Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The PPP is accustoming its followers to see it as an amoral party

The PPP is accustoming its followers to see it as an amoral party

Posted By Stabroek staff On July 28, 2009 @ 5:08 am In Letters | 9 Comments

Dear Editor,
Why are some in the government calling upon themselves the forces of retribution that are certain to follow the long list of disgrace?
It is possible that the government does not understand the power of the image it has unleashed against itself. We refer to the picture of Troy Small trembling after a beating by his kith and kin in some branch of the joint forces. These torturers are so far unidentified and may remain so. But doubtless, from Dr Luncheon’s beard, will emerge a phrase like his famous “phantom” squad to define them.

The Troy Small case suggests that the PPP, contrary to what is being suggested in some quarters, did not burn the Ministry of Health itself. But that the authorities in some form or at some level were sufficiently enraged by the fire that they apparently gave carte blanche to the investigative/repressive organs to do what they have been doing at the behest of politicians for a long time. Beating and brutalising. This is the species of crime-stopper whose excesses contributed to a tide of violence some few years ago.

Certainly the creators of our present reality, the PPP government, fully understands how the PNC, in its time, unleashed against itself some of the very forces that contributed to its destruction. For it is possible to view the ouster of the PNC, not only as the fatality of this virus of racist ignorance we carry, but also as a result of the turning upon itself of a series of destructive and powerful images, taken from reality or imagined, that it had itself fashioned. These images would bring in their trail and their aura the dark chaos and confusion that beclouds, like a curse, everything the party did or tried to do from the later seventies until the death of Mr Burnham and its final dispossession.

Consider that the beating up of protestors and arrest of picketers, the stabbing to death of the priest, the blowing up of Walter Rodney, the public execution of Ohene Koama and others, the gassing of workers in Linden… was the imagery that the previous government imprinted on the public consciousness.

The PNC party finally and fully understood that decent Guyanese of all ages, races and socio-economic conditions, of every political allegiance, would find horrifying as well as profoundly alienating, the images of men beaten, stabbed, blown up, gunned down, battered to a pulp then dragged before the courts. So the images came, at one time, to dominate public perception of the PNC, sweeping away and submerging the positives it had done. Turning against their creator.

The PPP is making its own chap-book of horror stories, cautionary tales, crime thrillers and these terrible images of its degeneracy. It had learnt, one would have hoped, from reaction to the phantom squad murders that some one of its highly placed phantoms supervised. But it is quoted saying that roughing up is okay, that the lockups at Brickdam is what we deserve, that it is concerned only with victim’s rights.

And since it will never cease to see itself as victim (of international imperialism, the X 13 plan, and all the other plots that haunt it and drive its narrative), it will continue to insist on its rights to order beating up, death squad investigations that go nowhere, pulling of Sharma’s licence and Stabroek News ads and all the other bad things which victims are entitled to commit. Whereas the truth is that many of the so-called PPP victim-politicians were mostly running and hiding and seeking cover when the PNC’s fire raged. So we have, in the narrative, in some cases, only a strangely developed fantasy of victimhood.

One is therefore shaken when the real victims of the “dictatorship” speak out against the image of Troy Small. Rupert Roopnaraine, Andaiye, Karen De Souza, joined Alissa Trotz in condemning what has happened. One knows that decent Guyanese of all races, ages, social conditions and political allegiance will decry it, openly or silently. The PPP has set in motion the forces, mystical, social and political, international… that will bring an end to its time on the stage. We seldom know whence nemesis arises. The PPP needs urgently to dissociate itself from what has occurred and these other human rights abuses that disturb right-thinking people in our community.

It should understand that the people who were key to bringing change to the country were those people whose system of values were offended by the excesses of the past. There used to be a group called Movement Against Oppression that campaigned for better policing and less brutality. From that era, the late sixties, to now, Guyanese resistance to abusive authority has been constant, taking, among other forms, of an expressed disgust, an unexpressed scorn. And in an extreme, the desperation of an armed resistance and anti-police hatred we remember from this very decade.

That the PPP is accustoming its followers to see it as an amoral party whose conscience is deadened is bad enough. Its followers deserve more, as PNC followers deserved better in their time. It doesn’t matter what percentage of the vote it wins, it will continue to lose its moral authority and will end up being an imposition as repulsive as those it has derided in the past.

One is increasingly impatient at the usual imbecile chorus that will doubtless defend what has happened. But Jagdeo ought to call for a real investigation and punish the guilty. Otherwise his period in office will be marked with another disgrace that he could have avoided.
Yours faithfully,
Abu Bakr
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Agri Ministry supplies costs of 34 contracts

Agri Ministry supplies costs of 34 contracts
July 28, 2009 | By KNews | Filed Under News

- but yet to name specific locations on US$7M projects

Following the page three comment in yesterday’s edition of Kaieteur News seeking the costs on 34 contracts and detailed description on the US$7 million contracts, the Ministry of Agriculture yesterday released the individual costs on the 34 contracts.
However, it did not heed the request for detailed descriptions of three contracts worth US$7 million and the specific locations where the works are to be executed.
Now that we have received the costing of the 34 contracts that were listed, which appear to be a further US$4.1 million, we are also requesting specific details on the works which are expected to be executed under these contracts.
Should this information be provided, we would be able to effectively carry out our duty of policing the execution of these contracts.
We await further details.
Below is the list of the contracts and estimated costs.

Agriculture Ministry clears the air on contracts

Agriculture Ministry clears the air on contracts
Guyana Chronicle, 29 July 2009.

IN the past few weeks, the Kaieteur News has deliberately set out to create doubt and suspicion about the award of civil works contracts under the Ministry of Agriculture. We wish to advise that the award of contracts has always been done in a transparent manner. These contracts form part of a master D&I and Agricultural Transformation Plan.

The new administration, following the return of democracy in 1992, recognized the need for a transformation in the way we approach agricultural development. The government was partnered by international financial agencies, in particular, the Inter-American Development Bank [IDB], the World Bank [WB], and the International Fund for Agricultural Development [IFAD] in establishing the paradigm shift.

The early financing set about the development of new policy to create the enabling environment. By this process, autonomous agencies such as the Guyana Lands and Survey Commission and the Forestry Commission were established. Later financing allowed for the creation of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority [NDIA]; and soon, new autonomous livestock development and plant services agencies will be established.

The drainage and irrigation systems that were implemented in the 1960s had been failing because of the lack of maintenance. It was necessary, in preparation for the promotion of non-traditional agriculture for export in fruits and vegetables, beef and aquaculture that will be implemented through the US$21.9 million IDB funded ADP, to rehabilitate the dilapidated drainage and irrigation systems.

This work has started and is being implemented through the Agricultural Support Services Program [ASSP]. The creation of the NDIA and its associated new legislation allows for the delegation of some of NDIA’s authority to Water Users Association [WUAs] in the pilot areas that are being rehabilitated. These are the districts where the ADP is expected to create the greatest impact. The operation and maintenance of the newly rehabilitated D&I systems under the indigenous WUAs are expected to be enhanced by more relevant decision making and the lowering of overhead cost.

The procurement and award of contracts for goods and services are subject to the provisions of the Procurement Act No. 8 of (2003). Generally, the procurement process involves a number of stages which include an identification of what is required (outcome), a competitive bidding process, an evaluation of bids, seeking an award of contract from the relevant authority, and negotiating, if necessary, the details of a contract with the successful bidder. Additionally, all awarded contracts are audited, under the Department which sought the award of contract, by either the Office of the Auditor General or a private audit agency.

