PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference on Thursday October 10, 2002 In The Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia.
The President of Guyana made an extraordinary admission when he called on various organisations external to his government to “save us from ruin”.
In 1992, Guyana was poised for serious economic takeoff. Market reforms and the Economic Reform Programme had placed us in a position to move forward and generate unprecedented levels of growth and economic diversification.
History will record that the last ten years have seen the systematic and senseless destruction and rampant corruption of every institution and programme the government could lay its hands on.
We have seen the growth of governmental corruption and irregularity on a scale which we did not dream was possible in this country.
There have been gold scams, visa scams, drug scams, arms scams, stone scam, you name it we have it. The award of contracts and the operation of the tender boards at the national and regional levels are blatantly and obviously corrupt.
Not a single new major investment has been garnered under PPP/Civic management of the economy.
We have moved from growth of nearly 9% in the PNC years to negative growth today.
One of the most destructive contributions of the PPP/C to the ruination of Guyana is the weakening of the judiciary and the legal system, the Public Service and the Police Service.
TEN YEARS OF THE PPP/C REGIME:
In a recent public address, the President of Guyana made an extraordinary admission when he called on various organisations external to his government to “save us from ruin!” Was the situation not so grave and parlous, this plaintive cry for help might be looked upon as comedy. Mr Jagdeo has taken an oath of office which implies that it is his responsibility to protect the nation from ruin. He is, however, admitting more clearly than ever before that he is presiding over the ruin of the country. It is pathetic that even at this hour, he still seeks to put the blame for our difficulties and the responsibility for its solution everywhere else but where it belongs, that is, on his weak and uninspiring shoulders. Another aspect of the tragedy being played out in Guyana is the feeble attempt by the PPP/Civic to conduct what they call celebrations of their ten years in office. This is being attempted against the background of many problems, while the country reels from the blows of our economic decline and cowers in fear as law and order rapidly disintegrates.
We should be mourning not celebrating the work of a government that takes its people to ruin. The comical government ads in the national press make dramatic contrast with the ads placed by the business community and civil society condemning the current drift into anarchy and the deterioration of our nation
To understand the ten years of PPP/C misrule, one must put it in the context of the place where they started. In 1992, Guyana was poised for serious economic takeoff. Market reforms and the Economic Reform Programme had placed us in a position to move forward and generate unprecedented levels of growth and economic diversification. Guyana was on the economic map and the prospects were bright. Rice was booming, sugar was up, gold and forestry were winning new investment, and our ERP was being hailed as an economic miracle. On the international scene, Guyana was a leader in Caricom and the third world, our opinions were valued and our positions led the way. Iwokrama and other imaginative projects were in the pipeline. The IDB programmes in heath and education were signed up and the prospects for Guyana were all positive. We lived in peace and security with our neighbours and the crime and internal security was a success story under the firm hand of the Hoyte Administration.
In October of 1992, Guyana made a misguided and ultimately fateful wrong turn. Perhaps beguiled by the slogan of ‘time for a change’ and the promises of the PPP/C, they were placed in office and there began the ruin of the progress and promise of 1992. History will record that the last ten years have seen the systematic and senseless destruction and rampant corruption of every institution and programme the government could lay its hands on.
THE LEAN, MEAN AND CLEAN ADMINISTRATION
We were promised a lean, mean and clean administration. Instead we have seen the growth of governmental corruption and irregularity on a scale which we did not dream was possible in this country. Instead of ‘the dollar a year’ patriots which the PPP/C promised, they recruited their cronies and hacks using fat and possibly illegal contract arrangements. The Attorney General’s chambers has parcelled out cases with lucrative fees to cronies of the government as a means of patronage and reward to their friends in the legal profession. The erstwhile champions of socialism and mean government parade their ill-gotten wealth in Prados and live in opulence obviously beyond the means made possible by their parliamentary and government income. In the meantime, the PPP has consistently harassed and demoralised the public service, they have denuded and destroyed many of the key professional units, the destruction of the diplomatic engine of Guyana being the most barbaric and distressing.
