The WPA is seeking a political resurrection. Faced with a level of ostracism which would have forced any credible political party to exit from the ruling coalition, the WPA instead is seeking to revive its political fortunes so that some of its leading lights can maintain their high-paying jobs within the government.
The WPA will not have a second coming. Its heyday has long passed. It was decimated in the 1992 elections and was reduced to a shell party. It is holding on desperately to a memory of past glory and to the delusion that it somehow is part of a process of political plurality.
Political pluralism within the APNU+AFC is more form than substance. And even when it comes to form, it is highly questionable when the Coalition can be described as a political plural outfit. There is one dominant party in the coalition, the PNCR. The AFC is the second strongest party which at its best commanded the support of one around 10% of the electorate. That number has since dropped because it has allowed itself to become a doormat of the PNCR. The rest of the parties are paper parties, including the WPA which does not have the courage to test its electoral support.
The WPA has learnt from the experience of the AFC. The PNCR shoved the AFC to the kerb in the run-up to the 2018 local government elections. The two sides were unable to meet an understanding to jointly contest the elections. The PNCR stabbed the AFC in the back by giving them the boot at the most unholy of hours thereby hurting the AFC’s performance in the 2018 local government elections.
Despite its abuse, the AFC has crawled back, like a mendicant, into the coalition government. No wonder, the AFC is not automatically assured of the post of Prime Minister after the next elections even though the APNU knows that it cannot win an election without the support of the AFC.
The WPA has seen what has been happening. It once called for the Coalition to offer an apology to its supporters for its mistakes in government. But it has sidestepped away from the conditions which it said was necessary for remaining in the government. Like the AFC it is prepared to grovel at the feet of the PNCR, the party which once assassinated its co-leader and co-founder, Dr. Walter Rodney.
The WPA has been kicked about like a political football within the government. One of its leaders, Dr. Rupert Roopnarine, was appointed Minister of Education and was doing a fantastic job. But no sooner did the World Bank approve a massive loan for the education sector, the PNCR decided that it would remove the WPA Minister of Education and replace him with a PNCR person. The PNCR was not prepared for the WPA to gain the credit for any progress in the sector. It wanted all the credit for itself. Nor was it prepared to allow for any non-PNCR Minister to be responsible for administering such large funds.
There have been few Commissions of Inquiry into dismissals in the public service. The only one which took place under the Coalition government was in a Ministry headed by a WPA leader. The PNCR never subjected any of its Ministers to such a process. But it had little compunction in doing that to a WPA Minister.
WPA leaders have been shown scant regard by the government. A WPA leader was a columnist for the Guyana Chronicle. That person was unceremoniously removed after he had written some critical articles about the government.
Despite all of this, the WPA, wishes to remain in the Coalition. It knows that it is only there as part of the PNCR’s window dressing.
It however has recognized its vulnerability. One of its activists has argued, publicly, for the need for the party to restore its links with the masses and for the party to engage in legwork within local communities.
The WPA, however, needed a gig to galvanize public support for itself within PNCR constituencies. The WPA has little prospects of drawing support outside of this base because it has reduced itself to an ethnic configuration.
It has found that gig, or so it thought, in its proposals for cash transfers from oil revenues. The WPA was among the first groupings to call for direct cash transfers. It first said that 10% of oil revenues should be offered to the poor. It wanted US$5,000 per year per poor household. It then woke up to the reality that when money is sharing in Guyana, everybody wants a “piece of the action’ and therefore establishing criteria for the poor will run into hurdles. It therefore modified its proposal for oil revenues to benefit all households.
There is however a fly in the ointment which will dash the WPA plans to use this ingenious proposal to garner political support. The money is not there.
Exxon Mobil has indicated that Guyana is likely to receive US$300M in revenues in the first year of oil production. Now Guyana has 205,000 households. It will cost more than US$1 Billion for each household to be paid US$5,000 per year.
So, Jagdeo is correct on this one. The money is not there and the APNU knows that the money will not be there. Not with 2% and 1% recoverable royalty, rollover-cost recovery and the lack of ring fencing. Guyana has been taken to the cleaners by the oil companies. The money will never be there for cash transfers to every household. Jagdeo’s proposals are more realistic. He argues for targeted transfers to vulnerable groups such as pensioners.
The WPA persists however with its chorus line of cash transfers. It will not have its way. The money is not there and even if it was there, the PNCR wants to have the option of spending this money so that it can take the credit just like it tried to do with the reshuffle of the education portfolio.
The PNCR does not trust the WPA. Never has, never will. Nothing that the WPA does will improve its relations with the PNCR. As far as the PNCR is concerned, the WPA was the window dressing for a big-tent coalition.
The mistrust has intensified since May 2015. The PNCR now knows that a WPA leader knew that Charrandass Persaud would have voted in favour of the no-confidence motion last December. That leader did not advise the PNCR.
The PNCR therefore will not reconcile with the WPA. It will continue to use that party for the purposes of window-dressing.
The WPA is holding on to save the jobs of some of its comrades. The WPA is selling a pipedream – a dream which it knows, all too well, will never come to past. But when you are desperate to enjoy the ‘ravellings’ of power, you do all manner of strange things.
(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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