Latest update March 20th, 2023 12:59 AM
Mar 08, 2023 Features / Columnists, Peeping Tom
Kaieteur News – There is no such office or position as political head of any of Guyana’s 10 regional administrations. Those who hold such views need to disabuse themselves of this falsity.
Guyana is a unitary state. There is only one political head of the country and that person is whoever sits as the Executive President of Guyana.
The Constitution of Guyana speaks to the supreme organs of democratic power. These organs are the Parliament, the President and the Cabinet. RDCs are not declared as supreme organs of democratic power.
Local democratic organs consist of Regional Democratic Councils, Municipalities and Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs). But RDCs are not classified as local government bodies. These are limited to municipalities, NDCs and Amerindian village councils. The functions of RDCs are administrative in nature and not political.
As such, it is disingenuous to refer to the head of any Regional Democratic Council as the political head of its Region. If that was the case, then there could hardly be criticism about the lack of political inclusion since RDCs would have represented a form of power-sharing, their members having been elected at regional elections held simultaneously with general elections and with their names having to be part of list provided by the contesting political parties.
To better appreciate what RDCs represent, one has to go back to the origins of the complicated system of local democratic organs which was ushered in under the Constitution of 1980. Since then some organs have been dumped, such as the Supreme Congress of the People and the National Congress of Local Democratic Organs.
Burnham had cast his eyes widely around the world’s socialist bloc in attempting to arrive at a model which he could achieve his political goals and to better manage the country. The first attempt was to declare Guyana, a Co-operative Republic. He sought to promote cooperatives as the vehicle for the achievement of socialism. This was modeled after the Tanzanian experience – which as we know became a one-party state.
That vehicle suffered from punctured tires and an engine blowout. It failed to function even before it got going.
After the cooperative movement failed and with his grip on power weakening. Burnham opted for an executive President which was patterned after the Presidency of Zambia. But at the local level, Burnham sought inspiration from the Cuban model. This is how he came up with his specific system of local democratic organs.
During the 1970’s, Cuba had a three-tier system of administrative government in which there was Popular Council and then there were municipal governments and higher up provisional councils. Burnham tried to replicate and adapt that model to Guyana.
The result is a top heavy system of local democratic organs with little or no citizens’ participation. The system is albatross around the Guyanese people and should be dumped and dumped quickly.
Guyana is too small and lacking in adequate human and technical resources to have a large bureaucratic central government, then to have 10 regional administrative councils, more than 60 neighbourhood democratic councils, plus more than 175 village councils.
The system is too cumbersome for a country with a population of less than a million, the majority of whom reside along the Coast and with limited human resources. Anyone who has visited some of the meetings of the NDCs will realize that not only are these bodies constrained in terms of funding but some of the personnel simply do not have the skills which are required for the responsibilities for which they are assigned.
Local democratic organs, from the RDC downwards have no political mandate and little power except the limited authority provided to them to administer their respective regions, towns and villages. As one study established, RDCs cannot be regarded as decentralized or autonomous entities. And they certainly cannot be regarded as part of a devolved system of government.
There is heavy centralization in the provision of services in in the Caribbean. A survey was once conducted in seven Caribbean countries, and that survey found that 80.3% of all services provided in these countries were done by central government. In the case of Guyana, it was also found that there was duplication in the provision of services by central and local authorities. This duplication will inevitably result in a misallocation of scarce resources. Also, the survey found that the financial resources collected by local government are inadequate to finance the services which should be provided.
Another survey found high levels of dissatisfaction with the services offered by the organs of local democratic power. But there has been little movement in reforming the system.
A small country like Guyana with so much centralized authority cannot afford, in financial and human resource terms, to have this three or four-tier system of government. One of these tiers has to go, and perhaps, it is the Regional Democratic Councils which should be dissolved.
But who is going to bell the cat?
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of this newspaper and its affiliates.)
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