There is a lot of grand talk about economic and social transformation in this election season and which party or president can bring us the meaningful change we so badly need. Just what picture of a new Guyana the peddlers of transformation politics have in mind I cannot say. Just what degree of revolutionary change each party contemplates, we will have to wait until the party leaders tell us.
In my view, a transformed Guyana would be a place where the gap between an ideal Guyana and an everyday Guyana is significantly narrowed. In an ideal Guyana, our economy is significantly diversified so that agriculture and mining- including oil- is strongly supported by eco-tourism and light manufacturing. It is a Guyana where our workers receive a living wage and have access to decent and affordable health care and housing. It is a Guyana where our physical infrastructure is robust and reliable and stitches the whole country together. In a transformed Guyana, we would see public transportation reformed and irresponsible drivers in jail. Our political leaders would have scrupulous fidelity to the rule of law, and are constrained by an acceptable moral framework. They would exercise power solely for the common good and misplaced priorities such as pursuing payback on their adversaries is shunned. It is a Guyana where anyone who wants a job can find it. Our educational system is skewed towards vocational training rather than academic subjects. Every Guyanese has access to some form of tertiary education, whether it is college or university or simple technical training. And our capital Georgetown is returned to the splendid garden city it once was. And racial identity politics is thrown in the dustbin of history forever.
In an everyday Guyana, the whole picture that stretches before us is heartbreaking. The government cannot keep the lights on without disruption. Traffic signals work occasionally. Our healthcare delivery is hardly cutting edge and reliable. In so many areas, our physical infrastructure is dilapidated and rundown. Most of our workers barely get by on measly wages. Crime is rampant and the police are not on top of anything, at least not yet. Our educational system is not properly linked to our need for skilled labour and as a result, our talent pool is too small to match our aspirations for a bigger and better economy. Our public transportation system is crying out for a makeover. It is a Guyana where our dodgy legal system is oppressive on the poor and those who cannot afford adequate legal representation.
The question in all seriousness that now must be asked “Is how do we get from an everyday Guyana to an ideal Guyana?” Which party has a national strategic plan and is capable of forging broad support with the organisations in civil society and opposition parties?
I would imagine the answer is none of them. Our political parties, including the newly emerging ones, have a long- standing habit of promulgating pretty manifestoes, big on outcomes but short on the roadmap or actionable steps we need to get where we want to be. Without a catalogue of actionable steps properly conceptualised, implementation is badly handicapped. Implementation is also challenged when our leaders make big, bold declarations, but come up short in follow-up, commitment and management control.
We should be thankful that none of our political parties is speaking of a ‘’ big bang” approach to transformation. No one speaks of a socialist experiment going forward. No one wants to tear up the society and economy and approach re-construction the way a building contractor plies his trade. You must first remove the debris, re-lay the foundation and build from bottom up. All our numerous parties have comfortably set their sight on some form of neo-liberalism. This is the ideological framework in which a possible change agenda will be pursued. Although Badal’s Change Guyana party should be credited with some degree of out-of- the- box thinking, his brand of corporate capitalism is ideologically par for the course. It is also true that no party can be serious about a change agenda, if it fails to recognise that transformation is a collaborative project and it has to win the support of the wider society. No party can independently bring transformation by relying on its own in-house brain power, its own resources and its ideals. The party leaders themselves must be transformed if the country is to be transformed.
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