The past two years have not been the best of times for the administration even though it managed to defy initial predictions that it was unlikely to survive beyond a year as a coalition. The fact that it had to contend with a smaller than usual parliamentary majority of just one seat and an economy in serious trouble has left it hardly any comfortable room to maneuver economically and politically.
While some of the economic challenges were influenced by external factors due to international pressures, others were clearly of domestic origin. Based on feedback from the various media and from the man in the street, people accustomed to lax tax measures and to officers accepting a bribe to allow under invoicing what passed for profit and made people happy was generally a loss to the poor taxpayer, a greater burden, because he was without some basic amenities.
Even though there has been some improvement, today, there are a few who are of the view that they are worse off today than two years ago. They are being challenged by a new entrepreneur who is offering a new set of products at a drastically lower rate. The result is that the new businessman is attracting a foreign crowd that descends on Guyana twice every week to do shopping.
These are the people who complain that the conditions for business have changed for the worse. But who can expect to see change without adjusting? Yet they are the ones who are blaming the government.
Since no government relishes the thought of losing an election, especially in Guyana where it could be in opposition for twenty or more years, the current administration may be tempted to change course in the last minute. This would be nothing new in the historical context of our politics. Guyanese like most other voters are often described as having short memories, so election goodies, whether in the form of tax relief or higher government spending to inject more money into the economy, can have a favorable effect on the government.
However, with a huge fiscal deficit, the reality is the government’s hands are tied and even if it is tempted to pursue its election promises, it does not have the resources to do so. It is giving itself some breathing space by taking decisions that should have been taken a long time ago in relation to sugar.
It has closed some sugar estates and thus saved the nation billions of dollars at a time when money is needed for other projects. It stands to reason that the national interests should always come before the ruling party’s interests. As such, the government is required to do what is best for the country.
The critical question at this time is when and how does the government intend to solve the problems. The truth is that the government has not communicated its policies effectively to the people. Perhaps the government believes that its deeds should be seen and not heard. Guyana is one place where the people are slow to see. This has been a fact of life from almost immediately after the last general election. Georgetown and coastal Guyana have undergone a dramatic change but the people have not seen these. Some chant, floods no more but being short-memoried they may have believed that this has been the case for much longer than the government has been in office.
But the government still has a lot going for it. And of course, there is oil on the horizon.
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