The Table below outlines the approving authority for procurement of goods and services in the case of the Ministry of Agriculture:
Value of Goods and Services G$ Approving Authority
Less than 800,000 Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture
1M – 4M [Goods and services] Ministerial Tender Board [MTB]
Greater than 4M [Goods and services] National Procurement and Tender Administration Board [NPTAB]
1M – 8M [Construction] Ministerial Tender Board [MTB]
Greater than 8M [Construction] National Procurement and Tender Administration Board [NPTAB]
Contracts whose value exceed 15M Requires the ‘No Objection’ of the Cabinet

In the case of procurement of civil works, under the Ministry of Agriculture, from funds obtained from international donor agencies and the Government of Guyana, it is mandatory to seek the donor agency’s concurrence at every stage of the procurement process. The Table below provides a general outline of the procurement activities in relation to civil works:
Procurement Activity Funds Obtained from International Donor Agency1 Funds Obtained from Government of Guyana
Publication of Bid in local and international media Requires the no objection of Donor, MTB or NPTAB Requires the no objection of the MTB or the NPTAB
Public Opening of Bids MTB or NPTAB MTB or NPTAB
Appointment of Bid Evaluation Committee MTB or NPTAB MTB or NPTAB
Evaluation of Bids 3 members of a Committee appointed by the MTB or NPTAB 3 members of a Committee appointed by the MTB or NPTAB
Recommendations to Award Contract by Evaluation Committee No Objection to award is required from Donor and MTB or NPTAB and Cabinet in the case of awards greater than G$15M No Objection to award is required from MTB or NPTAB and Cabinet in the case of awards greater than G$15M
Notification of award to successful Contractor Done by the Agriculture Sector Development Unit [ASDU] Done by relevant Department of the Ministry of Agriculture
Commencement Order Done by the Agriculture Sector Development Unit [ASDU] Done by relevant Department of the Ministry of Agriculture
Works begin Done by the Agriculture Sector Development Unit [ASDU] Done by relevant Department of the Ministry of Agriculture
Supervision of Contractor Done by Supervision Firm awarded [separately] contract to supervise works Done by Supervision Firm awarded [separately]contract to supervise works
Closure of Contract Done by ASDU and Supervision Firm Done by Department and Supervision Firm
Retention Period ASDU and Supervision Firm Department and Supervision Firm
Final Closure of Contract ASDU and Supervision Firm Department and Supervision Firm

May differ from agency to agency or not applicable at all.

The Ministry of Agriculture has established the ASDU to manage projects funded by international lending agencies. To date, there are two projects funded by the IDB – the Agricultural Support Services Program (ASSP) and the Agricultural Export Diversification Program (ADP). The Conservancy Adaptation Project [CAP] is funded by the Special Climate Change Fund of the Global Environment Facility and is being managed by the World Bank. The following civil works contracts have been awarded under the various projects:
Project Awarded Contract Contract Value Contractor
ASSP – Civil Works Lot1 – Rehab of Control Structures and Access Roads, Vergeneogen/Bonasika and Den Amstel G$385,716,293 Roopan Ramotar Investments Inc
Lot 2 - Rehab of Control Structures and Access Roads, Vreed-en-Hoop/La Jalousie G$267,261,143 BK International Inc
Lot 3 - Rehab of Control Structures and Access Roads, GoldenGrove/Victoria G$202,006,063 Roopan Ramotar Investments Inc
Lot 4- Rehab of Control Structures and Access Roads, Crabwood Creek G$308,697,103 BK International Inc
ASSP – Supervision of Civil Works Lot1 – Supervision of Civil Works, Vergeneogen/Bonasika and Den Amstel G$24,259,800 SRKN’gineering
Lot 2 - Supervision of Civil Works, Vreed-en-Hoop/La Jalousie G$14,524,200 SRKN’gineering
Lot 3 - Supervision of Civil Works, GoldenGrove/Victoria G$14,524,200 SRKN’gineering
Lot 4- Supervision of Civil Works, Crabwood Creek G$23,028,300 SRKN’gineering
CAP - Rehabilitation of Lama Sluice G$49,300,000 A&S General Contacting Inc.

The IDB funded projects under the ASDU are audited by the audit firm of Ram &McRae, of which the principal partner is well known media columnist Mr. Christopher Ram. Other agencies and departments under the Ministry of Agriculture are audited by the Office of the Auditor General as well as subject to regular reviews by the Public Accounts Committee. Other agencies and departments under the Ministry of Agriculture such as the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority [NDIA] are audited by the Office of the Auditor General.

Information that is being requested on contracts is available on the NPTAB, IDB and Ministry of Agriculture websites. One must therefore question the sincerity or competence of the journalists that prepared the sensational stories in the press. Can we describe this as genuine reporting?

For a very long time, the Office of the Auditor General has not had cause for concern with the implementation of the significant amount of capital works implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Permanent Secretary
Ministry of Agriculture

Arson then and now

Arson then and now

Posted By Stabroek staff On July 26, 2009 @ 5:04 am In Letters | 11 Comments

Dear Editor,
The media reports of the gruesome and barbarous treatment meted out to Mr Troy Small who, it seems, had come under suspicion of burning down the Ministry of Health, have prompted me to make the following observation.

In the early hours of the morning of July 11, 1979, I, along with a number of other WPA leaders and associates, including Walter Rodney, Omawale, and Kwame Apata, were arrested on suspicion of burning down the Office of the General Secretary of the PNC and Ministry of National Development. Over the next day or two, the list of those arrested expanded to include Bonita Harris, Karen DeSouza, Maurice Odle and Davo Nandlall. That morning I was taken to Eve Leary and held in the Operations Room of the Crime Prevention Unit, popularly known as the Death Squad. I remained there for 3 days and was interrogated on two occasions. Apart from the discomfort of being handcuffed behind my back for a night, I suffered no physical abuse. The other comrades who were held at other police stations around the country experienced no physical abuse. Three days later, in response to writs of habeas corpus, we were placed before the Magistrate’s Court where Walter, Omawale and I were charged with arson and released on bail.

Mr Troy Small’s misfortune is that he came under suspicion of having committed the crime of arson not in the dark night of dictatorship but in the bright noon of democracy.
Yours faithfully,
Rupert Roopnaraine
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Monday, July 27, 2009

Full-time MPs needed for parliament oversight - Carberry

Stabroek News news item, Monday 27 July 2009 - "Full-time MPs needed for parliament oversight - Carberry" -

Full-time MPs are needed for effective parliamentary oversight, Opposition Chief Whip Lance Carberry says.

Addressing a working session of the 34th Annual Regional Conference of the Caribbean, the Americas and the Atlantic Region of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), at the Guyana Inter-national Conference Centre, recently, Carberry said the evolution of a vibrant committee system in Guyana has demonstrated the need for Members of Parliament to function almost on a full-time basis. “The reality is that the establishment of the committee system has proven to be very challenging, since like in most Caribbean territories they operate on a part-time basis,” he explained. “This is obviously a matter which must be confronted if the system is to allow the National Assembly to exercise an effective oversight function.” Full-time MPs had been previously called for by Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran.

In a presentation on “Strengthening Parliaments within the Region,” Carberry emphasised the importance of strengthening institutional capacity, systems and procedures which “promote effective oversight” of the executive and “ensure their accountability” to the people. He said the ultimate objective is good governance, underpinned by the observation of the rule of law. He recalled US President’s Barack Obama’s recent address to the Ghanaian parliament, where it was noted that “capable, reliable and transparent” institutions are the key to success, including strong parliaments, honest police forces, independent judges, an independent press, a vibrant private sector and a civil society.

