A real dilemma

Stabroek News
November 2, 1999

On any fair analysis of his performance to date President Bharrat Jagdeo would rate well. The experience acquired as minister of finance has stood him in good stead. He is fully au fait with government programmes, answers questions at press conferences here and abroad more straightforwardly and with more authority than any of his predecessors as president and has shown a clear desire to get down to business and get things done, secure investment and get the economy moving.

Yet he faces a dilemma. A letter writer argued in the Sunday Stabroek that it may not be practical politics for him to dump PPP stalwarts who are in the government and are not performing well. The civic component in the government is already higher than originally envisaged. To sack PPP ministers and appoint more civic or technocratic ministers, the writer says, would be political suicide. Moreover, "the PPP makes collective decisions. Bharrat Jagdeo belongs to that collective leadership. One man decisions are alien to the PPP executive and the PPP/Civic cabinet." The writer suggests instead that he tighten supervision of some ministers, require quarterly reports from ministers on their performance and employ an expediter at the office of the president to speed up action.

But as any businessman or union leader will readily confirm perhaps the main problem of the PPP government since 1992 has been the incompetence and dithering of PPP (and Civic) ministers holding several key portfolios. Decisions were not made, meetings were not held, letters were not responded to, things did not get done. Investors got tired of getting a runaround, many of them pulled out and went elsewhere. Union leaders were not listened to their grievances were not dealt with, a good working relationship was not established, in particular with the Guyana Public Service Union, and some problems became much bigger than they need have been.

this then is the dilemma. The overall performance to date has been poor. To really make his mark and turn things around as he clearly would like to do the president needs to have an effective team. Can he achieve this indirectly, as Mr Carlton Campbell the letter writer suggested, by monitoring ineffective ministers and calling for quarterly reports? Ministers are key players, whole areas that could make rapid progress stagnate if they are not performing. It may be invidious to name one when there have been many non-performers but there can be no doubt at all that tourism could have made substantial progress if there had been an active, well-informed minister working alongside the tourist entrepreneurs. There are documented examples of stagnation and frustration in other areas.

Guyana is not replete with high level human resources because of the prolonged diaspora and brain drain. No political party can provide the talent needed to run the country with some efficiency. If the collective PPP leadership that the writer refer to is resistant to change and determined to preserve the status quo there is a real chance that despite Mr Jagdeo's obvious energy progress will be limited. It will ultimately be in the party's interest to let the president exercise some of his presidential powers in reshaping his team even if this leads to a few ministerial and other casualties. And of course it is not only PPP ministers who have been under performing, there are some obvious civic candidates for replacement in a reshuffle.

A collective party leadership cannot run a government efectively, there will be too many compromises for the wrong reasons.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples