A positive start has been made, thus far, by the new President. He has, within one day of his swearing in, adopted a more inclusive approach to governance, something that he promised.
The new PPP/C administration has begun to consult with stakeholders, including medical personnel, on the COVID-19 pandemic. Consultations are supposed to be held tomorrow with political parties. There has also been a reaching out to the main opposition.
This approach is quite novel to the PPP/C. It is unusual for the PPP/C to be inclusive. That has never been a feature of the party’s governance. It is not an ideological position as most people believe but rather a reflection of Jagdeo’s insecurity. The present inclusive gesture, early as it is, is either a case of the party learning from its defeat in the 2015 elections or that what we are seeing is mere window-dressing.
Window-dressing will not work. The President recognizes this. He knows that elections are usually polarized but this does not mean that elections should divide us. People have come around to accepting that the PPP/C won the elections and that there was a diabolic plot to cheat a young man, with a young child, of his due victory. This is horrible and that young man, still only 40 years old, could have adopted a different approach. But he has shown that he had a big heart and is not into practising the old discredited politics of the PPP/C… at least not so early in his term.
This new approach, by the President and the PPP/C, may have been forced upon the party. It has never found itself in a situation in which it held a one-seat majority. And it should always bear in mind that its majority is as razor- slim as the APNU+AFC had in 2015.
The APNU+AFC behaved as if it had a 10-seat majority. It was arrogant and dismissive of opposition concerns. It failed to cement any inclusive forms of governance. Even if the PPP/C was not interested, there was a malignant neglect of civil society, including the private sector. But who needs civil society support when you have “Bingo” and a “Lolo” on your side?
President Irfaan Ali is going to be judged over the next few months, not just by the policies he pursues but the manner in which he pursues those policies. A good start has been made in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. And it is hoped that the PPP/C listens to the stakeholders and does not reduce consultation to mere talk.
The reason for consultations should not be merely to demonstrate inclusion but rather because no single party has all the answers to every problem. Therefore, parties have to reach across the political divide. They should not just consult widely but also involve stakeholders in the actual exercise of governance.
This does not necessarily mean that the stakeholders have to be part of the Executive but they can be part of implementing policies in which they have an input in shaping.
The COVID-19 pandemic requires a broad-based approach. The APNU+AFC was hamstrung by the lack of resources because of its illegitimacy during the pandemic. In addition, they were also clueless as to how to approach the problem. This is why Guyana has reached the shocking stage of having more than 400 cases with the majority of new active cases being in regions, which are not densely populated.
The President made a good observation during an interview yesterday. He noted the wide deviations in positive COVID-19 cases from one day to the next. And he is right in indicating that this suggests a problem in the strategic approach to the pandemic.
In the context of such problems, the President will need to listen to views outside of his normal orbit. The PPP/C will become part of the problem if it operates, as it did prior to 2015 where it has all the answers.
A 40-year old President needs to be given a chance. He is faced with daunting challenges in terms of COVID-19 and the economy which is not as healthy as most feel. Further, Guyana’s international reserves are extremely low and the deposit account at the Bank of Guyana is running a dangerously high deficit.
But the new President needs to prove himself worthy of being given an extended honeymoon. He can do this by sustaining his inclusive approach, which he showed on his first day on the job.
(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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