The less of Bharrat, the better
December 6, 2006
The President must be given credit for reading correctly the signals that emerged from the 2006 General and Regional Elections. While he may have failed before the elections to have predicted the good showing of the newcomer, the Alliance for Change (AFC), the President of Guyana was not indifferent to the implications of the AFC's support.
What that support signalled is that there is quite a large body of Guyanese out there, as much as eight per cent of those who voted, who decided that there was a better option than the two main parties, and that they would vote for that option. Then there was a much larger grouping that voted by staying away from the polls, reflecting their apathy towards the main parties and the electoral process.
The President was quick to act. While the PPP/C gained its highest mandate ever, the President was in no doubt that the results of the elections signalled that there was a need for a change in the guard.
Jagdeo went further than a mere change. It was a sweeping change. Except for Roger Luncheon, the long trusted lieutenant of all previous PPP Presidents, all the other members of the old guard were swept aside, as Jagdeo brought some ten new faces on board. Jagdeo knew that the people wanted a change, and he gave them that change.
Since then, there has been another positive development which, while too early to decide whether it is permanent, is noteworthy in itself. The new government has quickly set aside the cult of personality that developed around the President, and many of the new ministers have been blazing their own trails since being sworn into office. Not only that, but they have been displaying initiative, and not simply allowing the President to dominate the limelight.
The high-flyer, of course, has been the new Minister of Human Services, Miss Priya Manickchand, who has shown a willingness to make her own decisions and who has not harboured many of the apprehensions that are shared by members of her party towards the media in Guyana . She has already received plaudits from the main opposition, the People's National Congress, for her handling of the old age pension book issue.
Another person who has taken the lead is the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh. This is an extremely brilliant boy, who was at one time a Guyana scholar. His academic credentials aside, he has recently taken the lead role in terms of the Value Added Tax that is soon to be introduced. And he has handled the situation better than I think the President would have done.
Others who have been in the limelight are, of course, the Minister of Agriculture, who has picked up where Satyadeow Sawh left off in terms of appearing in front of a camera. He has so far not done anything imaginative, but I must commend him for the manner in which he set about dealing with the issue of stunted chicken, which is an issue close to my heart. The Minister called in the experts, sought overseas technical assistance, and was able to determine the cause of the problem. He has also established hotlines for farmers to call in case they need assistance. This is the way problems should be handled, free from fanfare and grandstanding.
Then there is the Minister of Health, who has been raising eyebrows with his statistics of health indicators. He, too, has been taking a leading role in his portfolio. There have been impressive achievements in the health sector in recent years.
The Minister of Works and Hydraulics has also been on the ball, and on the ground, too, which is an advantage, considering that he is a technical man and therefore can assess conditions immediately rather than having to wait for technical analysis from others. I am sure that, as this is being written, he would have been on the ground dealing with the situation in Wakenaam.
Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee has shown just why the Peeper considers him one of the best ministers ever to come out of the PPP. He was assigned a portfolio that many though he could not handle, but he has surprised all and sundry, except the Peeper, with the able manner in which he has taken command of the security sector. Another surprise has been the Minister of Sports, Dr. Frank Anthony, who has slipped easily into his new job and impressed with the assured and relaxed manner in which he has gone about his tasks. I predict great things for Dr. Anthony.
The work of government and governance, therefore, seems to be improving, and the obvious reason is that President Jagdeo has been giving his ministers greater latitude and allowing them to express their individuality.
All of this just goes to demonstrate a point that I have made many times in this column. Often, the catalyst for positive change is a paradigm shift in thinking. Here we have an example of ministers taking initiative, something that was missing in the previous PPP Administration, and this simple change is resulting in a great deal of positives for our country.
It definitely seems as if the less we have of the President, the better the government seems to perform.