PRESS STATEMENT By the People’s National Congress Reform For the Press Conference on Thursday July 10, 2003 In the Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia
HUMAN DEVELOPMENT AND THE FUTURE OF GUYANA: At this time of year, we enter the season of graduation exercise in schools and other educational institutions around the nation. For the thousands of young people are leaving schools, colleges and the university with newly acquired qualifications and certificates only to find that the job market has little to offer it is chaotic and frustrating. These newly qualified youth come on the job market to find that their expectations of employment are not going to be met and many will join the ranks of the unemployed or migrate to other Caribbean countries where there are opportunities for development and prospects for the utilisation of their skills and energies.
The considered view of the Peoples National Congress Reform is that the ultimate economic future of Guyana depends on coherent and sustainable national policies for human development. The Government has not developed a coherent human resource strategy for the country and the economy has been contracting rapidly. We are of the view that the outmoded dependence on primary products and official development aid will not create for Guyana the kind of levels of investment and growth which would ensure a viable future for us all.
The world economic trends all point to the continued disadvantage of those countries in the developing world which depend solely on the large scale export of primary agricultural products which enter commodity markets. The prices and markets for such commodities are destined to face increased pressure in the foreseeable future. Countries must focus instead on the creation of niche markets for their products.
It is our view that in such a world environment, Guyana should be positioning itself to compete for investment in those sectors and services which depend more on the skill and productivity of labour than primarily on the existence of natural resources. Our natural resources have their place but the harsh reality of the modern world is that the dependence on the export of cargo rice, raw cane sugar and raw bauxite is a recipe for continued underdevelopment and marginalization. Countries, such as Guyana, must move rapidly into the higher added-value conversion of natural resource based products. For that reason, we believe that Guyana should be emphasizing our human resource assets both in terms of our education and training and the retention of skilled persons.
A human development strategy for Guyana is a crucial matter which should be given the highest priority in the national debate. An objective study of development around the world demonstrates quite clearly that the countries which are emerging from poverty are those where there is heavy emphasis on human development and the education and training of youth in a context of the needs of the global economy and marketplace.
There are certain conditions which are visible in successful developing economies:
Their human development strategies are coherent and comprehensive.
Their human development strategies are consensual and have widespread buy in by all stakeholders
The implementation of the human development polices are systematic and ordered
The agenda is driven by the development needs of the nation rather than by narrow political or partisan focus or by the agendas of the aid donor community
There are myriad examples which demonstrate that, in Guyana, the PPP/C government has not recognized these realities. We could highlight a few of them:
1. The fact that the government has not developed any comprehensive strategy for human development in relation to the market place for skilled labour and the investment needs of the country. It is a fact that in the field of technical and vocational training, Guyana which was a leader and innovator now lags behind the rest of the region and is now at a competitive disadvantage in every sector compared with other economies which are seeking international investors. The last comprehensive investment in technical and vocational education was the global manpower programme funded by the IDB in the Hoyte administration during the 1980’s. That project was also the last comprehensive strategy and investment programme which looked at the upgrading of the university and also provided post graduate training for hundreds of Guyanese professionals as a deliberate move to enhance our skills at the managerial and professional level. Although the government gives lip service to skills for development, the fact is that there has been no strategy and no serious investment during the PPP/C’s tenure.
2. The government has proceeded to a second major investment in basic education, the Basic Education Access and Management Support (BEAMS) project as a successor to the Primary Education Improvement Programme (PEIP) of the PNCR administration with some fundamental and fatal defects. For example, the Beams project has no comprehensive approach to the issue of teacher quality and teacher education and is attempting to upgrade basic education with minimal reference to tertiary training and research. The government seems to have learnt nothing from the failure of the PEIP to meet its goals. The administration seems wedded to the view that new schools, even though many are filled with unqualified teachers and some have severe teacher shortages is the answer. The problems are compounded by the glaring absence of a viable investment programme for university level teacher education. Where are the quality teachers going to come from? We believe that quality teachers with good professional attitudes will upgrade basic education and we are unapologetic in that belief. We also believe that the ongoing aggravation of the teaching profession and the harassment of the Teacher’s Union will snuff whatever little chance of success this programme ever had.
