better wages and salaries, a lower cost of living, a cleaner environment, social peace, and ethnic harmony. These are minimum conditions for real development. If we can achieve them, then our people will experience the fruits of economic prosperity instead of existing on a diet of promises and expectations. The People's National Congress Reform is committed to working constructively for genuine development of Guyana, so that our people can be able to experience increased prosperity and take care of their families, educate their children and become productive and useful citizens.

We will therefore be monitoring the economic development of this country and offering our ideas as to how the national pie can be increased and fairly distributed.

The Party is deeply conscious of the fact that such an increase in economic activity can only take place in a political environment, governed by the rule of law, free of rampant criminality, adherence to democratic practice, and respect for the rights and opinions of our citizens. In particular, the PNCR will insist that the significant debt reduction given to this Government must be effectively channelled into the areas of Education and Health, in order for there to be an improvement in the quality of life of our people.

PNCR CELEBRATES

This year, our Party will be celebrating its 52nd Anniversary and its 50th year of operating under the name - the People’s National Congress. The event will be appropriately celebrated. The longevity of the PNC indicates that our Party is grounded in the political realities of Guyana. We can therefore distinguish what is true from what is false. Much has been said by the Government about its achievements during the past year. That is the right of any Government or Party. The PNCR, however, does not share the rather rosy assessment of those achievements.

NO ROSY ACHIEVEMENTS IN 2006

This country has emerged from a very difficult year and there can only be any real hope of a future of prosperity and reconciliation if all stakeholders put their shoulders to the wheel to control and end criminal violence, reach a consensus on the economic way forward for this country, and deepen the level of involvement of all of our citizens in the development of the country. Above all we must become a more caring and enlightened society which does not turn its back on the old as well as the young or remain unconcerned about inadequate levels of remuneration for all our peoples in the public and private sectors. In this regard, the Party is deeply concerned that the Trade Unions which are there to represent and improve the conditions of the workers are being deliberately undermined and sidelined by an uncaring Government. The imposition of wage increases by the PPP/C Administration for the last two years is inherently destabilizing and detrimental to good industrial relations between the Government and the Trade Union movement.

No one can deny the contention that the opposition parties conducted themselves with a significant degree of responsibility and made measurable contributions to the national political conversation. It was only because the opposition parties, led by the PNCR, demonstrated a level of maturity and an understanding of the political process that the elections were deemed to be one of the most peaceful in our post-independence period. Yet these elections were not without controversy. It is known that an election petition has been filed challenging, inter alia, the legality of the Voters List and other irregularities. The results of the elections also indicate that a seat in Parliament should be awarded to the Justice for All Party (JFAP). In this regard the PPP/C is morally and legally bound to do the right thing.

Regrettably, the Government has not demonstrated a similar level of maturity and understanding. As a consequence, there is deadlock over the appointment of a Chancellor to the Judiciary, the Integrity Commission remains unconstitutional and both the President and Government have demonstrated a general disinclination to uphold significant sections of the Constitution. The refusal to uphold the rule of law has led to poor governance in important areas of our society and encouraged the growth of corruption. No self-respecting Government that is interested in ending this scourge can ignore the fact that Transparency International, a reputable international organisation, has deemed Guyana one of the most corrupt societies of the international community.

The New Year has dawned without any signs that the Office of the President intends to uphold the law and pay the lottery funds into the Consolidated fund. Nor are there any signs that the Government domination of the State media will cease. The mad rush to pass Casino Gambling Legislation in the absence of promised consultation has laid bare the empty undertakings given by the President in his inaugural Address to the Ninth Parliament. The PNCR intends to vigorously oppose this Legislation and calls on all stakeholders of similar mind to join in those efforts. The Government cannot be allowed to continue this total disrespect for the people of Guyana. 2007 must be a year of positive action to hold the Government accountable to the people of Guyana.

Among the matters of priority for 2007 are:

- the pursuit of outstanding legal actions with respect to the Constitutionality of the Ninth Parliament and the Election Petition;
- the completion of Local Government Reform including the passage of laws and regulations to remove the dominance of the Minister over Local Government bodies and the regulation of fiscal transfers devoid of political partisan interests;
- the implementation of Broadcast Legislation to facilitate the issuing of licences to television and radio stations without political partisan considerations;
- legislation to regulate remuneration of elected officials including adequate provisions for Regional Democratic Councillors;
- the passage of legislation to ensure the freedom of information to citizens;
- the implementation of programmes and projects aimed at reducing the serious unemployment situation that exists in Guyana today;
- The equitable allocation of resources in the Budget to enable the economic empowerment of the poor through rehabilitation of the physical infrastructure in numerous villages and communities that have been subject to discriminatory allocations in the past.

