It was the immortal British novelist Charles Dickens who in ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ wrote the famous first paragraph words: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…” These words find an echo in Guyanese politics today.
It was the best of times when President Granger announced First Oil and that Guyana has now become a big player in the international oil industry. It was the worst of times when news broke that the royalty agreement we made with ExxonMobil is nothing near what Suriname got.
I believe that Guyana’s negotiating team undertook an assignment for which they were totally unprepared. Their great fault, I believe, is that they were poorly briefed and woefully uninformed about the shenanigans that prevail in the oil business.
Hard it is, however, for me to accept that geopolitical reasons had a role in this moment of infamy. Venezuela today is in no position to threaten anyone and it has been so for some time now. The harsh truth is that Guyana got a raw deal, and I suspect that those who were present now resort to fig leaf excuses to diminish their culpability.
Yet this controversy, even though scandalous is also revealing of something much bigger: it is our one-party, partisan governance system that has been a disturbing feature of our political life as far back as I can remember. This approach to governance stinks. The whole architecture is rotten.
Governance is about making decisions and implementing them. And this is true if the entity governed is an organisation, a village, a country or any other. Decision-making, if dialectically driven, produces better outcomes. It seems as if a magical transformation occurs when a new government sits its ministers around the Cabinet table. They become all-powerful, all-knowing, and so much more.
This happens whenever one of the two major parties wins power. They have been amazingly consistent through the years. Either one of them seems to enjoy vicious delight in keeping the other out of governance. They can do big things, all on their own, I would imagine.
I can remember the mammoth National Service project that the old PNC government conceptualised and implemented. It was hailed as transformative of our economy and society. It failed. I doubt that the president then would have sat with the opposition to get their ideas or suggestions and would have re-worked the project to make sense. Ever since then, and up to today, this monopoly of governance has been an obsession on both sides of the political divide.
I could well imagine that the incumbent administration may now be pondering the consequences of ill-advised actions. The decision to go it alone rather than approach the negotiations with Exxon as a joint venture between APNU/AFC and the opposition PPP/C is regrettable.
Never in our post-independence has a political situation emerged where government and opposition decided that a collaborative approach to governance is what the people of Guyana are entitled to.
Oil revenue now gets into the equation. We will now see what happens after polling day, and whether a new era in political governance has finally arrived. Should the president and opposition leader at that time decide that they will work together to hatch a strategic plan on the spending of oil revenue, this will be a clear sign that governance is trending in a more progressive direction. The plan is strategic, in the sense that the oil revenue will be invested in projects that give us the best shot of maximising our economic growth rates in the future.
Should we see evidence of an unchanging governance style, I will have to conclude that our not-so-good political leaders have now proved the theory of insanity correct: it is doing the same thing repeatedly and still expecting a different result.
By now, it should have dawned on them that their monopolistic system of governance hurts our economy and society. A model of shared governance has potential for a better Guyana.
I am not convinced that shared governance in the context of Guyana is as implausible as walking on water. Decision-making is a process and there are ample avenues of opportunity for the opposition to participate. Objectives have to be defined, options identified and evaluated, and the course of action selected. There are intervention points in this process for full partnership.
I am disappointed that the campaign manifestos of our numerous political parties have so inadequately addressed this subject.
A point of note is that the government and opposition are not called to share power—only governance. It is the governing party that is vested with the authority to set the national agenda and make the final decision. But it has the responsibility to bring a new approach to our governance model, and it should.
There is a big benefit to be derived from good governance, and I believe we are deserving of it.
Feb 26, 2020Narayan Ramdhani (The Kings University) and Priyanna Ramdhani (Olds College) were both selected to represent the Province of Alberta at CCAA (Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association) national...
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