Not sure that the Ruling Party being blindsided by the Opposition Leader’s meeting with the Secretary of State is some carefully crafted strategy that had success.
It’s merely testament to the dominant Party’s expectation of the Opposition’s failure to function as 50% of Governance; to function instead as agency, largely, of its Party and not of the electorate looking for an alternative to the dominant arm.
But it’s a celebration we’ll join for a couple of reasons- primarily because it stands in accord with Blinken’s ‘Case for Democracy’ stump speech template and then it gets to highlight the calculation of the use of ritualized flattery in diplomatic meet ups – this time with the gratuitous reference to Guyana as ‘the bread basket of the region’, used expressly for political mileage, as it forges an expectation grounded more in political vocabulary than in current economic evidence.
For us, it comes down to livability in Guyana and so far we haven’t heard anyone counter the proliferation of diplomatic praises heaped upon Ali for doing everything but small miracles…in a country whose Millennium Development Goals on Hunger are not borne out by statistics, when evaluated over time.
It’s possible that the data used to determine Ali’s food security bona fides were taken at face value.
We, on the other hand, prefer a little more common sense scrutiny, especially since the economic data is so readily available and can be reverse engineered for some measure of veracity.. confirming Ali’s not that guy.
Just to garnish him, in our view, with an award for working towards food security is more than tolerable diplomatic window dressing…at least more than should be allowed to remain uncontested in the record…even if the Opposition hasn’t done so.
Collection of data has an inherent propensity for inaccuracy, especially when it is conducted by humans on a door to door basis. The word Estimates in this headline attest to our point.
We’re also conscious that Agencies established for a specific purpose, like the Food and Agriculture Organization to eradicate food insecurity. will always share its progress and not its lack there of. The goals set by these Organizations are essentially for their validation and not a measure of the problem being solved.
Again, our opinion and why we’ll use economic data along with the social data to measure the quantitative data that suggests success.
We’ll also make scarce reference to the oil boom as it translates to national economic well being because it is not an economic upturn which is strategized by both arms of government.
We have continuously cited the Opposition’s absence from its place at the governing table and will maintain that its truancy ranks amongst the poorest decision making strategies, negatively impacting the population of any governing body.
The estimates and projections are factored in to the GDP as massive growth for the economy. But our focus remains on the beneficiaries of the economy who will be systemically excluded when the Administrative process is executed by the ruling Party while the Opposition sits out.
Let’s look at the simple economic indicators that affect people immediately and directly. Inflation, which impacts the cost of goods and services, also partners with the unemployment rate. The combination of low/no income and high prices places the country on the expressway to poverty and hunger…especially at a 14.9% unemployment rate.
Food Inflation, an index that impacts a necessity, is also a critical economic indicator. Trading Economics captures a staggering 14.1% inflation in December 2022 which goes down to 6.9% in April 2023 BUT on the back of the forecast of oil revenue; which does not ease unemployment or improve the cost of living, as a matter of Administration.
Labor Force Participation, the measure of able bodied people available to work, is also relevant here. Records show that from 1993 there has been a consistent decline in this force. And it’s not because of laziness…the popular trope. Social studies will confirm that the types of jobs, proximity to them and whether there is discrimination of any kind that excludes people who want to work, all negatively impact the filling of vacancies.
The Employment indicator is also key to effective administration. Records from 2003 show this metric in consistent double digits. And with the country receiving aid, grants and loans from the other countries, especially the western community, we’ll argue that Secretary Blinken has been briefed on what is the foundation of the country’s economic structure.
It may be a good time to cite the Corruption Perception Index and where Guyana’s placement on this was during the PPP’s forced remedial sessions, via Millennium Development Goals, beginning 2003.
With 100 being no corruption, we can see Guyana sitting as low as 25/100 in 2005 making it shamefully corrupt. The grip of systemic corruption is reflected in these charts which show the painful climb to comparative rectitude by moving from 25 to 40 only, in 2022, a grueling effort for 15 points over 17 years.
The other quantification, its rank out of number of countries measured, is equally as blemished. About 163 to 173 countries are gauged, so Guyana’s position of 117 out of either of these numbers is at the lower percentile of the gauge.
Just to add, the Corruption Perception Index is a measure of Political, Public Service and Administrative Corruption – attesting to the integrity of the ruling arm of Government at that time, the PPP.
We’ve cited these indices to objectively quantify the experience and prowess Secretary Blinken has implied that Mr. Ali brings to the table to combat/improve food security in the region.
Comparing the results to the Hunger Statistics available for the same years of the indices cited, we looked for evidence of improvement and if so, by any technocratic expertise employed by the Government.
The success here is the application of policy and not the production of meaningful volume and means to deliver product to the hungry. The stagnation of the PPP’s ranking for all of its years as a Hunger Aid recipient is confirmation that it only managed to score Moderate because of external aid and not because of its administrative ability.
And this why we didn’t think Secretary Blinken’s promotion of Irfaan Ali as an able steward of hunger mitigation and food security was accurate…even if it was packaged in diplomatic speak.
We respect the mission of Food Security and are grateful for the contributions in coin and kind to the people of Guyana. But it will be more of a policy accomplishment than a socioeconomic benefit if it is not part of the matrix of indices we outlined above….Inflation, Employment, Corruption… because these are some of the critical economic drivers to hunger reduction.
Mr. Ali, in our view, is the product of a training ground of failure…when the country was forced into remediation by Millenium Development Goals and was merely a figurative ‘bread basket’.
We say this as Guyanese who are products of the academic excellence of the basket, who saw the practical application of that term when military and paramilitary from neighboring countries came to Guyana for training; when UG’s Pharmacy program was filled with West Indians; when Nurses came from neighboring countries to train at Public Hospital Georgetown; when the Agriculture School at Mon Repos had a healthy foreign student membership; when Cyril Potter College prepped foreigners for their teaching careers and novel initiatives, like the Food Technology Division of the Ministry of Agriculture which attracted and molded reputable Microbiologist talent- not only from neighboring countries but from Guyana- was part of Government’s accomplishment.
Secretary Blinken’s assignment is obvious.
The history of his State Department notes wouldn’t frame the PPP’s Irfaan Ali as the anti hunger savant he’s touting him as ….but its a position America has now embraced and he’s promoting it with all the fervor of a convert.
America’s geopolitical positioning has never been more important and Guyana has never been more critical to its success.
But we shouldn’t lose our political reality in this process, even if Secretary Blinken’s diplomatic reference to “the Guyana Government” paints it as a functional Ruling and Opposing body.
For all of the responsibility he says Irfaan Ali has, we need a vigilant and useful Opposition to check and balance on behalf of the nation.
The Opposition secured a meeting with US Secretary of State which should be a routine occurrence, since it is government.
We won’t entertain protracted celebration for what is a norm and should occur without fanfare.
What we’ll continue to look for is its ongoing interaction with the resident diplomatic community and its operational conduct as the national Opposition, when initiatives like hunger mitigation are reported upon.