Guyana is at a critical historical juncture. It has to be. Despite all the gloom and doom talk from those who highlight the inadequate oil contracts agreed to by the current government, Guyana’s economic fortunes would drastically change over the next decade. I have contended that those bad contracts resulted from a convergence of three major factors.
First, countries such as Guyana lack the necessary leverage needed to make the kinds of demands that would result in more equitable contracts. Second, our deeply divided politics is a major impediment to the nationalist outlook that is needed to confront the might of oil giants like Exxon. Third, lack of consultation even within the government meant that negotiators went to the table without all of the expertise that was available to it.
I allude to the above in order to make the point that we should not allow ourselves to be imprisoned by the bad contracts and the criticisms that flow from them. Those structural obstacles I cited will not go away tomorrow. We have equally if not more important challenges ahead. Our divisive politics have facilitated a very fragile political architecture and a poisonous and sometimes frightening political culture. The experience since the passage of the No Confidence Motion bears this observation out.
After five decades and more of political independence, we cannot agree on anything including the meaning of our constitution. And we don’t help ourselves when we hold our partisan truths up as the national truth. This has been the most frustrating thing these past ten months. Never before have I heard so much self-serving nonsense about the rule of law and the constitution. We talk past one another. We ignore one another. We demonize one another.
Twice recently I have had cause to scream at people in public fora. One young lady who appeared on a TV show that I participated said she didn’t see race, but ten minutes later repeated as truth a narrative that was steeped in an ethnic interpretation of political reality. Then on another show a certain man opposed Direct Cash Transfers not because of its failings, but because it was initiated by Clive Thomas whom he falsely accused of firing 10,000 sugar workers.
One of the things that I have become fed up with is the subject of Walter Rodney. People who ran away from Rodney when he was alive and left him to be murdered now seek to lecture those of us who stood with him. Many of us put our bodies on the line with him—that should mean something. Many who love him in death had no time for him when he was alive. Some tolerated him because he was fighting to bring down a government which they hated for ethnic reasons. They and their leaders called him an adventurer in life and now seek to claim him in death. If Walter Rodney is turning in his grave, it is because of the “hypocrites and parasites” who left him to the wolves when he needed support.
There is another gentleman who said his polling tells him that the WPA would get the least votes of all the parties in Guyana. Yet a few days later when he was giving solidarity to Stabroek News over the withdrawal of State advertisements, he asked where the voices of David Hinds, Nigel Westmaas and Tacuma Ogunseye were. My God, why do you want to hear WPA voices when we have no political support? You can’t have it both ways –if we have no support leave us alone. But these people are just plain dishonest.
The tabling of the Direct Cash Transfers proposal by the WPA has brought out the worst in us. Is the ensuing debate a metaphor for how we intend to conduct ourselves as an Oil and Gas powerhouse? We have people pronouncing on it without reading a single line about it. One columnist started a column by saying he would spell out why he opposes it but spent the rest of the column cussing out the WPA and praising the president. Some Black people on Facebook carry on every day about how the previous government killed 400 poor Black men, but in the next breath they say government should not give Cash Transfers to poor Black people because it will feed their laziness. What kind of selective self-love is that?
Jagdeo agrees that Cash Transfer is a good poverty alleviation policy, but spends more time talking about his “technical” disagreement with the WPA’s proposal than about where there is agreement. Another PPP leader says the technical disagreements over how many citizens should benefit is a fundamental difference—the man gives new meaning to the word. The PPP wants to suck cane and blow whistle at the same time. They just cannot stand the fact that they have to acknowledge the wisdom of a proposal that comes from the WPA which they love to demean as non-existent—pettiness of the highest order. Jagdeo says the WPA makes the proposal to win votes. Really? Can the WPA win votes, Mr. Jagdeo? Mouth open, story jump out!
On the other side of the fence, education is pitted against Cash Transfers. Some say spend on health care. Others say spend on agriculture and infrastructure. There is scant care that they are encouraging their supporters to repeat a narrative of “one-track” economics. They know that Guyana needs all of the above, but like Jagdeo they do not intend to cede no political ground to the WPA.
Forty odd years ago, the PPP, PNC and WPA couldn’t agree on which socialism was best for Guyana. These three Marxist parties agreed that nationalization was good but couldn’t agree on how it should be operationalized. Back then they couldn’t agree on what a post-independence political economy should look like. Now four decades later these same parties are essentially arguing over what an Oil and Gas political economy should look like. Are we facing a repeat of history? Have we not matured?
Part of the problem is that we believe our myths. At the end of the day ideas matter. The truth of the matter is that in our post-colonial experience, the parties which have generated defining ideas about politics, economics and society have been the PPP, PNC and WPA. I am prepared to back that assertion with evidence. So, it should not be surprising that the newest policy proposal has come from one of them. We have had novel ideas about education, agriculture, infrastructure, housing, constitution. And governance in the past. Cash Transfers is new to Guyana. It comes from Clive Thomas and the WPA, not by accident. Let us get over our petty differences and move on. If we cannot agree on how to manage this new oil dispensation, we would devour ourselves.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
More of Dr. Hinds’ writings and commentaries can be found on his YouTube Channel Hinds’ Sight: Dr. David Hinds’ Guyana-Caribbean Politics and on his website www.guyanacaribbeanpolitics.news. Send comments to [email protected]
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