The recent attempt by the government to implement changes in the transition from primary to secondary and the methods of assessment will have grave repercussions. The intended replacement of the SSEE is being conducted in a manner certain to cause unease. The government cannot guarantee the integrity of the system of selection, it cannot guarantee a level playing field between schools and education districts and it knows full well the great inequalities in the quality of secondary schools. The new system which involves the increased emphasis on continuous assessment and school-based assessment will cause grave disquiet. We believe the system is being implemented by stealth at the school level without adequate public debate and public education. In any case, the system may in facts have the effect of putting more intense and sustained pressure on children in primary schools as they compete for longer periods of their lives. The system should be discussed in public and carefully explained. We believe that the consequences of the new systems have not been carefully thought out and the government should avoid the uncertainties and problems which they seem to be courting. They are courting disaster for future generations of Guyanese.
WHEN WAS THE MANAGEMENT CONTRACT FOR LINMINE AGREED?
The PNCR has questioned the Government’s approach for the turn around of Linmine and, particularly, the Administration’s recent act of handing over Linmine to Cambior without consultation or concern for the consequences and in what appears to be an haphazard manner.
We wish to remind all concerned that the PNCR has a proven track record for attracting large-scale foreign investment such as in the Omai gold mining operations. Therefore, our criticisms are not anti-investor but levelled at the ham-fisted incompetence and political spitefulness which are manifest in the Government’s handling of the divestment of Linmine.
The Government announced the total handing over of the Linmine operations to Cambior even though they had not been able to deliver on their MOU commitment to attract the investment of US$25.00Mn. We are not aware that Cambior has issued any guarantees to the Government that they will make good that commitment within some defined time-frame. Apart from this, at the time of their announcement, the Government had not entered into a contract with Cambior for the Management of Linmine. What were the terms and conditions of that contract?
However, the result of all of the Governments machinations is that all of the workers of Linmine and Bidco will no longer be employed by those entities after 2003 July 31. They will join the already large band of unemployed Guyanese who are depressed:
Because they can see no bright future prospects in Guyana;
Because the Government has presided over the destruction of the industry in which many of them invested the best years of their lives;
Because they know that the Guyana economy is shattered by the Government and, therefore, there is little chance of them obtaining alternative employment;
Because they must leave their communities and even the country to seek their economic and social salvation elsewhere.
What future has the Government planned for the Bauxite Communities and for Guyana?
The action of bauxite workers who staged a vigil for several weeks outside of the Prime Minister’s residence are now surely vindicated. They predicted correctly, that the Government was callous, irresponsible and was not seriously interested in the future of the people of the Bauxite belt. Yet despite these protests the Government has fulfilled the prophesy. Where will it end? What will it take to bring the Government to its senses?
THE PNCR WILL NOT BE DISTRACTED FROM ITS AGENDA:
The non-publication, late publication and/or distortion of the PNCR’s Official Press Releases and Statements by some sections of the Media have not gone unnoticed by the PNCR. It is evident that some sections of the print media seem to be only interested in using their journalistic license to subtly undermine the PNCR. It may be better in the public interest for these same media houses to publish the actual statements, speeches and remarks of PNCR leaders rather than use selective quotes out of context and present their distorted interpretation of the PNCR’s position. The PNCR will expose this matter in a later Press Conference. However, the most recent is the treatment of the PNCR’s position on Shared Governance and contesting the next Elections.
The not too subtle attempt to create the impression that there is inconsistency and division in the PNCR on the question of Shared Governance by reference to remarks made by its Chairman (ag), and the Party Leader will not succeed in confusing the PNCR membership.
For the record, however, the public should be informed that, at the July 1, 2003 Symposium on “Executive Shared Governance as Mechanism for Conflict Resolution”, held at UG, Mr. Alexander spoke on behalf of the PNCR Leader, Mr. Robert Corbin, who was delayed at a meeting relating to the implementation of the Communiqué. This fact was announced to all participants by Mr. Alexander before he began his presentation and was also broadcast on radio. The media could not claim to be unaware of this information.
It might also be useful to quote directly from the presentation made by Alexander at the symposium:
“The PNCR remains a powerful political party capable of winning any election. However, we are not interested merely in political office for its own sake, for personal benefits or positions of influence. The fundamental principle of our party’s formation and existence is to ensure that Guyana as a Nation State rises to its fullest potential and the Guyanese people enjoy the best possible standard of living.
Guyana’s political history has unambiguously shown that the present political arrangements do not allow anyone to achieve these aspirations. The winner-take-all system has stymied the best efforts of even the well-intentioned. It has created an environment where large sections of the population feel excluded and marginalized. It has created a situation pervaded by open conflicts and social tension, in which the socio-economic development of the country cannot be stimulated. The evidence of failure is everywhere: a poor and struggling economy, a threatened social fabric, the loss of national pride and dignity, the ethnic distrust, our inability to tap our vast natural resources, and our incapacity to fix our own problems. The PNCR is no longer prepared to invest the future of our country and the welfare of the Guyanese people in a failed political system. We believe that Guyana must seek a new political order. For us, Shared Governance is that new order!”