In this regard, Carberry noted that constitutional reforms have strengthened Guyana’s parliamentary system, particularly in the area of the promotion of good governance. He noted the constitutional reforms ushered in by the Herdmanston Accord and the St. Lucia Agreement, and in particular the advent of Article 13, which speaks to the establishment of an inclusionary democracy by providing increasing opportunities for the participation of citizens, and their organizations in the management and decision-making processes of the state. “This is of tremendous importance,” Carberry added, “And a major challenge for the delivery of governance in Guyana.”

But he added that evaluating the success of the reforms would depend on the expeditious implementation of the constitutional changes, paying particular attention to the spirit and intention of the reforms. He pointed out that it is not enough to establish committees that are “not endowed with the resources and institutional support” to enable them to discharge their mandates effectively.

Carberry added that it is “inconsistent” with the idea of “separation of powers” for any legislature to be a “budget agency” under the executive. “The legislature ought to be independent and therefore… ought to make decisions which in fact promote the development of the legislative system,” he added, “And because the legislative system has the responsibility for oversight, and ensuring that governments are accountable, it is very important that they are independent of the executive, I don’t think there is any arguing about that.”

A number of issues related to the autonomy of the parliament, including its staffing and its budget, are still before a select committee reviewing the major recommendations of the Sir Michael Davies needs assessment and the World Bank-funded Guyana Fiduciary Oversight Project report for implementation. The Guyana Fiduciary Oversight Project Final Framework and Guidelines Report had recommended that the Parliament employ its own staff and that the Speaker should appoint the Clerk after consultations with all parties. A similar recommendation for the Parliament to have control of its staffing had also been made in the assessment by Sir Michael Davies. Both studies were conducted during the seventh and eighth parliaments and major reforms were adopted by the National Assembly.

The committee, which has an extended deadline of August this year, is currently examining the mechanism through which the Parliament Office would begin to employ its own staff. The special select committee was also charged by the Assembly with examining the current constitutional arrangement for the appointment of the Clerk and advising whether there is need for a change and what it should be. The committee was appointed by a resolution of the Assembly, dated January 11, 2007.

The delay in completing the committee’s work has prompted criticism that the government is filibustering. PNCR-1G MP Winston Murray said in a recent interview that the committee meets infrequently and the government members have said “unofficially” that they are not prepared to give up control. “What they want to do is to reopen the issue,” he explained, saying that the committee has no such mandate since the National Assembly has already adopted the recommendation and agreed to implementation. “We are past that mandate, we are past that point, we are [there] to decide how we may achieve that objective and what recommendations we want to put to the National Assembly and also to recommend any constitutional changes that may be necessary,” Murray added.

A senior government official whom this newspaper approached emphasised that the committee work takes time and that costs were also a concern of the administration that needed to be addressed. Also, officially the government has said while it agrees to the recommendation that the Parliament be in control of its own budget, it is concerned that “control by the parliament does not threaten the integrity of the Government’s established mechanisms for ensuring responsible fiscal management.”

Sir Michael had found that the Assembly has no power to appoint, dismiss or promote the staff that works for it; rather, it is the function of the Public Service Commission. Sir Michael called it “astonishing,” saying it could lead to “undesirable consequences.” He noted that some staff had not had their appointments confirmed after several years in the post, despite several letters from the Clerk asking for their appointment to be confirmed. Additionally, he had found that half the staff had been employed on a temporary basis.

The Government has identified improvement of Fiduciary Oversight as an important aspect of its work on development of good governance. Thirty recommendations for improving fiduciary oversight through strengthening of the National Assembly, the Financial Sector and the Integrity Commission were adopted by stakeholders for implementation.

As a result, the reforms aimed to strengthen the National Assembly as a Fiduciary Oversight body, through capacity building for special committees, including the Public Accounts and Economic Service Commit-tees and the Management Committee of Parliament.



Posted By Stabroek staff On July 26, 2009 @ 5:01 am In Editorial | 11 Comments

Events in the Co-operative Republic are taking a sinister turn. If it wasn’t bad enough that the Ministry of Health was destroyed by arsonists, we now have the mysterious death of David Leander, called ‘Biscuit’ in a public hospital, and the torture of Mr Troy Small by a group of persons unknown, one of whom he alleges, was in GDF uniform. And this, it has been reported, was because the torturers seemed to think that Mr Small was in some way connected to the Ministry of Health fire. From the video footage shown on the local newscasts, his injuries looked horrendous, and even the most uninformed citizen would have no difficulty in concluding that he should have been admitted to hospital. But at this point Mr Small won’t go to the Georgetown Public Hospital for treatment because, this newspaper was told, he is afraid. And why shouldn’t he be, considering what has happened to him and given that there are unanswered questions surrounding Mr Leander’s death – and, it might be added, the earlier one of phantom squad member, Mr Mark Thomas, also in the GPH.

In fact, Mr Small is even nervous about seeking in-patient treatment at a private hospital. That too is understandable, since which institution public or private could guarantee his safety in these times? He has now reached the stage where he is afraid to speak further to the media, and what this newspaper learned had to be gleaned from a relative. It is testimony to the extent of the decline in the rule of law that those charged with protecting us not only lack the capacity to do so, but harbour some among their ranks who themselves constitute a real danger to citizens’ safety.

In this particular instance, the police have said they had nothing to do with dragging Mr Small while he was half out of a vehicle, and beating him in an attempt to extract a ‘confession.’ The finger, it seems, has again been pointed at the army. If the GDF was indeed in any way connected with this torture, it would not be the first time, since there have been allegations previously involving the torture of their own ranks as well as of civilians.

The first thing, therefore, that the government has to clarify is exactly who was involved in the torture of Mr Small. Was it only members of the army, and if so, how come they took it upon themselves to arrest a citizen in the course of an investigation when they have no powers to do so? If only one (or some) member (or members) of the army was present, then who were the other men dressed in mufti? Were they plain clothes ranks from the police force? If they were, it would legitimize the apprehension of Mr Small, but certainly not his treatment. And if there were persons there who were not from the military or the police, just who were they? Are we back to private forces operating outside the law? The identity of Mr Small’s torturers, among other things, is a matter of immediate concern to the citizenry, and if the government seeks to restore any of its credibility, it needs to ensure that the public receives answers and that appropriate action is taken thereafter.

The identity of the torturers should also be a matter of immediate concern to the hierarchy of the GDF, since it is hard to imagine that the senior officer corps could possibly condone torture committed by any of their personnel. If they do not, but it turns out that in defiance of orders there are men under their command who are guilty of it, then it suggests they might not be fully in control of the force. If they are fully in control, then they should investigate these allegations right away. If, however, there are persons at work inside the military who are answering to elements outside the military, then Commander Best and his team have a problem, and so does the public in general. A fragmented army is one which ultimately will not be subject to central control, with all that that implies. And an army which becomes associated with torture at the very least will lose respect, will suffer a decline in morale and will be ill-equipped to do the job it is supposed to do.

Unfortunately the government has a very poor record in terms of addressing the nation’s questions about gross violations of this kind. The President routinely at press conferences when this subject is raised harangues the independent media on their obsession with the rights of criminals, rather than the rights of victims. Never mind that his remarks leave him open to a charge of disinterest in how suspects are treated by law enforcement, which could be misinterpreted by some members of the agencies concerned to mean an implicit sanction for maltreatment.

And the matter has not been handled any better by other ministers. In instances where both army personnel and civilians were the victims of torture at the hands of the GDF, government spokesmen have simply refused to acknowledge that the cases had substance. Minister Robert Persaud on the strength of an internal defence force report on the army ranks who were tortured in the course of an investigation into missing weapons, got up in Parliament and talked glibly about ‘roughing up,’ not torture. It was a disgraceful performance for a minister in a democratic state, not to mention the fact that no one satisfactorily explained to the public what the Minister of Agriculture was doing speaking for the government on security matters. Exactly when was his agriculture portfolio, one might ask, expanded to encompass the Guyana Defence Force?

