The government should not be signing any major deal weeks before an election. If the deal was signed months before the election, and was only announced near to elections, then questions are also likely to be asked about the timing of the announcement, and whether it was a public relations exercise intended to boost the ruling party’s chances of re-election.
Since a private company is involved, in partnership with another local private firm, then it is up to those entities to decide whether they wish to make an announcement of a deal that has taken place months prior to an election.
The government is also free to delay an announcement of a previously signed deal until close to an election. In 2006, the government waited until close to the elections to announce that it was proceeding to construct a bridge across the Berbice River, but the actual deal was not signed at the time.
All governments try to have major investment announcements to boost their election chances. There is nothing wrong with this. What is absolutely inappropriate is for the government to be signing a major investment deal weeks before a general election.
A new government is duty bound to comply, unless there are extenuating circumstances which dictate that the new government has to nullify such deals. Even some deals that are signed years or months before an election can come under scrutiny. For example during the PNC period, large tracts of land were given to private individuals close to that party. When the PPP came into power, they opted to renegotiate those deals so as to ensure that there were lands also available for small farmers.
Another example took place under the PPP/C. The government of the day entered into a deal with a foreign firm to participate in the electricity sector. The then opposition leader made it clear that he would not respect that deal and urged the investors to stay away from the country.
The reason why deals should not be signed (as opposed to announced) near to an election, is that these deals bind any new government, and it is not proper for deals to be signed close to an election date that would have a binding effect on an incoming regime. This is the basis of the objection to the signing of major deals close to an election. It has nothing to do with fairness of the electoral process, but everything to do with the obligations it creates for a new government.
The government is free to announce major deals signed long before the Election Day but which were never made public. But it should not ink any deals close to an election.
No new government is going to recognize such deals that are signed weeks before an election. There will be a review of those deals. In fact, if a new government takes power in Guyana, a number of deals signed long before the elections are likely to be reviewed should a new government take power.
The PPP has signed a number of controversial deals, including the sale of a major industrial complex which had been created by the PNC to provide jobs for nearby residents. This is the first deal that is likely to be re-examined. So too are some other privatizations that have found their way into the hands of friends of the government.
The fact that some foreign firms are not objecting to announcing deals they have made with the government at this time, weeks before a general election, suggests that these companies are supremely confident that their deals will not be renegotiated. They should not be that comfortable. If there is a new government, that new government will come under intense pressure to renegotiate some deals signed by the previous government.
And even if the ruling party wins, there is no way that Donald Ramotar will be free of pressures to also do the same. A number of persons outside of the PPP are endorsing and joining with the PPP/C solely on the basis of the faith they have in Donald Ramotar. Many of them have said that they have known him a long time and that they are sure that he will take steps to do the right thing.
He is not known to be a man who goes against his word and so it is expected that he will have to commit to some of the assurances that he has provided to those who are now hooking up with the PPP/C. This could mean major reviews of deals made under the Jagdeo presidency.
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