Jan 16, 2021 Letters
To be an effective political leader, it is important to have conceptual, technical and people skills. However, it is extremely difficult to find a political leader competent in all three of these areas. Most political leaders have very good people skills but are lacking in conceptual and technical skills. Hence, my conclusion is that most of the people who would perhaps be the best political leaders are in a laboratory at a university or work for international organisations, because they have very good conceptual and technical skills; fundamental to which is a deep understanding of processes, and how the various parts are connected and interconnected in order to function at maximum, but many of these people may lack the people skills that the political leaders have.
Where am I going with this? The dilemma in Guyana and perhaps many developing countries, is the deficit in leadership with conceptual and technical skills. The PPP/C government has now hired a lobbying firm or firms, as stated in the media, the role of which is to; ‘inform key members of the U.S. Congress, especially those with interest or responsibility for Western Hemispheric affairs, trade, and economic development, about the importance of increasing US cooperation with the Guyanese Government and thus contribute to democracy, stability and prosperity in the region’.
The firm(s) also intend to engage the Washington-based public policy community, such as ‘Think Tanks’, non-governmental organisations and sections of the media to cover the importance of Guyana to democracy and stability in the region. Now Editor, I would like to clearly state that I strongly oppose the government hiring lobbyists to do its foreign policy, foreign relations, and communications.
I remember hearing talks even from the APNU+AFC that they should have hired lobbyists earlier, I disagree with this notion then and I disagree with it now. As a strategist and communications expert, I support recruiting a lobby firm, perhaps as a part of an elections campaign to project the image of a political party as the winning choice in an election but not under these circumstances.
Is the government planning to fire the Prime Minister and Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Communications? Since what these lobbyists will be doing, is exactly what the Prime Minister and Minister of Communications, both of whom have responsibility for government communications and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, whose ministry has responsibility for foreign relations. What the Government ought to be doing is strengthening the internal capacity of the Prime Minister’s office, the Ministry of Communications and our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, foreign relations; this is a more sustainable approach to our development.
I would like to assume that the U.S. Lawmakers are already aware of the importance of Guyana to democracy and stability in the region as the only English-speaking country on the South American mainland and now an oil producing and exporting country. That is what our Embassy in Washington DC is there to do. Let us strengthen our foreign relations with the United Nations, Organisation of American States, CARCOM, and other international and regional organizations, as well as our bilateral relations with other countries.
It is ironic that the same day when this news story was published, I saw in the media, residents on the East Coast of Demerara, complaining about issues in the process of the distribution of the G$25,000 cash support for COVID-19. Additionally, the government is apparently giving everybody $25,000, the only difference is that while the Guyanese citizens are getting G$25,000, others are getting US$25,000 to do the government and public servants’ work.
This PPP/C government has really become a business entity. It has departed far from Dr. Cheddi Jagan’s vision for the party, as a working-class political representative body, into an elite business entity which is more ‘Jagdeoism’. This economy will grow by 26 percent in 2021, and the government is still in a poverty reduction mode, it has not shifted its approach to governance focusing on wealth management, neither does it have a plan for reorienting the Guyanese population and institutions, to do wealth management; our youths are still being charged for stealing mobile phones.
Last week I read a report where the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security had established a ‘Difficult Circumstances Unit’. While this is a good idea to provide support, particularly in a pandemic, the government has just taken away hundreds of decent jobs from public servants, and in most cases, for no reason or no justifiable reason, but now sets up a ‘Difficult Circumstances Unit’ which is offering G$25,000 grants. So, the government has taken away good jobs from citizens and this action has thrown many of them into difficult circumstances, and now the government finds a solution, by setting up this unit. I would like to know how the lobbyists will explain that to the US Congress as being a democratic approach to governance. Citizens need jobs, they want to use their talent and expertise to contribute towards the growth development of their families, communities, and country.
Additionally, what is the government’s development programme that the lobbyists will communicate to the US lawmakers, because many of us are still trying to understand what it really is.
While I understand the issues that the government is trying to address, I totally disagree that the best approach is to hire lobbyists. I believe that this is reducing the significance of Guyana’s foreign relations and a slap in the faces of the individuals and agencies with responsibility for these aspects of government and the people’s business.
A more accepted approach would be to explore with the US, UK, Canadian, EU, United Nations International Affairs, for high level experts and advisors, to provide support for an institutional strengthening programme. The United States Embassy in Guyana, as well as the Guyana Embassy in Washington DC are conduits for the same kind of engagements the lobbyists intend to do.
The government has citizens with PhDs, Master’s and bachelor’s degrees, as well as those who are committed and hardworking, with a wealth of experience and expertise but were dismissed over the past months, utilize these people, and pay them that five million per month.
As in the case of the APNU+AFC and the PPP/C, if both governments had really governed to the satisfaction of the Guyanese people, the need for lobbyists would have been reduced.
The government’s approach to hiring the lobbying firm is symptomatic to how our leaders approach problem-solving. We have a road safety problem, and the solution is to place speed humps at almost every corner, while the real problem is, behavioral and attitudinal. Georgetown floods when it rains largely due to lack of maintenance of the drainage systems, and we talk of moving the city. I do agree that we need more cities but our flooding problem in Georgetown is also a maintenance problem.
So now the government is being projected as a racist, undemocratic business entity and instead of changing its governance approach and becoming more inclusive, it continues to marginalize half of the population but hires lobbyists to make it look good to the US Congress.
I am running for President in 2025 and our small technical team has already developed a framework for a ‘Social and Economic Development Programme for Guyana from 2025 -2030’.
We have already developed a framework for a communications strategy for the country and have been examining where the skills and expertise will come from. We will establish a comprehensive communications Ministry, mostly with skills and expertise from right in the country. Additionally, we are working on a diaspora programme that will be specific and dynamic.
Finally, I am confident that the US lawmakers are much more interested in the government being more inclusive, respecting the rule of law, cleaning up its act on corruption, reducing inequalities and creating opportunities for all Guyanese.
Citizen Audreyanna Thomas
Presidential Candidate 2025
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