Currently in his private residence in D’Urban Backlands, David Granger has four foundations in the name of Forbes Burnham. That is graphic evidence that Granger has Burnham as either one of his heroes or is a devoted admirer of Burnham.
Granger does not hold the status of an academic or businessman or private citizen. So when it comes to Burnham, there is a special question that he has to face that others will not. For example, you cannot ask an admirer of Burnham who is a professor, why he does not emulate Burnham or implement the policies of Burnham. The question is absurd. The professor is a mere employee.
But that question is immensely relevant to a man who admires Burnham intensely and is the president of the country and has had four years of running Guyana. I have put to Hamilton Green countless times why he is so fanatical about Burnham. His answer is simple, though not acceptable.
Green dichotomizes his perspective on Burnham. He glosses over the power pathologies of Burnham, but waxes lyrical about Burnham as a socialist developer. He thinks Burnham’s developmental goals were phenomenal. Green would sit with you countless hours and describe how far ahead of his time was Burnham.
I get the distinct impression from endless conversations with another Burnhamite, Vincent Alexander, who is the chairman of the Burnham Institute which is housed at his home in South Ruimveldt, that he, Alexander, adopts the same methodology of Green – that Burnham was an astute anti-colonial leader who wanted to empower the masses of the nation and that led to his state-centered programmes.
It is the belief of this columnist that after four years in power and having instituted four foundations in Burnham’s name in his private home, I haven’t seen one policy of Granger that has identification with the overall economic thrust of Burnham, which provokes you to ask a vital question. Does Granger really understand what Burnham stood for?
One common explanation in support of Granger’s distance from Burnham’s economic planning is the era thesis, which I will dismiss as naïve and silly. The era thesis argues that you cannot fault Granger for not adopting the economic models of Burnham, because they belong to two different eras.
The argument is that Burnham’s epoch has come and gone, and Granger has to deal with the realities of the 21st century. That is a very poor defence of Granger. The dialectics do not work in that convenient way. There is nothing in the political economy of the 21st century that prevents Granger from adopting some of the socialist policies that were implemented by Burnham.
It does not have to be radical or anti-west or undemocratic. For example, the policy of state employment. It was Barack Obama, a left-leaning, liberal African-American president who used state funds to prevent Wall Street from crashing in 2009. What is there to prevent Granger from using state funds to create institutions that empower the low income classes? But in a rather rude rejection of Burnhamite economics, Granger publicly declared that Guyanese should not depend on the state to find employment for them.
There is no IMF/World Bank regulation at the moment that prevents the Government of Guyana from using the Treasury to create state-run economic ventures. Under President Jagdeo, the IMF and the World Bank did not intervene to stop the government from funding a hotel – the Marriott. When President Hoyte came to power he was helpless in his relations with the IMF. He had to sell over state commercial entities. That epoch is long gone.
There is nothing wrong with the reclamation of state insurance or state transportation that existed under Burnham. Burnham started the Guyana Cooperative Insurance Services. All state-owned vehicles had to be registered with that entity. Hoyte sold it to Hand-In-Hand. Under the law, all vehicles including motorcycles, have to be insured. Private insurance companies are making billions today with the number of vehicles in Guyana.
Burnham must be turning in his grave over Granger’s attitude to the marijuana legislation. That legislation remains a nasty blot on the legacy of Hoyte. In 2016, based on a campaign promise by the APNU+AFC coalition to remove jail term for possession and the provision of bail for small amounts, an amendment was drafted by Nigel Hughes to be read in the House under the name of Michael Carrington.
In 2016, it was placed on the order paper to be debated. Carrington, in an interview in 2018, said he was asked by the leadership of the PNC not to proceed. Granger needs to explain his interpretation of Forbes Burnham. But has he got one?
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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