The government has given the impression – perhaps unintentionally – that they believe thorough investigations may have to involve extra-legal interrogation methods. If they do not, now is the time to make their position clear. Human rights issues aside, it is acknowledged by experts in the Western world that torture is a most ineffective method of obtaining accurate information, and if that is true everywhere else, why on earth is the administration appearing to hang on to outdated assumptions? The Ministry of Health fire must be thoroughly investigated, but if the only method of inquiry law enforcement has at its disposal is torture, then the likelihood of the arson being solved is remote. Furthermore, it would just indicate that there is little willingness on the part of the authorities to do what is necessary to make law enforcement truly effective in confronting crime.

Needless to say, there has been no official investigation into the earlier civilian cases involving torture, including that of Mr Leander himself, who was beaten so badly – allegedly by the police in that instance – that he could not walk into court. The least that can be said is that it is extraordinary that the party now in office, which came through the Burnham years, seems not to have a grasp of what constitutes a violation of human rights, what constitutes torture, and what is required of a government in a democracy. How is it possible that things which were unacceptable to the PPP under the PNC, are perfectly acceptable now that they are in office? Just what is going on?

It is not as if they have not been voluble on the topic of mistreatment and torture in other places. Go through the back issues of the Mirror and there will be endless column inches on the Pinochet regime and its torturing ways in Chile as well as those of right-wing military governments elsewhere, and even more recently, on US treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo. This latter example, it might be noted, was given space in the late Mrs Jagan’s weekly columns on more than one occasion. So here we have a total disconnect requiring some kind of psychological explanation: why can the governing party recognize torture when it occurs outside our borders, but cannot recognize it within? Is this a case of some strange dissociative disease, or is it something more familiar? Is it, after all, just old-fashioned hypocrisy?
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Torture, plain and simple

Torture, plain and simple

Posted By Stabroek staff On July 27, 2009 @ 5:01 am In Editorial | 6 Comments

There is a familiar theme to the story as told by Mr Troy Small who was “questioned” in relation to the Ministry of Health fire: rogue elements in the joint services, with or without official sanction, continue to run amok. The nexus with the joint services clearly begins with the handing over of the severely beaten Mr Small to the Alberttown Police Station. Some policeman there must have interfaced with the beaters and must be in a position to elucidate who they were or answer why he/she did not invite these persons to also enjoy the hospitality of the police station while it was determined whether or not they should be charged for the condition that Mr Small was found in.

The fact that the latter did not occur would suggest that whoever received Mr Small at Alberttown was fully satisfied that his handlers were “cleared” to do whatever they did and their behaviour was not to be examined. The occurrence book at the police station and the officer in charge at the time would be exceedingly useful in the investigation to come and the police should avail themselves fully to answer the questions that arise.

It may well be that the intelligence of the joint services was spot on and that there were helpful things that Mr Small could have told them about the Health Ministry fire. What was however completely repugnant were the methods that were used to interrogate him: brute force, ignorance and criminality. They amount to torture, plain and simple.

It is not as if this subject is an unfamiliar one to the state as we pointed out in yesterday’s editorial. There have been over the last three or four years multiple, credible complaints about members of the Joint Services engaged in the most mind-numbing brutality. Among the more credible accounts were those narrated by soldiers Michael Dunn, Alvin Wilson and Sharth Robertson. What made these even more chilling was that the acts were said to have been conducted within Camp Ayanganna, the headquarters of the Guyana Defence Force, by members of the Military Criminal Investigation Department who were reportedly responsive to directions from persons within the Office of the President. Despite the solemn promises by the state that these allegations would be properly investigated, reported on and the necessary disciplinary procedures meted out, the ensuing report was not edifying and the perpetrators were slapped on the wrist, if at all, apparently without their licence to brutalize being taken away.

Prior to this, a series of other allegations had been made by three East Coast men including David Leander aka `Biscuit’ who has since passed away in hospital in still unexplained circumstances. Two other men, Patrick Sumner and Victor Jones had alleged torture at the hands of the Joint Services over a three-day period along the highway. So cavalier was the response of the state to these allegations that a proper investigation is still to be done.

Even more damning were the allegations made by Edward Niles before he passed away after a beating at the prisons. As recently as May this year, two Lindeners alleged brutality while in the custody of the police and were able to display evidence of welts. They were subsequently charged but there has been no investigation of their torture complaints.

The elemental truth about these horrific cases is that the torture is being applied because the Joint Services remains incapable of carrying out incisive interrogations and credible investigations. So, the beaten confession remains the technique of choice and it was one of these which was ironically thrown out recently in the case against Mr Leander for the murder of Minister Sash Sawh and three others. And the more the torture is applied the less cooperative ordinary members of the public and snitches are leading to even more torture. When will this vicious circle be severed?

What the public must understand is that a blind eye to the torture of people, who some may believe are of little consequence to society, endangers each and every one of us in the seconds that tick by after the atrocity. The same rogues involved in the torture will quite easily be streamed and recruited to conduct their business in various directions as the evolution of the death squad showed. So, no one should believe that dastardly acts such as those committed on Mr Lewis and others cocoon them from crime and the infringement of their rights. They are less protected.

Aside from self-preservation, Guyana subscribes to a core of principles which were constructed out of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. One of the principal treaties is the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Guyana made its inaugural submission to the Committee Against Torture after a 17-year delay and its submission was considered in November 2006. The Committee then issued its concluding observations in December of that year which addressed a range of issues including claims of torture.

The Committee expressed concern at the lack of statistics on cases of torture, the complaints tendered, convictions of perpetrators and compensation provided to victims of torture. It made the following recommendation: “The State party (Guyana) should provide in its next periodic report detailed statistical data, disaggregated by crime, ethnicity and gender, on complaints relating to torture and ill-treatment allegedly committed by law enforcement officials, and on the related investigations, prosecutions and criminal and disciplinary sanctions. Information is further requested on any measures taken to compensate and provide rehabilitation services for the victims”.

The second periodic report which should have contained Guyana’s response was due by December 31, 2008 but there has been no information on if this has been tendered. What is known, however, is that the government has failed to deliver to its populace the results of detailed investigations into the cases of torture and the sanctions that have been applied against those found guilty. It would seem that the government intends to pick and choose which of its international obligations it will adhere to and the Convention Against Torture is one that it appears determined to flout.

None of the declamations against torture offered by the Minister of Home Affairs or any other government official will amount to anything unless they address these complaints of torture frontally and have those guilty of these acts punished to the fullest extent of the law. Further, if the hierarchy of the police, the army and the prison service are intent on securing public opinion in their favour then they, too, must root out torture and prosecute torturers. Finally, there must be a recognition by both the ministry and the services that the reason for the almost reflexive fall back to torture on occasions such as the Health Ministry fire and the discovery of a gun in the prison is the corruption in the services and the inability to properly investigate and gather actionable intelligence. There must be a fundamental change in the outlook of the joint services for these deficiencies to be addressed. Until then Mr Small and all other citizens remain at risk.
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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mediation likely to improve with new civil procedure rules

Guyana Chronicle news item, Tuesday 21 July 2009 - "Mediation likely to improve with new civil procedure rules" -

By Nadia Guyadeen

Over the years, there have been a growing number of backlog cases in the Supreme Court, especially as it relates to civil matters.

