UNCLE DONALD DOES NOT NEED BHARRAT
President Donald Ramotar may have done irreparable harm to his public image by asking his predecessor, Bharrat Jagdeo, to assist him with preparing a report into the Budget cuts.
The need for a report to be prepared about the Budget cuts was one of the explanations given for the former president’s presence at the Office of the President during a period when the incumbent was out of Guyana on official business.
The other explanation is that the former president was there to prepare a report about some of the major projects. This is not necessarily a contradiction with the first explanation, since the report which was being prepared could have been about those major projects under the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), which was the focus of opposition blade in the 2012 Budgets.
These cuts are now the subject of a court case and therefore not much can be said about their legality. It will be the court which will have to decide whether the constitution provides specific rules for the approval of Budget estimates and if those rules permit reduction or alterations.
The government became concerned about the cuts not because of their severity, but because of the nature of the cuts. Many of the major projects under the LCDS were not approved on dubious technical grounds – that the monies were not yet in the province. And since some preparatory planning would be required as part of the execution of these projects, it would have been necessary from a technical point of view for reports to be prepared detailing the effects of the cuts and what adjustments were needed in the context of the cuts.
But why should a former president have been mandated to do this? Why reduce a former sitting Head of State to the position of a technician? Was it beyond the technical staff within the various projects’ units? Why was an outsider, and a former president at that, brought in to prepare a report which should be within the competency of some of the technical staff working within these projects?
After all, those staffers are not being paid peanuts. They are being paid market rates and therefore should at the minimum have been able to prepare a report analyzing the effects of the Budget cuts on these projects and what adjustments needed to be made.
Is the government conceding that within these projects’ units there is a woeful lack of technical capacity? And if so, why are some persons being paid market rates of international consultants?
There was no need for the former president to have been asked to assist in preparing any reports. In fact, the Ministry of Finance should have been able to produce the necessary reports, since they are normally required to do similar reports in relation to foreign-funded projects.
The Donald Ramotar administration, therefore, has to be careful about involving the former president in official government work. He should restrict the role of the former president to an advisory capacity.
Donald Ramotar needs to be his own man. He needs to avoid ruling in the shadow of his predecessor for a number of reasons.
Firstly, he needs to make his own mark. When he leaves office, he must have his own legacy. He must not be accused of merely completing the policies of his predecessor. He already has his own distinctive style that sets him apart from his predecessor. It is time for him to establish his own track record of policies and achievements without these being credited to his predecessor.
Secondly, he needs to be distinct from his predecessor, because the tenure of the former president was riddled with so much controversy, especially in relation to some major projects. He can continue with those projects that he feels are vital for national development, but should revamp them to make them more acceptable to the nation.
Thirdly, we are in a new dispensation; the government is a minority government, therefore a new focus has to be brought to governance. The worst thing that the incumbent president can do is to rule in the shadow of his predecessor.
Donald Ramotar does not need former President Jagdeo. It is not helpful to his image for him to be seen as having to ask his predecessor for assistance in preparing reports. It will only lend to a perception that the strings are being pulled from sources other than the presidency. This will do irreparable harm to the administration, and his entire presidency will be tainted with this adverse perception, even though it may not be true.
If President Ramotar wants to utilize the services of Mr. Jagdeo, he should make him a goodwill ambassador to promote Guyana’s tourism. That should keep him busy while the president makes his own mark.