Will the interest of the people triumph this time?
I am prepared, but hesitant, to look ahead and be optimistic about the apparent attempt by the PPP/C to meaningfully engage the parliamentary opposition to ensure that as far as practicably possible, the nation gets a ‘people’s budget’. However, despite my optimism, I am forced to be realistic and remind myself that too often we have been at this place. A place where the PPP/C having had their backs against the wall, have decided to play with time, behave like they really care, and are willing to cooperate for the good of the nation.
Without going back to the Herdmanston Accord, signed between the Late Desmond Hoyte and the Late Janet Jagan, and the Joint Communiqué signed between Bharrat Jagdeo and Robert Corbin, and again the Constructive Engagement arrangement between these two leaders on behalf of their specific parties, I have only to reflect on what transpired, a few mornings ago, just after the recently agreed tripartite committee which was established, at the insistence of the Opposition Leader, David Granger and at the behest of the President Ramotar.
This committee was set up shortly after the November 2011 elections and came to an abrupt end soon after. The fact is that all these arrangements, mentioned above, had one thing in common, that is, they were agreed upon and entered into at a time when the PPP/C was under political pressure, from the masses and the main opposition party. The primary objectives of these arrangements were that the main opposition party and the government were supposed to have agreed, in good faith, on certain deliverables for the people.
History will remind us that in all of those situations, the people have not derived real benefit, because while the government agreed in principle and signed on to the arrangements, they have largely reneged, and talks breakdown. In the end, the people are left with ‘raw agreements’, from which they derive no real or full benefit. So convinced was Desmond Hoyte about the PPP/C’s convenient scheme, that when talks broke down after the Herdmanston Accord fell through, he concluded that, “the PPP/C only understands pressure”.
My own analysis on these matters is that the PPP/C would enter into an arrangement basically to buy time and to allow for public pressure to ease. Once they recognize that people have given them space, they then callously disregard all arrangements. I pray that this time the PPP/C prove me wrong!
I hope that we all have come to a place when we will recognize that people and country are paramount, even more than our individual or collective political ambitions. If we understand this most basic fact, we will be able to recognize that it is the people who have the power to determine whether our political ambitions take a progressive or retrogressive step. The PPP/C’s most recent showing at the November 2011 polls, illustrates this very fact, it is hoped that they humbly recognize and accept that the people have spoken.
As I desperately strive to remain optimistic that the PPP/C government’s decision to engage the parliamentary opposition to deliver a more working class budget is genuine and sincere, my innermost feelings coerce me to be realistic and not be overly enthused. I also ponder whether in retrospect, the people might have been better served, parliamentary time better utilized and national cooperation further down the road, had the tripartite committee, initiated by the APNU, stayed on course.
I wonder whether the 2012 budget would not have been passed by now, and whether the raise in old age pension would not have had to endure the wrath of a blistering ridicule and post-budget renegotiation.
Today we see that with meaningful collaboration, via talks between the government and main opposition party, there was an amicable solution to the ‘old age pension debacle’ the benefit is now increased from the proposed $600 to $2,500. Congrats to APNU for pressing on! Again, as a result of collective effort, we realize that it is possible to delay any increase in the electricity tariffs for the people of the depressed community of Linden, a city challenged with high unemployment and lack of any real economic success story, for the people.
We also see that with collective wisdom the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, in this situation, could not work, as such variations and exemptions in possible increases later, were necessary and sensible. Again, thanks to APNU for staying the course!
Too often the planners and decision-makers make decisions, likely to impact people’s lives, without factoring in the socioeconomic factors etc., akin to the subjects. They also often neglect to assess the impending psychological impact those decisions are likely to have on their intended targets. Any first-year Economics student will tell you that economics is more than dollars and cents.
One might argue that these first signs of adjustments might be sufficient for me to relieve myself of the fear that the government is playing ‘opportunistic politics’, just to get the 2012 budget to pass, however, I wish to point out that my skepticism may subside when I see those other valuable adjustments are made in the budget.
For instance, with specific reference to the 16% VAT, the Finance Minister cannot tell the nation that VAT, that burden that is on every Guyanese ‘slashing list’ is off the negotiating table, but yet expects the people to pass the budget. I believe that VAT and other issues must be adjusted in a way that the people of Guyana will derive true benefit. So the process of making a palatable budget has just started and it is hoped that it does not stop with the old age pension and electricity tariffs for Linden.
My optimism remains in the hope that the opposition will stay the course and ensure that the people’s majority is used in a way that derives the greatest possible benefits for the citizens of Guyana. I am, however, prepared to give the benefit of the doubt to the PPP/C by suggesting that this time they will not squander the opportunity to demonstrate that they are truly concerned about the working class people of Guyana. I am prepared to grant them a ‘clean slate’. I hope they use it well! Let the grandstanding from all corners cease and let the interest of the people triumph!