As a result, mediation was introduced as a mechanism to settle disputes outside the courtroom.

Mediation, a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), aims at assisting two or more disputants in reaching an agreement. The parties themselves determine the conditions of any settlement reached rather than accepting something imposed by a third party.

Mediators use appropriate techniques and/or skills to open and/or improve dialogue between disputants, aiming to help the parties reach an agreement on the disputed matter.

However, mediation in Guyana is not used to its full potential, as there are thousands of cases before the High Court and very few of them are referred to mediation.

One of the reasons suggested for this is that mediation is not mandatory; and due to the litigious nature of Guyanese, a number of petty matters are taken before the court rather than going to mediation.

Under the current system, a judge can suggest mediation but the parties have to agree to try it.

But new Civil Procedure Rules are being formulated in which mediation becomes an integral part of the litigation process, in that it will be mandatory.

Under the new rules, the judge can direct that the parties avail themselves of mediation.

Also, the new rules will include case management. This newspaper understands that at the case management stage, the judge, in his discretion, can send a matter to the mediation centre.

Persons in the legal profession believe that once mediation becomes an algebraic step in the litigation process, the accumulation of backlog cases will be avoided and it will speed up the litigation process.

Mindset shift

A prominent Guyanese attorney told this newspaper that mediation has been working well in other jurisdictions, but expressed the opinion that for it to work in Guyana, there is need for a cultural shift in the mind set of persons.

According to him, in addition to the mind set shift of the litigants, lawyers will also have to adapt the same attitude towards the procedure.

He added that there are a vast number of lawyers and only so many cases to be divided, and as a result, they often encourage their clients to go before the courts.

He noted that there needs to be a fundamental change in the approach to mediation and people will need to accept it as a necessary process.

The lawyer also contended that mediators need to play a more proactive role. However, as it currently is, a mediator cannot give directions but serves the purpose of keeping order while parties discuss the disputed matter.

Unfortunately, this does not change under the new civil procedures rules.

According to the lawyer, mediation is essential since the 12 High Court judges are not enough to handle the large number of cases.

There will be several other major changes under the new rules which are highly technical.

For instance, a writ will be referred to as a claim form, there will no longer be bail court, pleadings will change, and the administrative process of the case will be in the control of the judge and not the registry.

The new rules will bring Guyana in line with the rest of the Caribbean. Since the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) will be the final court of appeal for CARICOM countries, there was the need to rationalise Guyana’s procedures so it will be in sync with the rest of the Caribbean.

The rules of court will be similar if not identical to those in the rest of the Caribbean, so the CCJ will not have to look at each country’s individual rules.

It also simplifies teaching in law school.


The overall objective is that the mediation process will mitigate the backlog which currently exists in the court system.

Statistics acquired from the Supreme Court show that 6037 civil cases were filed for 2008. Of those, 4,448 were concluded, leaving 1,589 pending.

The remaining cases will be added to the 21,366 civil cases backlog which existed at the end of 2007.

There is also a backlog in the court of appeal as it relates to matters in both the civil and criminal jurisdictions.

According to the Supreme Court’s annual report for 2007, in its criminal jurisdiction, 23 appeals were filed in 2007, to which must be added 38 pending from 2006. Of this number, 10 were concluded, leaving 51 pending for 2008.

In its civil jurisdiction, 133 appeals were filed in 2007, to which must be added 422 pending from 2006, making a total of 555. Of this number, 35 were concluded, leaving 520 pending for 2008.

Of the pending 422 civil appeals, 22 were to be uplifted by Attorneys-at-law for the Appellants to prepare and file the respective Records of Appeal. Fifteen were awaiting the Records of Appeal to be filed; 13 are waiting for records to be settled, and 24 are awaiting fixtures.

There were 42 chamber applications filed in 2007, to which must be added three pending from 2006. Of this number, 10 were concluded and left 35 pending for 2008.

In 2007, 28 complaints were filed against attorneys-at-law by clients for hearing before the Legal Practitioners' Committee. To this number was added the pending 40 matters from 2006, making a total of 68 complaints to be heard.

Of this number, 16 were completed, and reports for eight of these are to be written and sent to the Chancellor and the Attorney General for disciplinary action to be taken. There was a pending backlog of five complaints to be heard in 2008

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Elizabeth Daly, brainless ghostwriter, on remittances

Carping against remittances is brainless
July 16, 2009 | By Christopher | Filed Under Letters

Dear Editor,
It is distasteful to see people like Gerhard Ramsaroop and others writing against a financial source for development; and I am still trying to comprehend their reasoning behind their hypercritical writings. Gerhard Ramsaroop and others are comparing remittances with other financial sources for developing countries; instead, they should try and see remittances as a complementary financial source.
It is impossible to ignore the positives remittances offer to the development of poor nations like Guyana. The reality is that, developing countries depend on remittances as one financial source, especially for the benefit of their people, and also the spin offs from the multiplier effects are important.

We must note that remittances are not the only financial source for developing countries, since we also depend on other important sources, such as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and official development assistance. Remittances should be viewed as another branch on the tree of financial sources complementing the other financial branches with the objective to produce ripe financial fruits. The multiplier effect of remittances should be promoted and any negative spin on the positives of remittances is obtuse. Today, nitpickers are trying to contend that remittances only benefit pro-government people; I must say, this thinking has reached the peak of ignorance.
Remittances have been claimed as not being critical towards the development of Guyana. It is obvious that this flawed rationale for remittances, which are seen as competing with other financial avenues; instead, it must be seen as a complementing financial source working together with the other sources to achieve long-term growth and development for the country. Remittances are more stable than private capital flows and in the recipient country it is less affected by economic cycles.

When people spend remittances on basic needs, retail sales are boosted, which will lead to an increase in demand for more goods and services, which in turn will fuel output and unemployment. Remittances should be seen as a tool used to balance the inequalities caused by the decline in output experienced by developing countries, loss of trade opportunities and emigration.
These nitpickers who shun their light against remittances deliberately fail to acknowledge the positives of remittances to the developing world. In 2005, the Caribbean recorded a total of US$6.4 billion making remittances the second largest source of foreign finance for the region after private capital flows.
Remittances can boost a country’s Gross National Product (GNP) and can assist by reducing the shortage of foreign exchange, counterbalancing the balance of payments (BOP) deficits. The positive outcomes of remittances on production, inflation and imports will depend on how they are spent and invested.

Migrant remittances are a very stable financial source for developing countries and even though they might not be as important as FDIs, they do however, surpass the amount of FDIs received, development assistance, and capital market flows. And remittances are beginning in countries like India, China, Jamaica, etc., to be perceived as a long-term development tool; and some of the more relatively recent recipients of remittances, like Guyana, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, are restructuring aspects of their financial system to make remittances more attractive to donors in the Diaspora; and this would include creating banking incentives that would be mutually attractive to both donors and recipients.
Remittances help to reduce poverty, level consumption, create jobs, provide working capital, etc. It also affords people living in developing country to invest in human capital, such as, education, health and better nutrition. Remittances are fast becoming a development tool for long-term development.
Elizabeth Daly

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Remittances and the ghost writers club

The loss of human capital will make it difficult to harness remittances for the purpose of spurring national development

Posted By Stabroek staff On July 14, 2009 @ 5:06 am In Letters | 19 Comments

Dear Editor,
There is an interesting discussion underway with reference to remittances and their impact on our economy, and I have been reading Dr Prem Misir, Emile Mervin, Dr Tarron Khemraj (in particular his SN column, July 8) and a recent letter by one Kimberly James on this issue (KN and GC July 10). I rather suspect the latter to be from the Ghost-writers Club (GC). Kimberly James’ arguments are text book and coherent, with the exception of one off-target insinuation that there is someone out there that spits on remittances. In my reading I cannot figure out who is meant by that remark, clearly meant to target someone – that notwithstanding, the general thrust of ‘her’ letter is worth responding to.
Unfortunately, I did not ascertain any effort on Dr Misir’s part, nor Ms James’, in dealing with Guyana’s country specifics as Dr Khemraj did. General references were made by Dr Misir to India, China, Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean, and by Ms James to the Eastern Europe and Central Asia (ECA) region, citing Egypt, India, Mexico, Portugal and Turkey as the countries that have incorporated remittances as a developmental tool for long-term sustainable development.

