PRESS STATEMENT By Mr. Raphael Trotman, M.P. On Behalf of the People’s National Congress Reform To the Press Conference on Thursday March 21st, 2002 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia.
PARLIAMENT WALKOUT: The Peoples National Congress Reform is of the firm view that for Guyana to make progress and generate satisfactory levels of social and economic development, there must exist a standard of governance which gives adequate opportunity for consensus and participation and gives all Guyanese a transparent sense of representation. We also believe that for these conditions to exist there must be implementation of reforms of the nature of government including the operations of the National Assembly.
In the wake of the unsettled conditions that resulted in the aftermath of the general elections in 2001, we made concrete proposals offering to play a supportive role in generating peace, consensus, and security through participation in joint committees to facilitate the easing of tension and the resolution of pressing social and economic issues. Sadly, it does not appear that the governing party understands or appreciates the need for reform or the importance of our willingness to collaborate on important national issues.
We are serious about such issues as:
• The implementation of the constitutional amendment for the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission;
• The establishment of an effective Parliamentary Management Committee (PMC), which was prescribed as an urgent measure by the St Lucia Statement (1998 July 04);
• The tabling and debate of Opposition questions and motions - such as the motion calling for an immediate Public Enquiry into the working of the GuyanaPolice Force;
• The appointment of the long overdue Ethnic Relations Commission; and
• The establishment and appointment of the seven (7) new Standing Committees of the National Assembly.
It is intolerable that the Parliament should be subject to the whim and fancy of the government. Neither the Peoples National Congress Reform nor the other opposition parties will accept this cavalier and disrespectful treatment of the elected representativesof the people. We need to remind citizens that Parliament meets so infrequently (three times since 2001 October) that it could be said that Parliamentary government does not subsist in Guyana in any meaningful way. Indeed, the Parliament is only meeting at this time because it is constitutionally mandated that the budget should be presented by the end of the first quarter of the year.
We wish to repeat the words of the Chairman of our Party, on the occasion of the Opposition walkout from the budget reading on 2002 Friday 15:
‘The patience of the PNCR is exhausted! The PNCR and the rest of the Opposition have continuously taken the initiative and have compromised to achieve positive results for the nation’.
We are also increasingly frustrated by the lack of substantial progress on the implementation of the work of the joint committees established by President Jagdeo and Leader of the Opposition, Mr H. Desmond Hoyte. The dialogue process has deteriorated to a crawl as the government fails to implement most of the decisions made.
We now wish to make it clear that until our concerns on the operations of Parliament and its reforms are taken seriously and implemented, there will not be business as usual. We will take appropriate extra Parliamentary action to ensure that the governing elite recognise the seriousness of the issues concerned and the harmful consequences of treating with them in this casual and dismissive manner. We will be pursuing a course of active non-cooperation until there is substantial movement on these issues.
LAW, ORDER AND SECURITY:
Not least among the consequences of the lack of Parliamentary dialogue and debate is the fact that while the regime resists the need for consensus on key issues, many of these sectors have become even more worrying to the people of this country. The PPP/C resists any debate on the issues of the Guyana Police Force and its reform
and operations, yet it continues to mismanage the security of our nation and appears helpless and confused in the face of what can only be described as an onslaught of violent crime including highway robbery, car jacking and an escalation of armed robbery of citizens in all parts of the country.
It remains a mystery to all right thinking Guyanese why the President has not yet summoned the courage and firmness to dismiss the Minister of Home Affairs who is clearly both unable to do his job and unwilling to resign and go back to his law practice for the good of the nation. The only solution to the problems of internal security is a clearly thought out and sensibly managed reform of the police force along with the modernisation of its operations, the restoration of its professionalism and the rooting out of rogue policing and human rights violations.
THE 2002 BUDGET:
One cannot help but characterise the regime as a Do-Nothing Administration, all talk and no action. Nothing illustrated this more than the recent budget speech of the Minister of Finance. This was a vacuous document, devoid of solid content or clear direction and delivered, not without cause, in a monotone devoid of conviction or enthusiasm. Given the parlous state of our economy, the nation anxiously looked forward to a diet of measures and policies to guide us out of our difficulties. But this was not to be. When the budget is combed for substance, sadly, there is none! It is difficult to imagine that it was possible to say so little in so many words. This was mishmash or irrelevance, wild accusation, inane posturing and the repetition of the many empty promises which have become the trademark of PPP/C-style governance.
What is even more disturbing is the egregious and fraudulent claim of a reversal of the growth of the economy from a negative growth rate of –1.4 % in 2000 to positive growth of 1.9% in 2001. The PPP/C must now be practising voodoo or some similar form of economic deception on themselves. Every investor in Guyana and most households know that Guyana is in serious economic trouble and can only shake their heads at this shameless resort to deceit. The families of the unemployed and the businesses who went under during 2001 cannot, however, enjoy the PPP/C joke.
We were not surprised to hear Dr Singh, head of the Budget secretariat of the Ministry of Finance, giving a more sober and indeed sombre assessment of the economic and financial situation. He is, after all, a professional and anxious to tell the truth. There is no policy framework despite claims to the contrary by the Minister of Finance.