The PPP/C has introduced irregularity to the work of government on a scale so pervasive and blatant that Guyana has attracted international notoriety in the corridors of the IFIs for the dishonesty of its public life. Ministers and other political types routinely abuse their office, the collection of bribes and kickbacks is standard operational procedure and even those many members of the government who joined their ranks with high ideals have succumbed to the aura and temptation to collect in the sleazy environment in which they work. There have been gold scams, visa scams, drug scams, arms scams, stone scam, milk scam, you name it we have it. The award of contracts and the operation of the tender boards at the national and regional levels are blatantly and obviously corrupt. The BK Company is routinely awarded contracts whether it is capable or not, whoever is the competition, and they can have their work more than doubled on a whim. Most scandals are not investigated but even those that are such as the Mon Repos sea defence scandal and the stone scam are allowed to die as the guilty are allowed to line their foreign bank accounts from the public purse. The Auditor General, an honourable and competent man, and the professionals in his department have striven manfully to stem the tide but the Augean stable of sleaze in Guyana is as filthy and corrupt as ever. Recently, we see one of the newer recruits to the PPP/C ranks of Ministers, Mr Leslie Ramsammy getting in on the act and moving to the top of the class in irregularity while his political interference in the work of his ministry and his personal unsuitability for high office wreaks havoc in his sector. Everyone in Guyana except Mr. Jagdeo knows the connection between crime, lawlessness, guns, bribery, and the escalation in the granting of gun licenses. How can anyone take the celebrations of the government seriously when the Thomas Carroll affair lies unburied in the corridors of the PPP/Civic and hangs over their heads like the sword of Damocles?
Despite the valiant efforts of the PPP/C spin doctors to paint a rosy picture of economic achievement over the last 10 years, every citizen knows that the economic management of the nation's affairs has been characterised by wild spending based on the accumulation of huge debts.
The PPP/C regime having benefited from the economic reforms and initiatives of the ERP were able to gain substantial debt write-offs which were already in train when they took office in 1992.
Under Bharrat Jagdeo’s management of the finance portfolio, the PPP/C embarked on a spending spree that has now ballooned to over US$700 million in new external debts, principal alone, and more than GY$50 billion in domestic debt. At the same time, not a single new major investment has been garnered under PPP/Civic management of the economy.
There is little that the PPP/C can show for such massive spending. What we do know is that the Charity Wharf floated away like a submarine, the Essequibo road took over 5 years to be completed and changed contractors so often that millions of taxpayers dollars were wasted. The Sea Defence projects and school projects under the PEIP were riddled with fraud and violations of tender board rules. The Auditor General's report and our own estimation of PPP/C thieving estimate that over 37 cents of each dollar racked up through government borrowing has been lost through graft and corruption.
Today our economy would be dead without remittance transfers from Guyanese abroad who contribute what some estimate to be 25% of our GDP. We have moved from growth of nearly 9% in the PNC years to negative growth today. We are also of the view that the informal sector led by the narcotics trade and other unlawful activities also significantly contributes to the economy.
The PPP/C government appears to be comfortable swimming among the drug barons and content to allow this state of affairs in our economy to continue. The ruin is clear for all to see.
THE RULE OF LAW
One of the most destructive contributions of the PPP/C to the ruination of Guyana is the weakening of the judiciary and the legal system. It is not one of the dramatic aspects as is the increase in gunplay and therefore it is often allowed to go unnoticed. Very early in the PPP/Civic administration, the then President made it very clear in a threat to the Judiciary that their pay and conditions depended on their willingness to pervert the course of justice in favour of the government. The PPP/C disregard for the rule of Law is consistent and pervasive. The government ignores the decisions of the courts when they go against them and misuse the courts as a means of harassing and dismissing persons in the services it does not like. When a government disregards the orders of the courts and the President can throw a court order over her shoulder, why should the ordinary citizen respect the law? It is a mistake for us to believe that a government can denude and undermine the capacity of the courts without undermining the rule of law for us all. The operation of the arms of the judicial system and in particular the registry is a nightmare and ordinary citizens despair of ever getting justice from a system that is rapidly grinding to a halt. Whilst the government is busy wasting time and resources in the judicial harassment of persons it dislikes, delays in the legal system has become a national nightmare.
CRIME AND SECURITY
The ruination of the country to which the President refers must also be related to the atmosphere of collusion with crime and violence which the government has created or has allowed to grow. It is no secret that Guyana has become a transit point for the international narcotics trade and many persons in high office and in protected and favoured businesses have had a hand in this destructive crime wave. The obstruction of the security forces from dealing with crime, the disappearance of the products of drug busts, the facilitation of gunrunning, the arming of PPP/C supporters, the denuding of the courts and the demoralising of the Guyana Police Force is all part of the atmosphere of disorder and lawlessness which the PPP/C has itself created. We note that the business community has had the courage to speak out and take action and we hope that other forces in the society will also have the courage to take the moral high ground.
JAGDEO MUST GO
There can be no doubt that the author of the ruin of Guyana is a menace to all of us. He must go and take his incompetent Minister of Home Affairs with him. The country must have leadership and consensus. Propaganda, childish name-calling, and the blaming of everyone else will not solve Guyana’s problems. The president can perform at least one patriotic act in his life. Resign for the sake of Guyana’s children.
People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia.
Thursday October 10, 2002
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