Nov 19, 2023 Editorial
Kaieteur News – From the inception it became apparent that Bharrat Jagdeo’s version of what a press conference should be boiled down to the norms of a circus, with him as the ringmaster. It is now quickly becoming just as obvious that Jagdeo’s promoting himself to take charge of the nation’s policymaking mantle is a clear case of yet another merry-go-round from the fertile mind of a leading political performer. Jagdeo’s hiding behind his newly created policymaking portfolio empowers him to pass off what he doesn’t like, what makes him uncomfortable, to the Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat. In the PPPC Government’s merry-go-round Christmas gift to citizens, it is Bharat to Bharrat, and round and round they have Guyanese going around the mulberry bush.
This is how one hot potato issue after another is passed from hand to hand, from one Bharat hand to the other Bharrat. It is the Guyanese political and leadership versions of Chinese ping-pong. The public gets bounced around from one to the other, with nothing answered, nothing of substance, handed over by either of the two government luminaries. Ask Vice President a question about oil and gas, and he has ready answers: talk to the Minister. Put the same question to the minister (Bharrat), and he channels those probing for answers to the Vice President. According to Minster Bharrat, it is President Ali and Vice President Jagdeo who make policy, which leaves him with the role of implementing.
It is our view that the Hon Minister has it slightly wrong, if not more. He is the Minister of Natural Resources, a most senior portfolio to hold, considering the place of oil and gas in Guyana’s economy and Guyanese life. The minister can never be, should not see himself, as a waterboy, he has to be part of the policymaking apparatus, essential to its brain trust. As a member of the Cabinet, Minister Bharrat is not some note taker, but a policymaker in his own right. He is not a pawn, he is a participant in policymaking, and he has to be a producer. Minister Bharrat has a duty to the Guyanese people to produce answers that are comprehensive and credible. For the minister to take comfort in saying that he is responsible for implementing policy made by the upstairs people only (Ali and Jagdeo) reduces him to the ranks of a public servant, some clerk in the vast machinery of the State’s bureaucracy.
Whatever Minister Bharrat is, any minister for that matter, he is not a clerk, should not see himself as one, who pushes paper and paperclips around to fill his day. Minister Bharrat has a Permanent Secretary and heads of divisions to oversee the implementation of policy. The same policies over which he presided, and participated in, or should have.
Vice President Jagdeo said that he is not dealing with ‘routine matters.’ It would be helpful, most likely revealing how Jagdeo defines ‘routine.’ We at this paper think that the kind of protection that ExxonMobil has in place for Guyana in the event of a catastrophic oil spill surpasses anything that could be described as ‘routine.’ A full guarantee by ExxonMobil, USA (not ExxonMobil Guyana) is the kind of issue that both the Vice President and the minister should be able to respond to in the frankest and cleanest terms. None of this hedging and feeling for words, none of these verbal shenanigans from Bharat Jagdeo to Vickram Bharrat (and back), and this clever going around in endless circles that leave Guyanese in the same dangerously exposed place.
There were nine questions put to Minister Bharrat, and he did not do himself any justice with those that he chose to answer. Candidly, the minister looked rather unprepared and out of his depth. Given the shifty ways in which Jagdeo has dealt with oil and gas questions, it is not surprising that he came up with this arrangement that leaves an information void on sensitive issues related to the management of this national patrimony. The dismal projection is that this looks like the standard for the future: oil and gas information blackout, and Jagdeo being slick enough to insulate himself from accountability in his new policymaking ivory tower.
Pres. Ali putting water meters on the citizens in Berbice, and not meters on Exxon oil pumps.
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