It is not a coincidence that the APNU government is grappling to remain in power even if it would cost them the entire country. Empirical evidence has shown that oil wealth is an influential factor that plays a key role in the pursuit of unlimited power by democratic nations. Incumbents that are autocratic usually use their oil wealth to fortify their grip on power. Democratic incumbents, on the other hand, are often more inclined to remain in power, precipitating the birth of an authoritarian state.
Take for example the following transition and entrenchment of power by four of the largest oil-dependent countries following the 2000-8 oil boom:-
-Azerbaijan: In 2009, President Ilham Aliyev removed the term limit that would force him to step down;
-Nigeria: the 2007 general election that gave the incumbent government an overwhelming victory was one of the most fraudulent in history.
-Iran: The re-election of Iran’s President in June 2009 was plagued with widespread voting irregularities.
-Venezuela: Chávez capitalised on rising oil prices to fund projects that increase his popularity among constituencies including low-income families and the military.
As it relates to Guyana, it becomes conspicuous that the APNU government has a more sinister and insidious plan. Like Nigeria, their objective is not to have a credible election. And this is being blatantly displayed on a daily through delaying tactics. In fact, the election body charged with the holding of credible elections seems to be infiltrated and is now part of the plan to confiscate our democracy. The entire government is so preoccupied with sabotaging the upcoming election that no heed is paid as to how the revenue from our first oil windfall will be invested. To make matters worse, the long-overdue Local Content Policy (LCP) turned out to be a “cut and paste” piece of ambiguous scrap. But this is no surprise since the LCP was funded by a major oil company.
Going forward, to entrench their grip on power, the strategy would simply be to pacify the citizens through an array of generous offers: tax reduction, cash transfer, etc. Indeed these policies are not incoherent at all, but in the hands of an aspiring dictator, they are lethal to democracy. And over the past few decades, history has shown just how effective they are.
Lower tax would definitely be welcoming for the Guyanese populace. The sinister part of this, however, is that the people would become less vigilant and concern as to how the government is spending the nation’s oil wealth. Hence, it increases the chance of fiscal irregularities: patronage and rent-seeking. And to make matters worse, oil companies are infamous for colluding with governments; making it extremely difficult to hold governments accountable since there would be no evidence whatsoever as to the exact amount of oil revenue coming in. After all, the “chip doesn’t fall far from the block”.
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