There is a listing of projects and aspirations which are all unrelated to each other and in many cases contradictory. For example, in paragraph 4.43, the minister acknowledges that elimination of poverty has to be achieved through more permanent arrangements. Yet in paragraph 4.44, he proposes a Temporary Employment and Maintenance Programme as a solution to our problems of poverty. This new scheme is obviously intended as another area for graft, patronage and racketeering.
The budget repeats many of the old platitudes which were repeated in previous PPP/C budgets with no record of implementation. There is a repeat of the promise to reform tendering procedures, first heard in 1996, the reform of the tax structure, first heard in 1994 and the reform of the insurance industry, first heard in 1996. The PPP/C makes these promises but since this is a do nothing government, these promises will amount to nothing. Neither the PNC Reform, nor, we suspect, the international audience for whom these empty promises may have been intended, will be deceived.
There has been much trumpeting of 1.9% growth in 2001. Many question the authenticity of this figure. But even if it were achieved it must be put in perspective. The PRSP projected the economy to grow at an average of 4% per annum between 2000 and 2005. In 2000 there was 1.4% growth. The National Development Strategy forecast that the average annual growth of GDP would at worst be 6% per annum and at best 9% per annum between 2001 and 2010. With growth of 2% forecast for 2002 it would be readily seen that even limited objectives of the PRSP are already blown off course.
There could be little realistic hope of placing Guyana firmly "on the path of sustainable political, social and economic development" as forecast in the NDS. The prospects for our economy will remain grim since there is very little in the budget that will engender confidence in Guyana:
We are borrowing our way to keep our economy chugging along, mainly in the public sector. In the 10 years the PPP/C has been in govt. they have borrowed some US$750Mn thereby creating a debt ofUS$1,000 per citizen. This debt has been used partly for consumption and partly for non-profit yielding expenditure.
There is little by way of direct private investment, in particular foreign private investment in economic activity in Guyana which is a pre requisite if there is to be sustained economic growth at a high enough level to make a better life possible. In 2001 the Minister of Finance said that an Investment Code will be passed into law. In 2002 he reneged on that commitment. Instead he degutted an excellent draft code and left the shell among the Parliamentary papers of members of the National assembly. We challenge the Minister to present the Investment Code for passage into law as he promised in 2001.
There is total absence of information on the status of the Government's negotiations for access to the enhanced HIPC initiative though resource flow of some US$30Mn is identified in the budget.
This budget offers no comfort to key workers in such vital public sectors as the education system, the health sector and the public service. This must be the most dismissive and callous disregard of public sector workers in the sorry history of PPP/C budget statements to the nation.
Unless inertia and mediocrity in government are swept away there seems little hope of shaping and executing the policies and measures that can put the Guyana economy on the path of sustained development.
We should also note that the section on good governance and accountability is very silent on what if anything the regime intends to do about the rising tide of irregularity and lawlessness which is the hallmark of PPP/C management of national affairs.
SCANDAL AT THE GUYANA FORESTRY COMMISSION
While the government makes insincere noises in the budget and elsewhere about accountability, transparency and due process, the reality is that the government practices and encourages irregularity at the highest levels. For example, we wish to bring to your notice the actions of the government in the Guyana Forestry Commission.
On 2001 August 13, the Guyana Forestry Commission dismissed a forest ranger, Mr Dexter Cummings, for cause. The Head of The Presidential Secretariat Dr Luncheon made several extraordinary acts of interference in the due process of the Commission. He Instructed that:
1. The relevant Minister should intervene in the matter;
2. The date of dismissal should be altered from 2001 August 13 to December 31;
3. Mr Cummings should be paid salaries and allowances on a higher grade as an Assistant Commissioner of
Forests, a position he had never held;
4. The service of Mr Cummings should be deemed as ten rather than the actual nine years of service;
5. Mr Cummings be paid accumulated benefits in the form of pension scheme contributions and severance
6. Mr Cummings should be paid and Minister Sawh directed the Commission to prepare a cheque for
$886,766.00 and remit it to the Office of the President. This unlawful act has been carried out.
How can Guyana make any progress in this atmosphere of chaos and lawlessness?
THE STATISTICAL BUREAU AND THE 2002 CENSUS:
We wish to bring to your attention a grave and potentially dangerous development. As you are aware, the government and the PNC/R had agreed to the appointment of a PNC/R nominee on the board of the Statistical Bureau. The government has been resolute in resisting the appointment. The non-functioning of the Bureau’s board is not merely part of the usual PPP dilatoriness and incompetence but a well thought out plan to ensure that the work of the Bureau, and, in particular, the conduct of the overdue National Census is not scrutinised or undertaken in a transparent manner.
The national Census has begun with no public education or awareness programme and no scrutiny of the process. The PPP is trying to sneak the census past the Guyanese public, presumably with the intention of undermining the integrity of that process in order to facilitate or disguise attempts to continue electoral fraud and malpractice.
We wish to make it clear to the Governing clique that they will not be allowed to succeed with those machinations.
Congress Place, Sophia
March 21st, 2002
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