One is forced to juxtapose President Ramotar’s record with the rhetoric
It is the custom in some mature democracies not to criticize the President when he or she is overseas conducting government business. However, because of the gravity of the situation and the hubris or hypocrisy demonstrated by President Ramotar; I am forced to break with tradition. Speaking at a protocolary session of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington DC, President Ramotar called on governments to do more to “reduce poverty and inequality” because they “pose the greatest threat to democracy and security” He called on leaders to let “poverty eradication be the historic task of our generation…..” In a vacuum this is all noble and commendable stuff, but coming from the President of Guyana who presides over a nation where the World Bank estimates that 47% of the population are classified as poor (having less than $47,000 GD per month) and 29% are classified as “extremely poor” (most of the poor live in rural areas, with the majority of the extremely poor living in the interior), then one is forced to juxtapose the record with the rhetoric.
Even though Donald Ramotar can still be considered a fairly new President, he is not “new’ to Guyana politics ( having served for over a decade as General Secretary of the PPP) and his party the PPPC has enjoyed political power in Guyana for the last twenty years. The PPPC in opposition, prior to 1992 was relentless in its criticism of the government of that day. One of their claims was that Guyanese were voting with their feet because the political and economic conditions were unbearable. Campaigning prior to the 1992 elections the PPP promised to put an end to mass migration, rebuild or education system, modernize our health delivery system, put an end to poverty and run a lean and clean government. Today, twenty years later and the record is still to match the rhetoric. Over the last 20 years the PPP has shown by its policies and programmes that it does not understand (or it is incapable of doing) what is necessary to eradicate poverty in Guyana. Any student of government would tell you that a solid, well rounded education is the best long term solution for eradicating poverty. Yet the PPP over the last 20 years has failed terribly in this vital sector. It is an un-debatable fact that we are still unable to keep and attract well qualified teachers. It is a fact that in the rural and interior areas of the country over 80 percent of the teachers are classified as “unqualified”. It is a fact that our drop-out rates are unsustainable and the conditions at most of our schools and our UG campus at Turkeyen are deplorable, sub standard and not conducive learning environments. It is apposite to note that after the 2012 budget debate the PPP resorted to street protest over cuts to GINA and NCN, but there was no hue and cry over the paltry sums that were earmarked for the education sector. Over the last 20 years of continuous PPP in government, the gap between the very rich and the very poor has expanded astronomically; the armies of the poor that march the streets of the capital have swelled; people are still voting with their feet and their remittance dollars continue to be a lifeline for those left behind. If Mr. Ramotar, like the Biblical Saul has had his “Road to Damascus moment” then he is to be commended, but until the rhetoric matches the record I will be skeptical. It is an embarrassment that in 2012 Guyana, poverty indicators like; access and quality of a household’s drinking water; the type of toilet facility; the main method of garbage disposal; the number of people in a household divided by the number of bedrooms, remain for far too many Guyanese a way of life. We have become a nation of “black tanks” as we struggle with potable water supply; many rural, semi-urban and most interior household still have latrines; solid waste management is a joke and a public health time bomb waiting to explode and overcrowding is still the norm for far too many household.
Mr. Editor, I supported the APNU in the last elections because I believed that after 20 years, the PPPC had failed to live up to its rhetoric, and it was time for change. The PPP over that period had abandoned its working class constituents and had by its policies and programmes created the conditions for perpetual poverty for some classes of people in Guyana. With the rich getting richer and no one advocating for the poor, and working poor who deal with the uncertainty of five more months much less five more years, declaring war on poverty in Guyana should be the at the top of our national agenda. So I say to the President talk is cheap; but we will judge you by your actions and the actions of your government.