Later in the presentation Mr. Alexander stated:
“Therefore, the PNCR would work to get a Shared Governance constitution in place for the next election. In fact, the Party will have to give serious consideration to whether or not it should participate in any future elections under the winner-take-all system. The party will work with all urgency to get the new parliamentary committee on constitution reform up and running. We believe that this committee provides the best forum to facilitate national discussion and participation on this fundamental issue. No doubt, agreement between the major political parties on Shared Governance is essential for any movement forward. The communiqué, if honoured in spirit and letter, could serve as an important first step towards building the kind of political arrangements we have in mind.”
The People’s National Congress Reform and its Leader find no contradiction in the Leader’s speech at Belladrum, West Coast Berbice to party members and the speech by the Chairman, (ag) at the Symposium. The struggle for a system of shared governance before the next elections and winning the next elections are not mutually exclusive.
The PNCR has always made its decisions at Party Congresses after full discussion and debate and has always encouraged its members to freely express their ideas for discussion. The Official position of the PNCR on Shared Governance was clearly spelt out in the Congress Speech of 2002 by the late Leader Mr. H. D. Hoyte and reinforced by the present Leader in his 2003 February 1, Special Congress Speech. The Party has also published its position paper on Shared Governance and this paper is well circulated and can be easily read on its Official Web Site, (http://www.guyanapnc.org). The PNCR is, however, not a fossilized Party and as our late Leader once stated, “In politics, nothing is written in stone”. The media, the PPP/C ghost letter writers, Takuma Ogunseye and others will not distract the Party from addressing the main issues that confront its members and supporters at this time. The PNCR will continue to set its own agenda as always, “Putting Guyana First”.
PPP/C BACK TO ITS OLD ANTICS:
The recent baseless attack by the PPP/C’s General Secretary, Ramotar, on the PNCR Leader Mr. Robert Corbin has been carefully noted by the PNCR and is a clear demonstration that the core of the PPP/C has not changed. It is not unknown that Jagdeo had problems selling the Communiqué to certain elements in his Central Committee and the PNCR wonders whether Ramotar’s attack is a manifestation of the PPP/C’s policy to undermine the President’s constructive engagement with the Leader of the PNCR. The PPP/C must know that the success of the Communiqué rests on the performance of the parties to the agreement and cannot be determined by wild speculation.
The PNCR will continue to fulfil its obligation to educate its members and the public on the provisions of the Communiqué as well as the performance of the Government thereunder. The diversionary tactics of the PPP/C will not distract the PNCR. The PPP/C is however playing a dangerous game and one wonders whether Ramotar has the approval of President Jagdeo, to resume his bulldog role or whether Ramotar is acting on some other authority within the PPP/C.
The PNCR has fully honoured its commitments in the Communiqué and its Leader has already had cause to bring to the President’s attention certain concerns about breaches by the Government. In the spirit of the Communiqué and for ethical reasons the PNCR Leader did not release this information to the media in the hope that some constructive approaches would have been followed to resolve these concerns through the mechanisms established by the President and the Leader of the Opposition. Obviously, the PPP has a different agenda and President Jagdeo must publicly state whether Ramotar is carrying out his directives. In the interest of transparency, however, the PNCR will today release the letter of its Leader to President Jagdeo that was delivered before Ramotar’s letter to the Press. The public can now judge the PPP’s real motives in Ramotar’s letter.
The PNCR Leader will not descend to the level of Ramotar as the developmental issues facing Guyana today are far too important to permit that luxury. If Ramotar and the PPP/C were so interested in the contents of the PNCR’s Leader’s speech to his Party members and supporters then a simple request would have sufficed. The Leader’s Speech at Paradise to PNCR members and supporters, including the issues raised by the audience, is still available on Video Tape. The speech is 1hr.16 minutes long and the entire meeting is 2hrs 35 minutes. Since the PPP/C has already misrepresented its contents, a precondition for the availability of the Video Tape is that the Government and the PPP/C must now give the undertaking that the videotape will be aired in its entirety on the State’s GTV Channel 11 and on PPP/C’s media Channel 65 and Channel 69. Surely this would be in the spirit of the Communiqué quite unlike the GTV’s refusal to permit the Party to reply to Mansoor Nadir’s mis-representation on the Procurement legislation.
People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Thursday July 10, 2003
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Designed By: Denton Osborne