It is mind boggling that the country is in the midst of its deadliest health crisis and yet the ruling Coalition is pussyfooting with the recount of the ballots of the March 2nd General and Regional Elections. It is sickening that while people are suffering, this process is being stymied by spurious and unsubstantiated allegations.
This newspaper yesterday reported on the case of a Berbice couple which the APNU+AFC Coalition claimed was out of the jurisdiction on Election Day yet was recorded as having voted. The Coalition even presented the dates on which they claimed the couple departed Guyana.
As it turned out, the couple is in Guyana and was in the country on 2nd March 2020. The husband and the wife have confirmed that they were in the jurisdiction and voted on Election Day.
It is incomprehensible why GECOM would allow this sort of objection. The secrecy of the ballot forbids any identification of those who voted or did not vote. These sorts of objection should not be entertained.
Most of the objections, which are being made have no bearing in terms of the gazette process which mainly requires reconciliation of the total votes cast with counterfoils and with the statements of polls and the counting of the ballots.
And while the delaying tactics are occurring, the country is being starved of resources to combat the deadly coronavirus. The poor are suffering. Health workers are not yet fully protected. The quicker this recount comes to an end the faster assistance will be forthcoming to help resolve these problems.
Guyana cannot at the moment source international assistance, apart from the meagre humanitarian assistance offered by some countries. The United States of America has provided humanitarian assistance to the tune of US$475,000 for laboratory diagnostics and systems strengthening and supplies, surveillance, infection prevention and control, and emergency operation centers. None of this will allow for a hamper for the poor.
This money essentially goes to the de facto government. Those who are unable to make ends meet during this period will not benefit from this sum.
The Caribbean Development Bank is providing countries with two lines of assistance. It has already approved US$74M to seven regional countries to ramp up their anti-COVID-19 fight. And they have a US$100,000 grant facility to assist those affected in the creative industries.
Guyana has not been blacklisted from the former facility. But the country cannot access the assistance available because of the de facto status of the government.
The government had applied for a US$5M loan from the World Bank. No word has been forthcoming, most likely because of the same reason.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has set aside US$100B in its Rapid Credit Facility and Rapid Financing Instrument to help countries. So far, 57 countries have secured more than US21.6B in financial assistance from the IMF for the fight against COVID-19. There is no shortage of funds available to countries to bring about relief during the pandemic. St. Lucia, Jamaica, Haiti, Grenada and Dominica have all received assistance. Guyana has not because Guyana has a de facto government in place.
The country has US$55M in its Natural Resource Fund. This was accrued from the first one million barrels of oil shipped. This money cannot be accessed because there is no parliament in place to approve the release of the funds from the Fund.
Another million barrels are soon to be shipped but the revenues are not likely to be substantial. Cost recovery was not deducted from the first million barrels. And the price of oil has plummeted to below US$35 a barrel from the US$55 per barrel when the first million barrels was sold.
The de facto government therefore is a one-handed government. It does not have the legislative authority to expend the sums which need to be expended to bring relief to the people. And as a de facto government, it really will not be able to mobilize much international assistance.
Norway has frozen some funds, which it owes Guyana. Norway is not likely to release these monies until a legitimate government is sworn-in.
The swearing-in of any government will not allow for a release of funds. It is only when the rightful winner of the elections is declared that the monies which should be flowing to this country will be unlocked.
Those who therefore feel that all that matters is for GECOM to make a declaration and everything will be all right are grossly misguided. Any government, other than the rightful winner of the 2020 General Elections, will be subject to the same constraints as presently exists.
For the sake of the workers of this country, who are not able to get work at this time because of the social restrictions, let us hope that the recount process is completed quickly. Guyana needs to put the election crisis behind it and concentrate to beating COVID-19. Without a legitimate government, the monies to do so will not be released.
(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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