I am tempted to agree with Freddie Kissoon’s, “Countdown to 2011 has started,” (Kaieteur News, June 11), not only for the reasons he advanced, but also after reading several letters by Dr. Prem Misir containing voluminous economic statistics with pre-1992 and post-1992 comparisons to defend his Government’s handling of the economy.
At first, I thought he was simply highlighting the differences between the PNC and PPP eras to make his point, but when he kept pouring on the statistics, sometimes with illegible tables, it hit me he might be giving a preview of the PPP’s re-election campaign talking points to seek support and votes.
The question is: Might the economy be the PPP’s new front in winning votes after years of relying almost exclusively on the race card? At this juncture, no one knows for sure whether the PPP’s ethnic support base is more concerned about what it is actually seeing and feeling as opposed to buying into any statistics-based argument that the Jagdeo-led administration has done better than the PNC or, more importantly, has finally grown up and refuses to fall anymore for the old PPP modus operandi of using the PNC as the bogeyman.
When the PPP won the1992 election, it did not need to run a campaign filled with social, political and economic promises, since most Guyanese just wanted to see an end to the PNC’s illegal hold on power. Nevertheless, the PPP went into the 92 election keeping up its criticism of the PNC from rigged elections, to infringement of other freedoms and rights, and the decimation of the economy. In the end, it won with great help from its Indian numerical majority support base, but all subsequent elections it won – 1997, 2001, and 2006 – not too surprisingly, were based, not on its performance in Government, but on successfully working the race card among its support base.
In fact, as far back as 1990, the race card was flashed when Dr. Cheddi Jagan picked Mr. Sam Hinds as his running mate, and Mr. Hinds, in a display of political naiveté, openly conceded that since Indians outnumbered blacks and tended to vote PPP, that the PPP will win the pending elections. He then offered himself as a ‘bridge’ between in the Indian-dominated PPP and the black community.
Then in the1997 campaign, when Ravi Dev’s ROAR seemed to be pulling crowds of Indians at campaign rallies, Mrs. Janet Jagan reportedly urged supporters not to ‘split the vote’, and since the PPP’s support base has been largely Indian, she pretty much played the race card. Mrs. Jagan’s name was also mentioned as being against a shared governance deal with the PNC in 1985 unless the PPP was the senior partner because its support base was bigger than the PNC’s.
And when the President launched his 2006 re-election bid at Babu John, he had nothing of substance to advert to in Government’s performance, so he told supporters that if the PNC got back in power dangerous criminals won’t have need to steal guns; they’ll be given the guns. (As an aside, even if the black dominated PNC was in bed with black criminals, the PPP Government never proved this in a court of law with arrests and convictions of PNC officials. Why did it fail to act at the expense of dying and hurting innocents?)
But though the PPP went on to win the 2006 elections, the results also revealed a troubling development for the party: almost half of the eligible voters from its support base stayed home despite Election Day being made a holiday to maximize voter turn out.
Now aware its constituents apparently refused to buy into the ethnic fear and insecurity reasoning, will it launch a new fear factor front by working its socioeconomic hypochondria line of doing pre-92 and post-92 comparative statistical analyses in the hope that voters, but especially those of its own base, would read the economic statistics hype as emerging signs of hope and vote PPP again?
And even if it does try, will its base buy the new fear factor argument that unless the PPP is returned to power in 2011, then it will be the PNC, which is being showcased outside of the race factor as having a poor economic track record?
These are reasonable questions, but an even more important question is: Why does the PPP feel it is entitled to retain power? It cannot be merely based on having an edge over the PNC with its ethnic majority support; it cannot be based on its touted socioeconomic performance under President Bharrat Jagdeo, and it certainly can’t be based on the notion of running an inclusive Government.
On the last point, it is somewhat amusing to keep hearing the PPP talk about being inclusive even as it demonizes the PNC, ostracizes the AFC, and conveniently ‘consults with civic stakeholders’, while the PNC, on the other hand gives the Government kids’ gloves treatment even as it talks about sharing governance with the PPP.
Not only do the two appear tone deaf to each other’s reasoning, but the PPP and PNC very much believe they are the only two parties entitled to being the political alternatives to run Guyana. But why should they?
Many other political parties were formed after the PPP and PNC and they all faded with time, but just to appear to critics of their political stranglehold that they were inclusive and not selfish, the PPP added a Civic component and the PNC added a Reform component in time for the 1992 election. But here we are, almost 17 years later; the PPP’s Civic is virtually dead except for Prime Minister Sam Hinds who is now a mere blip on the Government’s radar screen, and the PNC does not appear to have been reformed enough to retake power any time soon, and so either a viable alternative emerges, with authority between now and 2011 to mount a formidable challenge to the PPP or else the PPP and the PNC – hydra-headed political monsters whose politically divisive politics have devoured our chances of developing our resource-rich country – will continue getting away with their sense of entitlement by at least relying on their ethnic support bases.
Not that the PPP Government will give up without a fight, but if it ever uses post-92 debt relief and social services projects as entitling it to another term in office, this delusional way of thinking can only be the result of a metastasized ideology where the Central Government sees itself as the epicentre of a growing welfare state.
In a genuine free market economy Government should never be the sole source of recovery and development, yet in Guyana, the Government is the dominant economic player with its IMF/WB promoted macroeconomic stability hype.
Whatever happened to the slogan: ‘the private sector is the engine of economic recovery’? Can any believe the Government is seriously committed to making the private sector the country’s economic engine when from 1993 to 2007 we had only US$960M in FDIs?
That’s a mere drop in the bucket compared to almost US$5B in foreign remittances over the same period, and so it begs the question: Does the PPP Government really see itself as the major source of recovery and development, as opposed to the private sector, so it can use its ‘economic statistics’ for political propaganda purposes and thus develop a dependency syndrome for the people in which the party and its Government appear indispensable or entitled to re-election?
Well, by the same measure of the PPP seeks political entitlement, ordinary Guyanese also seek economic empowerment, starting with a better quality of life they can grow into than that obtained during the 28 years of the PNC and the almost 17 years of the PPP.
What passes for signs of economic development in the form of new commercial buildings and activities, new luxury houses and new cars on the crowded streets are actually profiting only an infinitesimal slice of the population.
The bulk of the population, struggling with a real economic crisis hitting their pocketbooks and wallets, are mere spectators to many of these developments and affluent lifestyle changes, but they also know that there are serious questions about the sources of funding for much of what is passing for commercial activity and affluence, and that Government couldn’t be bothered. So what can the bulk of the population do to make a difference in their circumstances?
They can vote for genuine change in 2011, a mere two years away. They have to factor into their votes that elections come every five years in Guyana and considering all the stuff that transpires in the name of governance during this period, five years can seem and feel like an eternity having to wait to make change happen.
And with an incumbent party more concerned about ideology-based control and influence than about generating economy-based benefits through greater foreign investments by developing our resources, voters have to wake up and wise up now to make the difference in 2011.
It’s time to stop being suckered into politically inspired ethnic fears and insecurities or even being deceived by ‘economic statistics’ that do not trickle down into their pocketbooks and wallets.
Time to end the era of entitlement politics and retake Government so it can truly be by the people, of the people and for the people!
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