Guyana is quite unlike these countries in many ways, and India in particular has a surplus of engineers and other professional, first-rate engineering and business schools, and first-rate universities such as the University of Delhi. Guyana on the other hand, has a struggling university that does not serve our national interest as it could, and exports 83% of its skilled population. We therefore have an extreme dearth of engineers and professionals that is becoming ever increasingly profound with each departing flight out of CBJ, Timehri. Clearly, this ongoing haemorrhage of human capital will make harnessing remittances most difficult to spur national development – more especially, in the bid to serve long-term goals.

Presently, remittances are not causing large-scale production as there is no mechanism that mobilizes the small amounts to a large investment even though in aggregate, remittances exceed FDIs (Foreign Direct Investments). I was therefore most relieved that so far I couldn’t glean any disagreement in the discussion that FDIs are less important than remittances. However, given the present global economic situation exacerbated by our local state of corruption, crime, unreliable and insufficient electrical power and a lack of skills, it is not entirely surprising that FDIs are not easy to come by.

I find also Ms James’ multiplier argument to be very weak in our specific circumstances because of the high levels of imports (consumer goods, fuels and lubricants). This simply means that a lot of the foreign exchange gained from remittances is pretty much repatriated immediately, as opposed to being stimulatingly utilised within our economy. Again, under these Guyana specific circumstances, one wonders on the effectiveness of long-term remittances policies without sufficiently addressing this. The government has however become proactive on the alternative energy issue, albeit belatedly, and I do look forward to their success.
I doubt whether there would be any opposition from sensible quarters to me saying that it would be profoundly better for us to try to keep our skills at home, as opposed to relying on these persons to send what they can from the countries they are helping to build, such as Trinidad and Barbados (the latter which most abhorrently harasses and shows disdain for us because of our own disgraceful domestic situation).

I am worried about us resting on our laurels just because remittances have become so high – World Bank estimates place it at a little over 20% of our GDP, while other estimates that include barrels and hand delivered cash, are as high as 40%. I believe unharnessed remittances contribute to our social ills, one of which can be exemplified by the prevalence of the street corner limer who is reluctant to work, and often has other socially debilitating vices. Another social ill stems from the ruling elite and friends having ready access to the increased foreign exchange garnered from remittances to support their lifestyle. Their type of living is an incentive to crime and corruption as other sections of the society feel the urge to do likewise (no longer seeing the virtues of hard work and honest living). These local phenomena would be most appropriate for UG to research.

Foreign economic downturns and remittance fatigue (which I predict if social values continue to spiral downward) could cause shocks to our economy. We would without doubt be better off not being as reliant on remittances as we are now, and I would be careful about loudly touting the benefits while so much else is left undone – especially the shortage of human capital.

I am most certainly not knocking remittances, nor the potential to further our development, and I commend both Ms James and Dr Khemraj for presenting ideas on harnessing them. Dr Khemraj urges the government to come up with a comprehensive plan to engage the diaspora which can include knowledge transfer (brain gain or brain circulation), inward diaspora investments, and even special diaspora financial products (it therefore could not have been him that spat on remittances, and I would be grateful, if Ms James could qualify her statement). Ms James proposes financial incentive schemes to increase the volume of remittances via commercial banks, matching the development investments of migrant associations with government funds, and improving the investment climate for small and medium enterprises. She is also keen to engage the diaspora. However, as Dr Khemraj noted, the main constraint is the lack of business investment demand, which goes back to the shortage of human capital.

I would be most interested in Dr Misir’s take on the specific issues raised, since he can give a clearer idea of the government’s strategy to deal with our local specifics. Remittances have been significant for quite a few years now and since it is better late than never, kudos to the government for finally lending some thought to its harnessing – the AFC, almost four years ago, had made this a pivotal part of its elections campaign.
Yours faithfully,
Gerhard Ramsaroop
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Monday, July 13, 2009

President Jagdeo, Patrice Lumumba University and an alleged superiority?

Could Mr. Mc Coy define the President’s superiority?
July 13, 2009 | By Renee | Filed Under Letters

Dear Editor,

I refer to an article in the on line edition of the Guyana Chronicle, July 11th, 2009, headed “AFC’s electioneering strategy” in which reference was made to statements made by the President’s Press and Publicity Officer on the question of the invitation to debate the President issued by Mr. Raphael Trotman, AFC’s leader.

Mr. Mc Coy is reported as saying, the President “…would only accept a challenge to debate an intellectual equal. Someone of less mental stature would not present enough of a challenge….and thus the exercise would be a time-wasting one.”

I am curious to find out if it is the birth of the President at Unity, Mahaica, his attendance at Bygeval High School, followed by his attendance at Patrice Lumumba University, thereafter his employment at the State Planning Secretariat under the guidance of Mr. Haslyn Paris, followed by his appointment as Junior Finance Minister, later Finance Minister, and subsequently his anointment as presidential candidate of the PPP based on his youth, are the bases which conferred upon him the status of intellectual or intellectual superior?

I must confess that the publication of the President’s research papers, recognition as leader in his field and his outstanding and unmatched contributions in the fields of some defined academic endeavour, have escaped me.

Further, could Mr. Mc Coy say whether the President’s intellectual superiority is inherent in his, status at birth, religion, ethnicity or caste?

I look forward to Mr. Mc Coy’s enlightenment on this matter.

Lin-Jay Harry-Voglezon

Saturday, July 11, 2009

President Jagdeo and drug lords

Jagdeo refuses public debate with Trotman
July 11, 2009 | By osafo | Filed Under News

President Bharrat Jagdeo does not debate with political aspirants, such as those residing in the Alliance For Change, especially since they do not command widespread support among the Guyanese public.
This is according to a statement issued by Press Officer for the president, Kwame Mc Coy, who in a statement last evening said that President Jagdeo is only inclined to debate with his equals.
Raphael Trotman

Raphael Trotman

“The President would hope that the AFC come clean on the matters he (Jagdeo) publicly raised, implicating the leadership of that party in shading dealings.”
Mc Coy was responding to an open challenge to the President for a public debate on his constant allegations against the party as it relates to affiliations to drug dealers.
Trotman was hoping for a debate where, he said, the facts and evidence could be presented before the public by both the President and the AFC leader.
The AFC leader, in the party press briefing, expressed his disappointment that the nation’s Head of State has nothing better to do than “to blatantly accuse the AFC of baseless statements while failing to disclose to the nation the massive Government corruption as evident by the numerous Auditor General and International reports.”
The President continues to try to link the term “drug money” to the AFC, when all in the local and the international communities are aware of this false accusation, Trotman said.
“The President needs to clean his own house before throwing stones at others. The Roger Khan saga has seen his Government and Ministers named as part of the drug system, while no major drug lord has been prosecuted in Guyana.”
According to Trotman, the Minister of Home Affairs and the Police Commissioner have said that they will wait until the US shares information before starting any investigation on the drug convicts that have confessed.
“These same individuals operated for many years in Guyana prior to their arrest by US authorities, and were seen in the presence of the Head of State and other senior officials. The President must come clean on what he knows about those drug lords and his Government’s involvement.”
He noted that the President, up to now, has failed to answer queries about the hundreds of citizens that were killed by ‘phantom gangs’ and for the many who have been tortured by ranks of the Joint forces.
He added that the National Drug Policy has been shelved and no implementation plans are evident.
“Why is this so? What does the Government have to hide?”
Trotman added that the President has now taken his remarks to a personal level against the Leader of the AFC and the party’s Chairman Ramjattan.
“These are libelous remarks that will be addressed in a court of law.”
It was pointed out that Jagdeo needs to put his Government in order or face corruption charges.
“He demonstrates on a daily basis why he is not fit to run our nation. If he would spend as much energy as he is expending on the AFC, we may see marked improvements in Guyana.”

