The polls are over; it is time to get back to normal life although for many people, particularly some of the former rulers, life will not be the same. In the last few months, we saw a flurry of contracts being executed against the tradition of governments declining to undertake new projects just before the elections.
Many of these projects would have to be reviewed by the new administration which would have to involve the active participation of the opposition parties in parliament. For example, the Amaila Falls hydroelectric project, which is important to the development of the country, was always under a cloud because the cost kept increasing even before a block of concrete was placed at the falls to fashion the hydro dam.
Even the selection of the contractor, Makeshwar Fip Motilall, was questionable. Investigations revealed that the contractor had no prior experience in road building, that he had no money in the event that he had to pay any penalties that might have been imposed, that he would have been unable to execute the project.
There is the touted construction of a Marriott hotel. The deal was announced mere weeks before the polls. President Bharrat Jagdeo, the architect of the project, said that the nation needed a five-star hotel that would offer quality service to people who are most likely to head to this country for a variety of reasons.
But in the run up to Cricket World Cup we caused to be constructed a number of facilities so that there may be room for the anticipated influx. The influx did not come because India and Pakistan, two calling cards, were knocked out early. But the rooms remained empty. To this day there are not enough people to occupy the rooms in these hotels. Occupancy is less than thirty-three per cent. And of interest, since then, some of them have changed hands.
However, there has been a contract signing to put a further one hundred and ninety-seven rooms into the system. The cost is a whopping USS$51 million.
There are other matters that should be investigated. Contractors took taxpayers’ money and produced slipshod work but were never penalized. There must have been a reason for this and the taxpayers need answers.
What is going to be a new feature in the life of this country is the existence of a minority parliament. Had there been no modification of the Independence Constitution there might have been a repeat of what happened to the People’s Progressive Party in 1964. On that occasion the two losing opposition parties used their combined superior numbers to form the government.
This situation that is now presented would allow for serious talks and real consultative democracy. Gone are the days of token consultations and of unfulfilled promises. Gone, too, are the days of unrestrained spending and of secret negotiations.
The just concluded elections have paved the way for a Guyana that may at last realize its real potential. Projects will be undertaken on merit; money will be spent in keeping with the rules and regulations; and constructions will be undertaken after due considerations of the capability of the appointed contractors.
But this is the upside of a minority parliament. The downside is the temptation for the opposition parties to thwart every measure proposed by the government. This would be a case of playing to the gallery and of pandering to the supporters. Such actions will not help the country and may, instead, harm the very political party that seeks to grandstand.
The international community is convinced that this is the best thing for Guyana with its claims of ethnic distrust and discrimination, of marginalization and of ethnic preferences. One diplomat has described the situation as ‘win/win’ for Guyana and he is correct.
The protests that accompanied the election results have served their purpose. They have sent a signal to the government that there is always people power. The political party at the head of these protests knows that it has a legal recourse.
Suffice it to say that it may change this win/win situation back to what prevailed and sparked this type of confrontation in the first place.
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