Apr 27, 2012 Letters
My congratulations are extended to all opposition politicians for engaging the public in the 2012 Budget debate and for opening it up to public understanding and scrutiny with a flamboyance atypical of the average Budget Day.
The complexity and enormity of the task of preparation of a national budget really seemed to put it beyond the comprehension of the average mortal. So, it is with pleasant surprise that I find, as a direct consequence of the new political dispensation, that a tsunami of understanding and involvement seems to have washed over Guyana that may just serve to do more than demystify this annual event – introduce a modicum of simplicity and common sense into the National Budget with a single minded focus on its only goal: enhancing and improving lives.
Whatever the challenges that befell the process, blowing the lid off the budget and exposing the double-budget and the unbelievable sloppiness of financial accounting and expenditure, the pitiful planned remunerations to pensioners, the pursuit of irrelevant projects, among others is a singular combined opposition accomplishment and they can stand assured that they have returned people to the centre of the budget agenda and they have raised the standards of accountability and made an indirect assault on corruption.
They have offered the government an opportunity to do stocktaking and to reassess its approach to governance and realign its approach with its core values. Indeed, the opposition has shown itself to be the custodian of transparency and accountability and an effective agent for change. This is a positive feedback cycle that has to be recognised and guarded.
While much has already been said in the press and commentaries about the betrayal of the AFC and the Linden constituents by the APNU, it is my hope that we move on from these experiences not with bitterness but with a greater understanding of the difficulties of leadership and the challenges facing politicians in Guyana’s political environment.
Moving on from a tradition of race-based majority politics, to one of consultation, collaboration and consensus building requires the development, honing and sharpening of new skills. As the APNU, reflecting not only the leader but every APNU Member of Parliament, no doubt may have found out, in the heat of the moment of critical decision making, our principles matter, our commitment to our own values and our own self matter, even more than benefits for the people and certainly even more than allegiance to party. How are we standing as individuals?
Are we still slanted? Are we relying on memory, the past, hopes of the future or on that solid internal compass to guide us? Or are we being pushed and pulled by political expediencies? Who is in the driver’s seat of our psyche?
The delicate politics of unifying Guyana requires a consolidation of trust. This is an intangible. It is an aspect of human behaviour and interaction. It is the lack of it that divides and dividers know this. We are not going to see trust quantified as a line item in the Budget but it is the thing of value in our national politics and no pensioner is better off with a few thousand dollars when trust between groups is betrayed.
We in Guyana have a tendency to reduce complex problems of nation building to personality issues or ‘good or bad people’ or ‘good or bad party.’ I think what has been exposed with the minority government scenario is the difficulty of the job of managing the country, its finances and its ethnic relations and the relevance of accountability and transparency to our daily lives.
Accountability and transparency keeps us honest and supports the development of the people by aligning resources in the right direction. This is beneficial to all of us including the Government. Standards have been raised in Guyana and no longer will the Government be able to offer sloppiness or pursue its own agenda.
The fact that it shamefully found money to increase pension shows that all is not well with the government presented Budget and we, including the government, have before us an opportunity to see the value of collaboration and accommodation of different perspectives.
The job of managing the country just became harder but more open and honest and professional. As the nation starts to understand the complexity of the job of steering the nation’s economy, the huge decision making and negotiation challenges facing politicians, we can rise above petty politics and focus the mind on the task at hand and transition to individual accountability and issue based politics.
We are on the verge of great progress. If we understand the stages of group dynamics as Audreyanna Thomas (KN 25/04/2012) stated in her letter we can feel a little more at ease with the tumult of the changes, assured that it will settle down.
The approach of the Government to bring out its supporters in vigils and to adopt malicious acts such as turning off NCN communication link to Linden (what on Earth motivates such a move except an intent at provocation? Why target Linden? The chess players among us can start to think ahead a few moves.) shows that it does not yet understand these changes that are happening.
It wants to negotiate sloppily or speedily, use the blame game techniques and get on with the business of running the country like old times. But things have changed.
Consider, on the other hand, the willingness of the leader of the APNU to engage with the Government. Whatever the outcome of the engagement, the willingness to engage was definitely a positive move. The Government officials are not going anywhere. These individuals are part and parcel of our nation; everybody needs to rise.
Any intention to vanquish the government officials is leading to confrontational politics and motivated by hate and resentment and is counterproductive. The Leader of the Opposition made a truly brilliant speech (KN, Guyana Chronicle April 18th, 2012.)
He really has ushered in an era of openness, and suffered for it too, where there are no perceived enemies and offered an invitation by way of a Tripartite Budget Committee for more expansive involvement in Budget preparations.
Contrast this with the attitude of Minister Clement Rohee (KN: 14/04/2012: Rohee predicts ‘Tsunami’ victory for PPP/C at the next polls) who out of frustration is looking forward to next elections in the hopes of sidestepping the problem of building consensus, collaboration and cooperation by reliance on a majority government – one he can only get by stoking deep divisions within the country. In order to work in the new dispensation, new skills and attitudes are needed. It’s an internal developmental and maturation process.
This process is aided by an environment of trust and accommodation. We need to realise and understand that things have changed and accommodate ourselves to a new way of working; we can go forward or the other alternative.
If we choose to move forward, we need to subordinate the egos, king-sized attachments and greed that motivate us, such as the dubious Marriott Project, sever the invisible ties with the invisible hands that have no business in Guyana politics and we need to commit to a decision to prioritise the focus on improving the lives of citizens. What is it going to be?
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