Time passes and the unruly things governments do are quickly forgotten. They say time is a great friend to people who want the world to forget about the shame they brought upon themselves. Most polls would probably find Bill Clinton either as the most or second most or third most popular politician in the US. Gone from the memory of the Americans is the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
As the APNU-AFC Government settles in, and the years move on, it is doubtful that Guyanese will remain angry about the untidy and secretive way the salary increase for the governmental leadership was done. But it could have been avoided. No regime wants to do things to a country that would cause national vexation.
It happens but regimes do not set about doing it just for fun or because they don’t care. Two factors make governments do unpalatable things. And it is doubtful that the newly elected Canadian and Trinidadian Prime Ministers will be exempted.
One is that an unimaginable workload divorces politicians from the prevailing mood of their supporters unlike when they were in opposition. This comes close to being a scientific process. Travels, meetings, horrible office hours just dominate leaders’ days and nights and they become incredibly distant from the lives of their constituencies. They simply lose touch with the people of their country. By the time they realize it, they would have made some dangerous mistakes. I think the salary increase is the outcome of this situation.
Here is a pyrotechnical example. When you are on the streets denouncing the heartless government, truck drivers invite you to their homes and discuss how onerous is the restricted hours for them to transport sand. You promise them solutions. After the elections, you become a Minister and you may never encounter those truckers in a long, long while.
In the meantime their problem festers and you and your party earn their wrath. It was Dr. David Hinds who argued forcefully that the new administration lost touch with the feelings of the nation, so it could not anticipate the rush of blood from Guyanese after the salary increase was announced.
The APNU-AFC politicians were no longer on the ground so they couldn’t understand that people didn’t expect big salary hikes for the Ministers so soon after they took over the reins of office.
There is no alternative for politicians who take up office. They simply have to shape their time to make sure they are never far away from the pulse of the nation. Frankly, I do not see that quality in our present school of rulers and in the opposition PPP. We have not produced such Rodneyite politicians; maybe in the future but they do not exist at the moment.
The second inherent failing in rulers (among others of course, one of which must be mentioned – the tendency to become obsessed with authority because you now have power) is the inability to treat popularity with cautiousness.
I believe the fantastic popularity of the new administration has contributed to the salary increase mistake. Guyana had twenty three years of a very uncaring cabal. People were emotional about the Nagamootoo-Granger unity team. When the unity train toppled the PPP, national euphoria effervesced like the Champaign when the cork was released. The danger with popularity is that it can go to your head and you believe you can do anything because after all you are well loved. I suspect this was the psychology at the time the salary increase was planned.
The APNU-AFC team probably thought, maybe in honest ways, that it would be accepted because people had feelings for the new kids on the block, and would understand and approve the moves of their leaders.
The nation will have to wait and see how the APNU-AFC handles these two bedeviling instincts that are inherent in the possession of power. As a friend of the new government I would like to see them remain on the path of righteousness.
I also know many of the Ministers for a long time now. But my first loyalty is to my conscience and the people I live among. I owe it to the Guyanese people to point out when lapses are made that can affect my country, adversely. The nation cannot expect educated leaders to work for the low income that has dogged this country for so long. Ministers are entitled to a pay-packet that carries respect.
The salary fiasco wasn’t in the money itself but in the timing, explanation and strategizing. Time is going, Christmas is around the corner and this mistake will fade into the wind. But is there more to come?
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