Ghost writer, Kimberly James, unable to refute Khemraj on remittances to Guyana

Remittances facilitate long-term development for poor countries
July 10, 2009 | By Ananthsa | Filed Under Letters

Dear Editor,
Guyanese need to understand the importance of remittances and its contribution towards development. The effects of remittances on development are not a one way road, but instead entail both positives and negatives. The trick is to master the art on the utilisation of remittances to sustain long-term development.
Today, developing countries hold high hopes in the benefits that remittances have to offer, and remittances now account for more than 10% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of these countries and are of high importance to their national economies.
Developing countries like Guyana depend on remittances as one factor in its developmental process and this is not wrong. Remittances into Guyana rose from US$29.2 million at the end of 2000 to US$225.9 million at the end of 2006. Remittances account for the second largest source of foreign finance after private capital flows.
Remittances are the major financial source for most developing countries and are key players in cushioning the impact of the economic crisis today. Migrants from developing countries are seen as the providers of human and financial capital to their homelands. Remittances also contribute to positive long-term macroeconomic growth patterns and are a key source of foreign exchange for Caribbean countries.
Being a significant source of foreign exchange, remittances can serve as a pillar to support and improve credit worthiness and access to international capital markets for many countries in the ECA region. Unlike capital flows, remittances do not create debt servicing or other obligations. Instead, they provide financial institutions with access to better financing than might otherwise be available. Remittances are one of the defining factors of exchange rate dynamics in Caribbean and other developing countries and as a consequence create macroeconomic policy in the small economies.
Remittances positively impact poverty and inequality and also influence investment, growth, and macroeconomic stability of developing nations. Remittances supplement national income and aggregate demand as a whole, and can lead to economic growth simply by increasing the migrant’s household income; whether through increased consumption, savings or investments.
Remittances have a positive impact on productivity and employment, both directly and indirectly through their effect on investment and contribute to household income and reducing poverty. Poor families benefit from migrants’ remittances. In the 1990s, Egypt, India, Mexico, Portugal and Turkey were the main remittance-receiving countries; and over the years, these countries have incorporated remittances as a developmental tool for long-term sustainable development.
When migrants invest in their home country, local people benefit and production is stimulated. Remittances are used to cover expenses over food, clothing and healthcare. Funds can be used to improve housing, buy land, repay loans, etc. Even though these investments may seem small, they should be considered as large amounts in absolute terms because of the large and growing amount of remittance transfers. Sending and receiving remittances are not only an economic transaction, but a form of exchange between individuals that takes place in a fairly intricate social context; some may remit for altruistic reasons, while others remit for self-interest.
Because of the growing importance of remittances, Governments need to develop strategies to increase the development effects of remittances.
This should include financial incentive schemes to increase the volume of remittances via commercial banks, matching the development investments of migrant associations with government funds, and improving the investment climate for small and medium enterprises.
The Banking system of developing countries should cater for the implementation of special remittance programmes for their Diaspora members, since remittances are a source of potential profits generated by a rising level of cross-country money transfer business and also serve as a promising channel to reach migrants as regular customers in the future.
Remittances strengthen grassroots banking and have a multiplier effect, providing a host of banking incentives for developing countries; and remittances can access banking conduits in the home countries with attractive incentives to their Diaspora people. This is one way in which banks can use remittances for long-term development.
And so, we must not spit on remittances as if it is wrong because clearly any developing country is dependent on it to maintain a sound macroeconomic environment and to improve the standard of living among the ordinary people. There is more I want to say, but I will leave the rest for another letter.
Kimberly James

Ghost writer, Elizabeth Daly misses the point of T. Khemraj's arguments on remittances to Guyana

Remittances complementing other sources of capital
July 11, 2009 | By Christopher | Filed Under Letters

It is impossible to ignore the positives that remittances offer to the development of poor nations like Guyana. The reality is that, developing countries depend on remittances for the benefit of their people and the spin-offs from the multiplier effects are important.
Remittances are not the only financial source for developing countries, but it should be seen as another branch on the tree complementing the other sources of support. The multiplier effect of remittances should be promoted and any negative spin on the positives of remittances is unintelligent. Today, nitpickers are trying to contend that remittances only benefit pro-government people; I must say, this thinking has reached the peak of ignorance.

Remittances have been claimed as not being critical towards the development of Guyana. It is obvious that this is flawed rationale for remittances, which are seen as competing with other financial avenues; instead, it must be seen as a complementing financial source working together with the other sources to achieve long-term growth and development for the country.
When people spend remittances on basic needs, retail sales are boosted and will then demand more goods and services which will fuel output and unemployment. Remittances should be seen as a tool used to balance the inequalities caused by the decline in output experienced by developing countries, loss of trade opportunities and emigration.

Remittances can boost a country’s Gross National Product and can assist by reducing the shortage of foreign exchange, counterbalancing the balance of payments deficits. The positive outcomes of remittances on production, inflation and imports will depend on how they are spent and invested.
Migrant remittances are a very stable financial source for developing countries and even though they might not be as important as foreign direct investments (FDIs), they do however, surpass the amount of FDIs received, development assistance, and capital market flows.

And remittances are beginning in countries like India, China, Jamaica, etc., to be perceived as a long-term development tool; and some of the more relatively recent recipients of remittances, like Guyana, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, are restructuring aspects of their financial system to make remittances more attractive to donors in the Diaspora; and this would include creating banking incentives that would be mutually attractive to both donors and recipients.
Remittances to developing countries have reduced inequality and poverty and have increased growth and development. They also help to reduce poverty, level consumption, create jobs, provide working capital, etc., and afford people living in developing countries to invest in human capital, such as, education, health and better nutrition. Remittances are fast becoming a tool for long-term development.
Elizabeth Daly

Friday, July 10, 2009

Character assassination and President Jagdeo’s antics

Kaieteur News letter. Character assassination and President Jagdeo’s antics
July 10, 2009 | By Ananthsa | Filed Under Letters

