THE PPP HAS TO DISTANCE ITSELF FROM THE JAGDEO REGIME
The PPP has a serious decision to make. This decision will however have to be made at the level of Congress.
While there have been a few changes taking place, albeit slowly but surely, while some differences are notable between the present administration and the Jagdeo administration, if the PPP is to regain the confidence of the four or five per cent it needs to secure a comfortable majority in the next parliament, it will have to further distance itself from the Jagdeo presidency.
Unfortunately, this may mean having to sever all ties from the leadership of the old president because right now there are still elements of the former regime that are still in power and who seem incapable or unwilling to move away from the policies of the Jagdeo era.
This is the major dilemma that faces the Ramotar administration. The president is surrounded on all sides by elements who are extremely loyal to the former president’s policies and who seem very comfortable continuing those policies.
The president has clearly adopted a new approach to governance. He is not into micromanagement. He is not meeting foreign delegations alone. He is meeting them with his team. Thus, he is able to benefit from the advice of those around him.
He is also trying to restore a position of influence to the party, but he has to be careful that in so doing he does not appoint persons who cannot function effectively.
If you examine the situation closely, it will be observed that the president is surrounded by persons who played a prominent role under the Jagdeo presidency, where working with the opposition was virtually non-existent.
So how can, for example, the tripartite talks work when the very persons who were part of the failed dialogue process with Desmond Hoyte and the constructive dialogue process with Robert Corbin, are once again part of the makeup of the new talks?
It does not lend to public confidence to have these persons around. This is not a criticism of their abilities or even an admission that progress cannot be had with them. Rather it is an assertion that if the tripartite process was ever to enjoy public confidence, the public needed to see new players within the government leading that process.
In the context of government/opposition dialogue this may now be a mute point, because the opposition has clearly acted in bad faith, and it is now almost impossible for the tripartite process to be resumed. For all intents and purposes, that process is dead.
A new process has to emerge. But why should the old players in the government be willing to commit to further engagement with the combined opposition? “Once bitten, twice shy!” The government has been bitten more than once and they will be stupid to go back and be bitten again.
But even if the tripartite process is dead, there is still a need to break the political deadlock that will result. And the holding of snap elections is one way to do so.
The PPP may feel that it can easily go back to the polls and secure a majority. However, any majority that it will secure will always be tenuous, because the rules were changed in the last constitutional reform process, and under the new rules, the present situation of a minority government was always going to be on the cards.
The PPP won by a landslide in 2006, but the fact is that overall it held a slender majority in the House. With the new rules, this situation will continue to prevail. It is not likely ever again that any majority party will hold more than a three-seat majority in the parliament. This means that we may have permanently legislated minority governments for the future.
The PPP is not also going to have it easy holding on to a majority in the future. That is unless it changes course and changes course radically. The economic model that was pursued by the Jagdeo administration brought forth unprecedented levels of economic growth but this growth and its distribution was skewed in favour of the propertied class.
More importantly, it neglected the rural areas, and this is why Berbice voted so strongly against the PPP. Berbice was like a forgotten zone. The only developments of significance were the Berbice River Bridge and the Skeldon Factory, and everyone knows that the benefits of these projects have not reached the ordinary Berbician.
The PPP has to understand that the present approach to the Budget and to economic development is not benefitting the poor. It therefore has to steer another course, but this will mean bringing in persons who can think outside the box, and who are prepared to kick rear ends to ensure that progress is made.
The leadership of the PPP is not likely, however, to change itself. And as such, it will be for the next Congress to signal a definitive break with the old policies by removing the old Jagdeo guard.