Other matters to be pursued have already been outlined in the PNCR’s Parliamentary Agenda made public in our Press Statement of Thursday, October 5th 2006. The PNCR will keep all stakeholders informed of progress in these matters.

CRICKET WORLD CUP 2007

This year the Caribbean Region will be hosting Cricket World Cup 2007. It will be the 3rd major global event and the region is expected to reap some US$500M in financial rewards. From the inception the PNCR signaled its support for this event and has been actively participating in the work of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) and its related committees. Unfortunately the discriminatory employment practices and the awarding of contracts in the construction of the Stadium were most reprehensible and did not contribute to the improvement of ethnic relations. In this regard the ERC failed in its Constitutional mandate. It is therefore our hope that this event will be treated as a national one and that all related benefits are extended to the Guyanese people regardless of political affiliation, ethnicity or religious beliefs. If we do have a reservation it is over-riding need to control and constrain expenditure so that they do not become a burden for future generations.

THE CONFUSION OVER THE IMPLEMENTATION OF VAT WAS PREDICTABLE

Were the People’s National Congress Reform warnings heeded and there was the postponement of the January 2007 implementation of Value Added Tax (VAT) to facilitate the development of the institutional capacity to manage such a tax, then the hiccups that we are experiencing would have been minimized if not avoided.

It is said that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Guyanese now have the experience and are facing the consequences of the poor conceptulisation and implementation of VAT. Many there are who are pointing out that it has resulted in the increase of the cost of living, contrary to what the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) was suggesting. This was anticipated, as the PNCR had warned that while we have no problem with the principle behind VAT, 16% is too high and should be reduced.

The PNCR believes that VAT must not become a windfall for the government and a burden for the people and businesses. VAT should result in the widening of the tax base, the easing of the tax burden on the ordinary man and a better tax regime that will create an environment conducive to the progress and development of business. Unfortunately the direct opposite is what is occurring.

It is in this context that the PNCR wishes to recommend that there be a review of Personal Income and Corporate taxes. We believe that to add 16% on an already tax burdened working people is criminal. In this regard we wish to recommend that the Government take immediate action that would reduce the burden on the Guyanese working people.

With the advent of this 16% VAT and the concomitant price increases that we are experiencing it would appear that there is need to review the 5% and 6% wages and salaries increases given to public sector workers as well as Government pensioners. The time is nigh when the Government needs to review its wage and salary increases with the aim of ensuring that workers obtain a further increase to cushion the effects of increased cost of living.

We believe that the foregoing measures will result in a better tax regime and a situation in which Government, the People and Business will all benefit and place Guyana on the path to genuine progress and development.

FUNDAMENTAL CHANGES IN SYSTEM OF GOVERNANCE ESSENTIAL FOR ECONOMIC PROGRESS

The culture of politics on a global scale has undergone vast changes. One of these changes is that the forces caused by globalisation have made it impossible for small nations like Guyana to solve their manifold problems by resorting to the politics of domination and control of the entire political space. If small nations like Guyana are to survive then they must bring to bear to the task of national development all of its available human and physical resources. In other words no one political party can go it alone and expect to succeed in Guyana much more in the wider international field. We must therefore build a culture of trust so that all of the people of Guyana can come together, reconcile our differences and put this Nation once and for all on a path to irreversible growth and development which can see the attainment of our long deferred dreams and expectations.

In this latter regard the PNCR has been bold in its offer of the alternative of shared governance or Executive power sharing. Our proposals for Executive Power Sharing have been widely shared and discussed among organisations representing the socio-cultural sectors of our Guyanese polity. We believe that the upcoming Local Government elections offers a wonderful opportunity for the concept of shared governance to be formally embraced and the Party will in 2007 accelerate activities to make this objective a reality.

Once again the PNCR wishes all Guyana a peaceful and productive 2007.


People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, January 4, 2007