Monday, May 18, 2009

Let history be the judge of this Govt.’s record, not some chimera

Let history be the judge of this Govt.’s record, not some chimera
May 18, 2009 | By knews | Filed Under Letters

Dear Editor,

I refer to Mr. Emile Mervin’s letter of May 14, 2009 in the Kaieteur News, with the caption ‘No amount of ‘spin’ can make the President appear any less autocratic.’

Mr. Mervin seems to be a victim of double standards here. Here he goes trying to lecture me on my letter as a spin piece; that notion of spin has to be his chimera. Also, Mr. Mervin fails to identify the broken promises which he motioned in his previous letter. And he fails to say anything about the raucous PNCR ad with the caption ‘JAGDEO – SELFISH AND SHAMELESS’.

Discrediting debt relief is inappropriate and should be deemed a transgression, especially when the evidence shows how it made a difference to the social services sector. And apprizing people of facts of how Guyana managed to attain substantial debt relief is not a spin; the only person guilty of such is Mr. Mervin himself, in his attempt to dissuade facts into a pipe dream.

Sustaining the eligibility criteria set out by international lending agencies, such as, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) is not an easy accomplishment. Debt relief became necessary by virtue of the state of the economy in 1992. What the PNC bequeathed to the PPP/C in 1992 was horrifying.

The country was bankrupt in 1991; Reporting on the PNC ruling years, the World Bank in its 1994 Report noted: “Economic performance worsened significantly… Demand management policies were expansionary, the real exchange rate appreciated, the country lost competitiveness, the balance of payments came under pressure, and the government relied increasingly on price controls and quantitative restrictions on trade.

This further reduced overall economic activity, while spawning a parallel market for foreign exchange that fed inflation; the country’s infrastructure became dilapidated, real incomes dropped sharply, and the government became increasingly unable to provide basic social services”.

In the context of these PNC’s economic failures, the PPP/C early in its Administration had inherited practically zero funds to service the huge external debt burden of US$2.1B and develop the social services sector; and so debt relief became a desired option. Eventually, HIPC and Enhanced-HIPC superseded the traditional debt relief packages.

There is a view that debt relief constitutes begging, an indictment of Guyana’s poverty, and that debt relief is automatically available; a totally incorrect view. In order to be considered for HIPC assistance, a country must experience an unsustainable debt burden; have a track record of reform and good policies as determined by the IMF and the World Bank. Generally, good governance and sound macroeconomic fundamentals become key intervening variables in securing debt relief.

IMF Executive Board Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair Takatoshi Kato noted in February 2006: “Guyana has continued to make progress under the PRGF arrangement. The exchange rate remained stable, the external current account position was better than anticipated, and the structural reform agenda moved ahead…The 2005 macroeconomic program was on track, seen in particular in a solid fiscal performance…”

Here is some information on the annual average foreign Direct Investment flows (in millions of dollars) from 1994 through 2007: 1994-107, 1995-74, 1996-93, 1997, 53, 1998-47, 1999-48, 2000-67, 2001-56, 2004-30, 2005-77, 2006-102, and 2007-152.

Media front. And Guyana is witnessing today increasing media freedom within a democratic political framework, meaning that that this country can boast of explicit free press and free speech. The international

Freedom House ranks Guyana’s status on freedom as ‘free’ on civil liberties and political rights; Guyana has over 23 TV stations, three daily newspapers, use of the internet unrestricted, and a barrage of magazines, etc, where there is no application of censorship.

Most recently, the newspapers carried the PNCR’ advertisement captioned ‘JAGDEO – SELFISH AND SHAMELESS’; if the President were autocratic and there were no freedom of the press, then this ad would not have seen the light of day. And perhaps, the time has now come where media houses and journalists, in their modus operandi, need to provide greater weighting to their responsibilities and obligations than to their rights. If President Jagdeo were autocratic, would he have allowed such an advertisement in the newspapers?

Feed, House and Clothe (FCH) front. Guyana under Burnham experienced serious economic failures in executing its development plans; and the ‘Feed, House and Clothe the Nation’ Development Plan remained a catchword without producing substance; the 7-year Development Plan (1966-1972) buckled in 1969; and the third Development Plan (1978-81) increased the debt burden accompanied by little or no industrialisation. It is not surprising that development plans faltered; the reason probably has to do with Hoyte’s claim in 1981 that the economy ‘was disastrous’, and the New Nation (the PNC’s mouthpiece) noted that the economy was ‘tottering on the brink of collapse’.

However, the Jagdeo Initiative on Agriculture (JIA) was established achieve and sustain food security; subsequently, the Government unleashed the JIA principles to cushion the effects of the 2008 global food and fuel crisis, not only in Guyana but across the region. This initiative has received support from Caribbean Leaders vis-à-vis a CARICOM investment forum and the ongoing ‘Grow More Food’ campaign. Think for a moment about the PPP/C record over these last 14 years amid a PNC legacy of economic failures and the absence of fundamental human rights. Here is a sample of achievements: -

Guyana is free; President’s powers reduced; opposition participation through parliamentary sectoral committees, parliamentary management committee, standing committee on constitutional reform; oversight committee, Public Accounts Committee, constitutional commissions, the President’s consultation with Leader of the Opposition on some appointments; Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) now US$71 million for 1993 through 2005 compared to US$2.6 million between 1982 and 1992; sustained macroeconomic stability through reduced inflation now 8% compared to 101% in 1991; reduced interest rates, stable exchange rate, consistently reduced budget and balance of payments deficits; increased per capita income now US$900 compared to US$231 in 1991; increased disposable incomes evidenced through the importation of 85,000 motor cars, etc.; increased minimum wage now US$124 compared to US$22 in 1991; increased production in all agricultural sectors; growing service industries; upgrading CJIA and Ogle airports; housing boom – 70,000 house lots, 35,000 titles, 7% mortgage interest rate; 85% access to water compared to 40% in 1992; increased CXC performance now 80% compared to 47% in 1991; university education expanded into Berbice; more trained teachers, now 56% compared to 35% in 1991; greater secondary school enrolment now 72% compared to 35% in 1991; 84 new schools built; health physical infrastructures rebuilt – new hospitals at New Amsterdam, Georgetown, and Kamarang; high immunization rates among children now 95% compared to 65% in 1991; Infant Mortality Rate now 48 per 1,000 compared to 120 per 1,000 in 1991; maternal mortality rate now 11 per 1,000 compared to 34 per 1,000 in 1991; Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV/AIDS now with 73 sites; the 1951 Amerindian Act revised; 50 Amerindian communities obtained titles and demarcation; $1 billion on the President’s Youth Award, President’s Youth Choice Initiative Program, Youth Entrepreneurial Skills Training Program, and Youth Empowerment.

Let history be the judge of this Government’s record, not some chimera.

Prem Misir

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