11th Year of the PPP Government
By Hydar Ally
In just over a week from today, Guyana will celebrate eleven years since the country was restored to the fold of democratic nations. During this time, the country has risen to greater heights, despite the numerous challenges, which the country has had to endure.
One of the first tasks that the new government of the PPP/Civic had to embark upon was that of national reconciliation after over two decades of undemocratic and authoritarian rule. Under the theme, “Time to Heal; Time to Rebuild”, the new administration under the leadership of the legendary Cheddi Jagan begun in earnest the task of reconstruction of this country almost from scratch.
To say that it was a challenging task is something of an understatement. It took a Herculean task to repair the damage of nearly three decades of economic mismanagement and undemocratic rule. By the end of the PNC’s rule in 1992, Guyana was reduced from one of the most prosperous in the Caribbean to among the poorest in the western hemisphere. The country was heavily indebted with roughly 90% of revenue going to service external debt.
Such was the extent of poverty that over 60% of the population was living below the poverty line. There were also severe macro-economic imbalances including a fiscal deficit of 25% of GDP and a balance of payment deficit of 47% of the GDP.
The net result of such malfunctions were a dilapidated physical and social infrastructure, runaway inflation, high interest rates, lack of public accountability and mass migration leading to a severe brain drain, the effects of which are still being felt.
Today, debt servicing is less than 40% of revenue, the population below the poverty line has been reduced almost by half, the balance of payments and fiscal deficits are below ten percent of GDP, interest rate have been cut by half and for the last ten years inflation has been kept in single digits. The physical and social infrastructure has been significantly rehabilitated. Real salaries have increased considerably allowing for a better quality of life for the average Guyanese.
In addition to the above, the Government has made significant strides in advancing good governance and there is today greater financial accountability and transparency in the conduct of government business. The Auditor General’s Report, which was not submitted for twelve years prior to the assumption to office of the current PPP/Civic administration, is now presented to Parliament every year, without exception. The Public Accounts Committee, under the PNC hardly ever met for the simple reason that there was no report to examine.
These are only some of the constraints and challenges faced by the new administration when it took office in October 1992. But, as could be seen, the administration has risen admirably to the challenges, despite a hostile domestic environment and acts of political instability orchestrated by the main opposition aimed making the country ungovernable.
Be that as it may, the Government has remained undaunted in its quest for a cohesive and prosperous society. This is manifested in the numerous initiatives to reach out to the opposition parties, the enactment of Constitutional Committees to allow for greater and more meaningful opposition involvement in the decision making process at the legislative level and the establishment of several Rights Commissions to address issues of ethnic insecurity. Guyana is probably the only country in the world where the main parliamentary opposition has veto powers on the appointment of the Chancellor and the Chief Justice!
I am not for one moment suggesting that enough has been done to address all the ills of our society. There are issues of attracting investment to our country, especially foreign investment, which has the potential to create jobs for our people. We still have to work on getting our institutions to work more effectively to deliver a better quality of services to people. This would require the support of all the major stakeholders, including the political opposition.
In this regard, the recent pronouncements of the main political opposition regarding its commitment to constructive engagement are most encouraging. On hopes that out these engagements there will be new and more enlightened approaches in our continuing struggle to creation that good life to which the people of Guyana look forward and is entitled to.