NACTA poll finds widespread disenchantment over crime, corruption and economy

Stabroek News

August 31, 2003

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An opinion survey conducted last month by the North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) is showing widespread disenchantment among all social and ethnic groups in the population towards both the ruling PPP and the opposition PNC for their inability to work together to tackle a host of critical issues that impact on the well-being of the nation. Voters are dissatisfied with the performance of the PPP/Civic government and the opposition PNCR in handling crime and the economy and are urging the politicians to work together to tackle rising crime and other issues that are hindering economic progress.

The latest Guyana survey was conducted last month to find out opinion on a number of current controversial issues impacting on the nation. NACTA interviewed 612 (294 Indians, 208 Africans, 67 Mixed, 37 Amerindians, 6 others) respondents to yield a demographically representative sample of the voting population. Voters were polled randomly to make it as representative as possible of varied age, class, occupational and religious categories as well as of ethnicity and educational levels in and geographical diversity of the population. The poll was co-ordinated by Vishnu Bisram.

The results of the poll were analyzed at a 95 per cent significance level and a statistical sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points was found. This means that in theory, in 19 cases out of 20, the results based on such a sample will differ by no more than 4 percentage points in either direction from what should have been obtained by seeking to interview the whole voting population. Sampling results based on subgroups (such as Indians or Africans) have a larger potential sampling error).

In terms of the most important problem facing the nation, crime is uppermost on the minds of everyone. Asked what is the most important problem facing the nation, almost everyone said crime. Only 16% of the respondents feel the government is doing enough (its best) to combat crime while 72% feel the government is not doing enough to fight crime.

Asked to identify the next most important problem facing the nation, 27% said racialism followed by corruption and/or incompetent government (23%), illicit drugs (19%), unemployment and other economic issues (13%), other problems (3%), and 15% no response. Almost everyone feels that all of the problems noted are related to one another, and that all are equally important in terms of their effects on the nation. Respondents also noted that racialism is a serious problem confronting the nation and unless addressed will lead to ongoing social instability that will threaten development.

Asked to apportion blame for the serious problems, such as crime, respondents blame both the PPP and PNC for not collaborating in conducting the nation’s business. They say that the two parties are only interested in capturing or holding on to power rather than working together to solve the problems confronting the nation. But PPP supporters tend to blame the PNC for the crime problem, for a perceived dalliance with criminals, while PNC supporters blame the PPP for the problems facing the nation because of perceived incompetence and racialism.

Asked if they are satisfied with the government’s handling of the economy, only 27% said yes with 44% saying no and the remainder expressing no opinion. When asked whether they are worse off or better off today than last year (July used as frame of reference), 23% said they are better off today and 51% said they are worse off with the remainder offering no response; it should be noted that nearly half of those who said they are better off today feel the country as a whole is worse off now than it was last year.

On the issue of corruption, an overwhelming majority of voters (from all ethnic groups) is of the view that corruption has now become institutionalized in the politics of the country. Respondents complain about corruption at all government institutions. They say they have to offer bribes to officials both national and regional at all levels in order to “get things done.” The bulk of the respondents (including a majority of PPP supporters) are disenchanted with the PPP for not moving fast enough to crack down on corruption and to prosecute officials who were or are allegedly involved in corruption. Some sugar workers relate stories of having to pay bribes of up to $200,000 for a house lot. Many questioned whether the PPP is genuine in its electoral promise to provide good governance.

On the issue of government corruption, 51% are of the view that the PPP government (but not all Ministers) is corrupt as compared with 27% who said the government is not corrupt; the remainder have no opinion on the issue.

To give strength, integrity, and competence to the government, a majority of PPP supporters expressed the view that Ravi Dev of ROAR should be lured into joining the cabinet.

The respondents expressed a general lack of confidence in the police force in protecting them and enforcing their civic rights. They believe that the police force is tainted and needs to be purged if it is to function effectively and responsibly. Seventy-four per cent of the respondents believe there is a link between elements of the police force and criminals with only 9% saying there is no link between the police and criminal activities and 17% having no opinion on the issue; several respondents noted that police officers often close their eyes to criminal activities occurring in their presence. In terms of graft and bribing of cops, 77% of the respondents feel that the police routinely accept/ request bribes “to fix” a problem involving the law.

Respondents also expressed the view that elements of the police, para-military and army have been engaged in drug trafficking and other related criminal activities and unless they are purged, drugs and crime will continue to eat away at the fabric of the nation. Respondents are of the opinion that a lot more can be done to fight crime if the police force can be reformed and purged of dishonest cops and if the army is used more effectively in anti-crime fighting operations.

Respondents also express-ed widespread approval for Indian Arrival to be observed as a national holiday, comparable to Emancipation Day. Asked if Indian Arrival Day should be a holiday, 71% answered in the affirmative with only 15% opposed saying they are not opposed to recognising the presence of Indians in Guyana but that the country already has too many holidays.

NACTA also interviewed respondents on a number of other issues; the findings will be released in a subsequent report.

Table 1: Racial Composi-tion of Polling Sample

Race Number Per cent

Indian 294 48

African 208 34

Mixed 67 11

Amerindian 37 6

Other* 6 1

* Includes all other ethnic categories.

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