We’ll begin by addressing the hysterical indignation our position on the Opposition and Government has engendered.
We’ll say, again, the Political Opposition is a duly elected body that is ENSHRINED in the constitution.
How? The Constitution is the supreme law of Guyana and, if any other law is inconsistent with it, that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void (#8 under General Principles 26/204. Same Constitution, Article 184, Laws of Guyana Cap3, dictate that there SHALL be an office of Leader of the Opposition (pg52/204 #110)…which expressly makes the position ENSHIRINED in the Constitution.
Its role is within the National Assembly- one half of Parliament, with the President being the other (Article 51 pg37/204). The National Assembly is a 65 Member – bi cameral chamber in which the general election victor, by any agreed combination of Parties that carries the greater portion of 65 seats, becomes the ruling arm of Government… with the runners-up, by any agreed combination of Parties, forming the Opposition.
It’s a portfolio, therefore, manifestly created to function in Parliament, within its National Assembly, as the other half of government…which is not to be interpreted by anything said here as one half of 65…which seems to be the popular understanding but is cognitively flawed.
The half of government referred to here is its Administrative composition, and its inherent obligation as the non proposing arm of government to check and balance proposals from the ruling arm, by offering alternative positions, when in disagreement.
This is the Opposition’s half of Government…and we’ll take this opportunity to double down on our opinion that the Opposition is fully responsible for 50% of governance. Governance is the thing that Governments do- designing and delivering service to the population that it has taken an oath to serve, without prejudice.
We’ll agree that the duty of the Opposition is not delineated in Guyana’s Constitution, or that of any democratic country, particularly because duties evolve or recede with circumstances.
But what this Constitution espouses is the legal existence of this elected entity in the National Assembly- the body intended to act on behalf of the people, not a Party or a specific demographic but the entire nation.
The functioning of these two parts of our National Assembly is what is vital to our representative democracy and the ruling arm will always be presumed to be functioning if the non proposing arm is neither checking nor balancing the ruling Party’s proposals in a timely manner as it should, per its contract with the people.
With the preceding in mind, the functions of the parts of the National Assembly and their symbiosis by design, we’ll address what was billed as Budget Presentation and Debate.
By its very construct, effectiveness in the National Assembly requires the Party, not in leadership, to negotiate …with success for the nation as its goal. Subverting the importance of brokering to a preference for bickering and the populist rhetoric, that is the cheap replacement for actual politicking, guarantees the extended gridlock that is supposed to be governance, by Government.
Long before the five-day Budget debate of Jan 23rd to 27th 2023 and its spill over to the following week, we were hoping to see the Opposition’s version of what they think should be in the national budget… submitted in format duplicating that of the Ruling Party’s proposal and prepared with the help of accounting professionals, civic society and other seasoned advisors, capable of looking around civic corners.
These suggestions would have been presented to the ruling Party, with enough time for it to review, adopt or reject. This is not novel. It’s a core function of democracy; what countries that operate within a democratic Parliamentary system, routinely do. It’s an act of leadership which requires humility and compromise, especially when not in the dominant position…none of which is grovelling or weakness but tactics and strategy.
But today’s Democracy has barbarous advocates concerned about not projecting a ‘soft’ image by making killing standard.
“If I attempt to be softer than I am soft on this Mocha issue, then I am telling people just ride me over” tells us where this President’s insecurities are; that he’s been thrusted into a position that he lacks the humanity for, the national pride to see that being ‘soft’ on people is a juvenile interpretation of the leadership expected of the highest office to protect their lives and livelihoods…and his abject disregard for the Constitution Chapter II principle IX : Sovereignty belongs to the people, who exercise it through their representatives and the democratic organs established by or under this Constitution.
The absence of comments from the resident Western Diplomats, especially the American delegation, reeks of their silence during similar acts of tyranny in say, Uganda, which was advantageously positioned for America’s wars with neighboring countries -Sudan, Rwanda, Zaire – that were, collectively, $24 trillion oil and mineral rich and therefore the spoils of Western might.
Guyana’s wealth and proximity to a country with vast wealth gives reason to question America’s silence on Guyana‘s strong arming of citizens – in flagrant violation of the democracy they reward with soft loans and financial grants. It’s turning of a ‘blind eye’ on strongman tyranny in Guyana, is an act of diplomatic indifference that has left a trail of citizen suppression and brutal outcomes in many countries which its ‘blind eye’ conveniently categorizes as ‘domestic issues’ – and is the worrying deflection that should make us all nervous.
The nation’s protracted state of civil fomentation allows politicians to substitute the politics of grievance for representation at the negotiating table. And the two parties are left to create a national fiscal budget as warring factions, whose casualties of war are the citizens who suffer their disservice, as a consequence.
