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For all of his statements that “A country doesn’t get rich overnight, you have to work towards it”, “the country is not rich yet but that the government is willing to help those in need” Bharrat Jagdeo seems to have found that sweet spot of abundance and wealth way before the oil; when the country languished amongst the lowest percentile of those in Poverty and Hunger and was a leading host of AIDS.

We point to this because Jagdeo is not known to have been born into wealth or have earned an income outside of politicking for a Party that led Guyana through the years that it was its richest to its poorest. Neither does his academic qualifications suggest a superior earning bracket – he being conferred an honorary doctorate which could/should only be used with permission from the conferee. If the arrangement is, use -at-will then, it has no honor.

The PPP led British Guiana from 1953 – 1961, Guyana from 1992-2015 then again from 2020 to current day. See GDP Historical Data from 1960 for corroboration.

During their tenure, Guyana’s poverty index, by individual, is at its multidimensional worst .

And, though the World Bank touts some kind of improvement- luring other Statistic Reporters to follow suit- we contend that this mirage of improvement came with Economic Aid, disbursed with the agreement of compliance and accountability which depends on a system of self -reporting …with Government Operatives feigning improvement by checking the requisite boxes on their report cards.

Foreign Aid may have good intentions but without diligent oversight by operatives whose only mission is to claim the export of Western Democracy – like our favorite former Ambassador who campaigned with/for the PPP – they’ll receive wrong reports from rogue government Operatives as the country remains/ descends into failed state status…while it swims in oil, like so many African nations.

This is the backdrop against which we view the 2024 Budget and the tradition of its debate which was intended to be a robust but studied response to what was presented by the Ruling Party of the two -arm Government.

Let’s take this opportunity, now, to rebuke the ignoramuses whose lack of metropolitan experience confines slurred speech to a state of drunkenness. Had they been exposed to the same TV experience their richer leaders have, they may have seen several international newscasters suffer strokes and brain aneurysms in real time.

But back to the debate that was supposed be the principal activity of the 2024 Budget presentation.

Some of us would remember, back when Guyana’s breadbasket included a robust high school curriculum, that Civics / Social Studies was a compulsory class and teachers dedicated to the teaching of government and its parts, made listening to the Budget Speech a class assignment. Let’s say, T. Anson Sancho, here.

We remember the procedure being the Finance Minister presenting his budget over a set number of days with committee discussions commencing after the presentation. The mechanism inherited from England was and remains one that gives the Governing and Opposing arms of government the opportunity to state expenditure and promote or defend the numeric value by line item analysis.

Here’s one from 1967 which demonstrates the intensity of preparation. Line item matters were analyzed and dissected based on existing numbers and realistic projections. The observation here is that intense preparation was undertaken. The Opposition was beholden to showing why under/overspending was not in the best interest of citizens and they did this in a final publishing of their own budget, just for the record.

Before going further, we’ll cite the allocation of 32.5 million to the Opposition Leader’s Office. We do so to affirm what we’ve always maintained- the Opposition is an arm of Government that is entitled to funding from the Government’s treasury. Whether it’s enough we do not know because there’s no public record of an official budget request ever coming from that Office, under its current leadership.

That the Budget presentation by the Finance Minister was not debated on major issues, let alone line by line, is more vexing than troubling. The refrain of lower inflation rang through the presentation but that is not a stand alone economic indicator. Lower inflation may increase purchasing power but if unemployment remains high -and amongst a specific demographic – then only one sector of the purchasing community benefits. And that deprivation in purchasing power becomes the socioeconomic tool for politicians to adjust, however gradually, the social nuts and bolts to improve income disparity and upward mobility.

We’re not saying income or social parity is ideal or even possible. We’re saying that the contract of the Constitution that dictates that every citizen has the right to work should not be undermined by syndicated racism or systemic exclusion from opportunities to be a part of the work force…top or bottom.

The government, we’ll always contend, is comprised of a Ruling and Opposing arm. It works closer to efficiency if both arms show up to work for the citzens and not Parties that elected them in a national process designated by the Constitution.

The role of the current Opposition remains undefinable. Constructive performance is part of leadership but that performance has to tie into some guiding policy with measurable outcomes. What the Opposition’s guiding policy is, isn’t apparent in the outcomes…like actual employment in its voting demographic. And, we’re not going to talk about their ‘walk-about’ strategy, except to say that it should be more than folksy ambling and that their greeters must be complaining about the lack of social opportunities which should be improved with negotiation and not contention.

Opportunities for legitimate jobs and commensurate earnings improve quality of life and society, as a whole. It is one of the elements that create the economic structure of any country. It contributes to its economic engine … Gross Domestic Product.

The Finance Minister emphasized the BPO sector —Business Process Outsourcing. That means these call center jobs that are, in the Minister’s eyes, “popular with the female workforce”, pg 44/115 4.83 are, essentially, part time and/or as-needed.

The finance minister has allocated 10 billion to this stop gap employment measure. And looking at the composition of the apparent benficiaries of these jobs, it doesn’t seem to be trickling down to a wide cross section of the job market.

Jobs with stability and benefits make for a better societal environment. If the Opposition addressed the inadequacy of this transient job model, that has so enamored the Finance Minister in an oil economy that is already earning billions for its extractors, it was not in this 2024 Budget Debate.

It would be helpful if Guyana’s labour statistics were reported like its Western model, America. Surprised that, with all of the democracy exportation for aid, the US has not demanded that Guyana reports its labour statistics like the US does…by race and gender. We’ve seen some statistics by gender but in Guyana, where politics is a race- driven vehicle, it should be mandatory for race to be part of its labour record.

That should be one of the goals of the Opposition in its scheduled meetings with the Western Foreign Community that sells democracy for aid. We’re assuming that the Opposition Leader has a timetable of scheduled dates monthly, to meet with the resident diplomats to discuss how the Opposition, as the constitutional other half of governance, is progressing with the recommendations America and its Western counterparts are sharing for democracy improvement …in exchange for aid.

The hope is still for the Opposition to appeal to a broader cross section of the public and not just those in its partnership, for it to understand that its role, through its Shadow Ministers, is to hold the ruling arm of government accountable; for it to analyze government proposals by examining their relation to the issues and expected outcomes.

Indeed, the MP’s and Opposition Leader are all elected politicians at some level but there is a Holder of the List who, were thinking, assesses the functional competence of the MP’s he sends to Parliament. We can ask if he is at all alarmed at their under-delivery and if he has even asked the elected Leader of the Opposition if he has a policy document to guide his national agenda…critical to this Opposition’s role in holding the government accountable.

We expect no answer. No one will ask.

The traditional approach to politics in Guyana serves its politicians and those who benefit from its umbrella. The holder of the Opposition’s List holds the quiet acceptance of his political impotence by appointees more committed to their portfolios than their actual functions. Party Leaders can defy Party’s Constitutional dictates for election with impunity.

Occupying polar opposites fertilizes the racial divide that the Ruling Party cultivates its governing policy upon. The Opposition presents as both a rudderless and neutered entity.

And all this bleeds in to a trillion dollar budget which will under- serve those impacted by the traditional acceptance of pretending it’s the other side’s fault. 

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