Dec 23, 2015 News
By Sase Singh
What is the projection to local government elections (LGE)? In an electoral campaign, individuals matter, but they matter precisely because they represent something; an ideology; something enduring. So, the question now at this moment, is not whether the PPP was beaten, but what has the victorious team done with this victory to better position themselves in the LGE scheduled to be held on March 18, 2016?
The important thing right now is to unpack the progress so far, to see what are the outputs from this government at the very local levels. Many from the pool that I have consulted in constructing this article advanced the position that the APNU+AFC Team has left the starting block rather late.
One can conclude this was because they were not expecting victory. Another school of thought is that the Cabinet has too many people inside who have not managed even a “cake-shop” in their lives, much less a whole Ministry.
On the positive side, one can use the evidence from the clean-up Guyana campaign to illustrate much progress. Further, the Venezuelan issue, which unfortunately consumed too much time from the executive management team, was a major distraction in the first three months. One can also argue that today, we can see more policy decisions being made as compared to the first three months, and that is a positive development.
However, many of the commentators who are living in Guyana and who shared thoughts with me, advised that they believe that small issues like the withdrawal of the Bath Settlement streetlights will adversely affect the performance of the Coalition in the upcoming LGE, especially across the PPP heartland in Regions Two, Three, Five and Six and parts of East Coast Demerara.
To compound this “beef-stake” by GPL, the Coalition Government went into Timehri North (a coalition stronghold) and installed free streetlights. That looks, smells and feels like discrimination.
Such political inconsistency will have major consequences and does serve up the necessary ingredients to hurl the PPP campaign into overdrive. This was what they desperately needed. True or false, the message being projected by Team Jagdeo on this single issue has “caught afire” across rural Guyana.
I am shocked that a well-educated Georgetown lawyer who voted for the APNU+AFC in 2015 was bold enough to tell me she will be voting solidly for Team Jagdeo in 2016. This is a worrisome development. If the educated can make these tactical changes, can you imagine what is happening in the uneducated class?
If one observes how Team Jagdeo has approached the Christmas outreach, you can sense the confidence. Only in the week of Christmas, Jagdeo himself served some 600 children and senior citizens in Annandale. I was advised that there was heavy politicking going on. Well, you can only guess the message. I am concluding that it is all because of three issues that were badly handled – this Bath Settlement streetlight issue, the wages issue (Ministers vs. Workers) and the failure to engage and empower enough of their political activists after May 2015 using the patronage system.
It is clear from the feedback I have received, that the PPP’s message is getting out. I would not be surprised if I turn up in Annandale today and there are enough people who will tell me that they are willing to support a PPP that dips into the Treasury. This is an indictment of the Coalition not succeeding at showing these people an alternative point of view.
The well-oiled and financed PPP machinery has not stopped working after the 2015 elections and that work is paying dividends. There are consequences if this PPP machinery is allowed to continue to do this job unhindered. From the feedback I have gathered from my pool of commentators, they are convinced that the coalition government has a major problem on their hands in this upcoming LGE. In the 62 NDCs, they see a PPP landslide.
On the brighter side, many people said they expect a much better performance from the coalition government in the nine municipalities, especially in Georgetown, Bartica, New Amsterdam, Linden, and maybe Lethem. From my standpoint, if the APNU+AFC wins Lethem, that would be a signal development, since Region Nine was won handsomely by the PPP in the May 2015 General Elections.
One can conclude that the coalition has failed to deconstruct the PPP politically. This slothfulness in instituting legal action again PPP leaders who were associated with misappropriation of state assets has fed into the PPP-peddled message that the State Asset Recovery Agency and the Forensic Audits were established only to conduct a witch-hunt.
Well if we look at the deliverables from both of these processes, they clearly have a bark louder than a bite. Do we have toothless poodles here?
Every week, the press is bombarded with “who did what”. However, none of these cases have converted to an actual conviction. I am shocked that with so much evidence in the press, there has been almost zero progress in the courts. The people are watching. So far the political performance from the coalition is most unimpressive on deconstructing the PPP.
So what is the medium range outlook to the mid-term in 2017?
Most of the commentators are of the view that the results of the LGE should be the occasion to stimulate a Cabinet reshuffle. This should serve as one of the processes to refine the output from the team. It is time the top performers are promoted and the freeloaders who forgot their armband, be asked to “wine to the side”, if I may use the words of Benjai, the Soca singer.
Too few of the Ministers right now are adding the right value at the right time to achieve the right outcome. All this does is weaken and undermine the Presidency and no one has that entitlement.
It is time for some new talent to be headhunted and thrown into the decision-making system with clear terms of reference and timelines. It is hoped the focus will be on women and youths. Many people are of the opinion that the Cabinet is too big and it has to be rationalized and restructured to “segue” the under-performers into ceremonial constitutional and ambassadorial positions.
Even after six months in office, many in senior position still have not got the memo that the day they sign on for these jobs, they have put their lives up for greater scrutiny. Their time as a human being who eats and lives like the rest of us was over when they took that oath.
Ministers have to get with the programme that the people of the Co-operative Republic have a right to demand from them squeaky-clean conduct and timely policy results.
Attitudes synonymous with the previous administration must be banished; this is the contract they signed with the people when they took that salary increase. There is a clear difference in the expectation from the population today than ten years ago. Today the youths want their leaders to demonstrate that they are better; character-wise, ethics-wise and attitude-wise. The youths of today are ready and prepared to punish anyone who breaks that contract. Thus, attitudes such as arrogance, aloofness, inaccessibleness and not delivering results will be punished.
President Granger and Prime Minister Nagamootoo are still very principled and competent leaders, but 2016-2017 should be a period to make some decisions to shed the dead weight that continues to hurt the APNU+AFC Government.
This will be my last piece for the year 2015 in the Kaieteur News, so I would like to wish all Guyanese Happy Holidays. I am humbled to have shared your life in some little way and if I have been able to influence one opinion to stay the course of “principled-politics”, I have done my job.
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