We thought- given the history of budget inadequacy so profound that Guyana still sits in the lowest percentile of Western Hemisphere poverty- that the public servants tasked with 2023 Budget formation would have been unbudgingly invested in creating a budget for national benefit.
National Budgets are crafted with an impact assessment- the cost/benefit of assigning financial assistance to reduce the disproportionate socio economic disadvantages in the areas of need- not because Government is doing a specific demographic a favor but because it benefits Gross Domestic Product GDP -the value of goods and services produced by the nation, directly.
From a planning perspective, in evaluating the assignment of cash and services to afflicted demographics, the inference of the intent of the budget can be drawn with reasonable accuracy.
That’s why budgets can be condemned as racist/discriminatory…when the calculations seem not to be directed at key significant areas like the unskilled work force…generally the larger portion of available labor, broken down by race and gender which is of critical import to improved GDP.
And this is why the presentation by the Opposition was more a shocker than a disappointment.
The concept of debate, which is predicated upon a given position and a robust submission of an alternate one, is what was missing here. But what is professional malpractice was the absence, the nonexistence, of a prepared counter budget by an expert, as a challenge- and if there was one, we ask why wasn’t it used.
It is this counter budget that is submitted to query and suggest substitutes and this is done through civil engagement and prior to public hearings….especially since all that matters is what gets done for the nation. Presentations studded with stage performance aren’t necessary on this forum when they are tied to due diligence and not mere heckling points.
The Opposition Leader’s failure here has not only cast the efforts of his MP’s in poor light but has ushered in a budget that ignores the needs of people occupying the unemployment and under and unskilled sectors, the disabled and the chronically ill citizens, the ageing and those not resident along the coast, the homeless and mentally ill occupying public spaces…to cite a sliver of its victims.
Details of the USD 3.75 billion budget are masked in terms like “vast transformation, vast infra structure, expanding access ” and we wonder how this single politcal entity can claim that it’s working for all the people when the effort is theirs alone.
We acknowledge that the Opposition’s strategy of ignorant disorder is reflective of an obvious lack of the many skills needed to succeed in the position but this doesn’t give the ruling Party the moral high ground to unilaterally make decisions for a nation that is distrustful of its intentions – given the country’s history and a pathology riveted in racial and divisive political DNA.
Its fiscal management doesn’t give it a pass either.
It was absolved of much of its debt and graduated from its Heavily Indebted Poor Country status around 2006, yet in 2017, its unskilled labor force was surviving on USD2.15 per day…with wealth oozing from gated communities. It was under this Party’s leadership that Millennial Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals were mandated for the country to receive the aid and comfort of the West…a dole determined in the face of abject poverty and social collapse.
And they brag of near term economic growth- 58% in 2022 without revealing that, under current structure that growth shrinks to 3.32% in 2027….something we’re yet to hear from the check and balance Opposition. We’ll add that spending on Education was lowest during PPP tenure, higher when the Opposition was in leadership and the 2023 Budget is lower yet, GYD94.4 of GYD781, a mere 12% for Education.
Look. Budget arrangements and plans are announced on Budget Day, not after …but that doesn’t deny us the right to suggest some moral easement in the name of good governance by the ruling Party…which is the larger arm of Government and has more discretion than not.
Short of that, the budget will remain racist for all of the reasons budgets that disproportionally ignore a specific race is racist; will be discriminatory for all the reasons that the better off in the population will benefit from this 2023 financial gift, while the segments in need merely get superficial relief …if any.
We can talk about all the creditors still left to be serviced…all of the outstanding and deferred loans that are anticipating the boon of oil revenue which is already pawned as future payment for current cash. We can look at the documents for lenders and creditors prepared by the PPP which feign prosperity and the hypocrisy of these lenders who accept these addled figures, knowing that oil is always a good place to lien.
And don’t tell us, PPP, that there’s been improvement in any of the chronic issues, let alone ‘marked’.
Some of us know how these reports work- the prefabricated check list to be completed within a time -certain and returned to the agency, say, USAID, for them to justify the US tax payer’s dollars being poured into the political purchase that is Guyana’s regional willingness to accommodate any of their political requests…under the umbrella of diplomatic relationship.
The Budget remains the not so secret weapon with which to entrench structural racism, maintain systemic inequality, deny economic opportunity, often with the oversight of Western champions of democracy…who re-image sinners into saints as strategic reincarnation.
The Opposition, with its seasoned bench of political leaders- some with cross party experience- never showed the nation a budget.
All they’re left with now is appealing for post budget accommodation, through some moral conviction and convincing that the big outlay on spending comes at the cost of denying needed expenditure to sectors that are currently, comparatively, poor…which, we suggest, should be done with requisite humility- that priceless trait credited for many quiet political victories.