Guyana requires its own form of federalism. The United States of America has been politically stagnant for the last eight years because of political gridlock at the top. The USA still functions because the individual states have the money and authority to keep their states going. Were it not for the power of the states to manage their own individual affairs the USA would surely have been paralyzed.
Similarly the government of Guyana has been politically stagnant for the last 23 years (and arguably for the last 49 years). The similarity of this matter ends with the separation of powers. Guyana has no federal system of its own; the Neighborhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) do not function as independent bodies but as arms of the government. As a result they are paralyzed because Parliament is paralyzed.
I believe it is high time for Guyana to embrace federalism in order to ensure for the future generations that we don’t see the same political stagnancy and instability which has plagued us more or less since our inception as an independent nation.
Federalism across the globe has been seen as an opportunity for democracy to be at its best. Federalism gives people control over not only national issues but local issues as well. Though Guyana is a smaller country, it is still almost the size of the United Kingdom (which in its own way embraces certain tenets of Federalism).
Issues in Georgetown are not always issues in Lethem. Federalism involves the people in ways a central government cannot because they would no longer have to wait on the central government to act but appeal to a more local institution which would be smaller and more open to the concerns of the region they are serving. It also encourages civic participation in people. The people will care more about their local situation and feel they are more able to participate in the policies that become law.
The central government must take into account the needs of the entire nation (as it should, though the last 49 years of Guyana might say otherwise). However, the needs of the nation are not always the needs of the region.
The preferences of Vreed-en-Hoop many not be the preferences of Port Kaituma. For example, Vreed-en-Hoop is a commuter town—a place where people live but many if not most of its residents work elsewhere, in this case: Georgetown.
Were it part of a federal system, Vreed-en-Hoop would be able to levy a higher property tax because its residents could afford it since they may want to live in a quiet yet developed area. Conversely, Port Kaituma is a poor village. If Guyana were federal, their local government could perhaps offer incentives such as lower tax rates for either companies, coastal Guyanese, or diaspora Guyanese to come settle and develop the area. This diversification of policy would bring both regions success as defined by their needs without affecting one another.
Efficiency is also a boon of federalism. When things are smaller, they are typically more efficient. Take the case of policing. The central government can only efficiently manage so many stations thus there would only be so many stations within a certain radius. If there is a crime, a nationally controlled police station may be 20 miles away and take longer to respond.
If Guyana were a federal nation, there would be more police stations as they would be built to serve specific regions only and their maintenance and operation would be the responsibility of the local government only, which, once again, is something that can be more easily influenced by the local population.
With independent legislation by the more local government, things that would be a crime in Parika may be legal in New Amsterdam. This provides for a much more focused police enforcement and response time.
More local government means more local laws which means greater differentiation in laws and culture as culture is easily influenced by the legality of certain actions. Take for example the issue of Marijuana. It is illegal in most of the world and certainly looked down upon as well. Now take the current repealing of its illegality in the United States and Netherlands. In Colorado, where it has recently been not only decriminalized but legalized (the difference being decriminalization means no jail time, but punitive measures in the form of community service or fines), their state tax revenue has gone up and to top it off, they get to keep that money instead of handing it over to the federal government (where it is still legal). This would encourage the marijuana industry which brings tourists looking for a judgement and punishment free high which means foreign cash and more development. It will also bring industry as hemp fiber is made from non-potent strains of cannabis which can be used to build rope, various food products, and oils for cosmetics. A region that adopted legalized marijuana would see a gain in population, tourism, and industry, all of which can provide growth and be strong competition for neighboring federal divisions. This, again, goes back to my point about trying new things. It would be an incubator of ideas for national trends.
In summary, federalism encourages democracy and civic participation. The powers are spread between local and national governments. The people are protected from the tyranny of the center and can rely on their local division for stability. The people can easier implement new ideas and test them at the local level as opposed to national policy which may turn out worse for the country or may only be suited for a particular region’s needs. Federalism encourages expediency. Where the national government would be slow to respond, the individual regions can better accommodate their constituents with faster responses. Greater differentiation allows people to better form their government to their needs and they can feel more comfortable with the local law reflecting local culture and ideas.
Ideas from your fellow citizen,
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