Dear Editor,
It is obvious that the message of the AFC, especially about the massive corruption of the Jagdeo Administration, is sinking in and biting our President deep. Instead of measuring up and dealing with these legitimate issues raised, President Jagdeo in keeping with his intractably undignified demeanour has seen fit to throw muck at our leaders and hope it will stick.
Obviously stung again by a potent paid advertisement during the recent CARICOM Heads meeting here in Guyana, the President lashed out insinuating that the AFC must answer to him concerning the characters who fund the AFC, and how we have not answered about a substantial donation from a drug dealer. We have answered already that we have no association with any drug dealer, nor got any donation - small or substantial - from any drug dealer. The funders are disgusted disgruntled Guyanese, many being former PPP supporters, inside and outside of this country. The entire country, Mr. President, knows which party and leaders deal with and have coffee with drug dealers.
An additional utterance of President Jagdeo insinuates financial wrong-doing and impropriety by me personally. This needs to be responded to. It concerns some duty free concession which he says I sold to my benefit. The innuendo here is that I am dishonest.
I am certain that if indeed there was one iota of illegality or impropriety concerning my several duty free concessions, you Mr. President would have already gotten the enforcement authorities to pounce on me. So, undoubtedly, your effort here is simply to character assassinate. My reputation, which even you use to commend prior to my expulsion from that Party you have now wholly captured, rests on surer foundations.
So what are the relevant facts? When I became a Parliamentarian in 1992 I applied for and obtained concession for a motor vehicle with which I purchased a Nissan Sentra PEE 583. Such a concession is an entitlement which comes every three years for reconditioned vehicles and five years for new vehicles. Five years later I purchased duty-free Mitsibishi Pajero PGG 590 upon another concession obtained in November, 1997.
These are the two vehicles which I sold lawfully and properly after having them for five years and more.
You Mr. President had a hand in persuading me to sell the first of these two vehicles to now Region 6 Chairman, Mr. Z. Mustapha. Remember we were all friends then in September, 2002, when at Freedom House you argued that Zulfi did great work in Berbice and Comrades who are Parliamentarians and who are selling their vehicles should sell at reasonable prices to other Comrades. Remember? I hope you don’t suffer from amnesia. But then again a President who micro-manages like you will have things so cluttered up, you may not remember. And there was everything proper and lawful about this sale to Zulfi for $550,000. I had the car for nine years when I sold it receiving payment by cheque No.100/NBAA 450024250.
The other vehicle, PGG 590, was purchased duty-free in November 1997. My driver during 2000 to 2005, Noel Martindale, can verify my use and possession of this vehicle right up to its sale in August, 2003. He is presently a member of Section K Campbellville PPP Group and was an Executive member of the Georgetown District PPP. I sold this vehicle to P&P Insurers Brokers for $5 million on 14th August, 2003 some six years after its purchase. Payment was made by cheque 100/NBAA160988797. You can get verification of this from the purchaser.
Registration remains in my name because I have had major difficulties to get the Ministerial permission for the dark tint this vehicle was bought with. This permission is needed before you can transfer registration. There was no prohibition about tint when I had bought same in 1997. This prohibition came sometime in late 2002 - early 2003. And my public criticisms of Gajraj around this time ensured that he never gave me this permission. This has remained the position up till now. This has not, however, been a bother with P&P Insurers Brokers, the owner since August 2003.
So all this talk, Mr. President, about me selling a duty-free concession for my benefit is untrue and motivated to tarnish my good name.
What is most disgraceful is that I am now reliably informed, which effectively vindicates my initial guess, that you ordered my Integrity Commission Declaration Forms to peruse these transactions which I declared therein. You then abused the information to assert that I am dishonest.
But it is Your Excellency who is dishonest; with a dishonesty which is unmatched. Remember how you gave your corporate friend, Queen’s Atlantic, duty-free concessions and tax holidays when it was illegal to do so.
You legalized it with a statutory amendment. Remember how you led us all into thinking that you were lawfully married to Varshnie. This was dishonesty to the hilt!
Remember how you told me in my face that I leak PPP information to the American Embassy and the Press, and hours after was denying ever saying so.
Thank God Moses Nagamootoo was there in that CC room to corroborate me.
Mr. President, your antics of shouting down others as dishonest will only damnify you, and assassinate whatever little character you have left.
Khemraj Ramjattan

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Development Watch by Tarron Khemraj. Are remittances pivotal to Guyana’s development?

Stabroek News Features - Development Watch by Tarron Khemraj. Are remittances pivotal to Guyana’s development? July 8, 2009. URL to article:

Several commentators have recently expressed the view that remittances are important for Guyana’s economic development. Indeed, one pro-government commentator noted remittances are “pivotal to development” (Misir 2009). Of course, the latter view is not altogether unfounded as there are several cross-country regression studies and reports from international organizations that tend to support that view. However, I am not convinced by these cross-country studies and will explain why it is misleading to extrapolate the conclusions of these studies to the Guyana context. I frame my arguments by taking into consideration the underlying structural characteristics of the Guyana economy. These structures mitigate the long-term positive effects remittances could have in our context. The key argument of this column is remittances are not pivotal to Guyana’s development but rather are engendered by our perpetual underdevelopment.

Confusing the long-term with the short-term

One of the misconceptions emanating from pro-government letter writers is they constantly fail to grasp the difference between long-term growth strategies and short-term stabilisation policies or mechanisms. As a result, remittances – which certainly have a favourable short-term effect by stabilising the local foreign exchange market – are seen as a positive for creating long-term growth and development. I would outline below how one can make erroneous conclusions when only focusing on the short-term.

Human capital and development

Guyana is considered to be one of the highest exporters in percentage terms of its skilled workforce. This outward migration depreciates the human capital base of the country. It is now a truism in economics that human capital is critical for the growth of the aggregate productivity of a nation. It is this growth in aggregate productivity that causes per capita GDP (real GDP divided by population) to grow over time. Moreover, it is the growth of aggregate productivity that enables a country to circumvent the diminishing production returns from sectors that have passed their productive prime decades ago. Some examples of sectors susceptible to diminishing production returns (per unit of labour and capital employed) in the Guyana context would be sugar, timber, rice and minimally processed bauxite – the core of the economy.

Human capital is also important for building suitable institutions that are critical for long-term growth (in economics institutions are things that reduce transaction costs and minimise societal inefficiencies; for instance, institutions can be laws, rules and the system of government). That institutions are critical for development is now conventional wisdom in economics. Talented home grown individuals, who understand the domestic circumstances (and not necessarily super-salaried foreign consultants), are required to run schools and hospitals, become university professors and researchers, supervise building infrastructures, conduct research relevant to the private sector, conduct analysis for government, run banks, etc.

Entrepreneurs are needed to build new productive sectors and take the economy away from the diminishing returns or low productivity sectors. These people are critical for changing the industrial landscape and breaking into new markets. Talents are required in private business to employ the researchers at the university level to seek solutions and new ways and techniques of production.

We can continue to enumerate the fundamental role human capital plays. But the key point is remittances are not enough to compensate for the immediate loss of human capital. The critical point, moreover, is if Guyana’s productivity continues to stagnate (as several studies have shown), then the perpetual status of underdevelopment will continue. Thus, while remittances may ease short-term foreign exchange constraints, the country is hurt at greater levels in the long-term by the dearth of entrepreneurs, innovators, researchers and administrators. In other words, the talents are not there to even optimally utilise the remittances.

Structure of production and multiplier effect

Professor Clive Thomas has long ago noted that Guyana imports a significant percentage of what it consumes, although this percentage has fallen over time. For instance, if we consult the Bank of Guyana statistics we will see the percentage of end-use consumer goods imports relative to the private consumption component of GDP to be 40% as at 2008. One has to be careful here, however, as imports cannot be part of Guyana’s GDP. But the point is the country continues to import a significant percentage of consumer goods that could probably be produced at home. The same conclusion can be made with respect to the imports of fuel and lubricants, which amount to 22.8% of GDP at end 2008. On the other hand, capital goods imports – things that go into the production process and stuff which the country cannot stop importing – amounts to 14.3% of GDP.

The reasons for citing these percentages are two-fold. First, a significant multiplier effect from remittances does not accumulate in the domestic economy but rather leaks out as imports of consumer goods and fuel. Therefore, remittances assuage short-term foreign exchange bottlenecks and furthermore furnish a false sense of success. Second, if government really has a long-term industrial strategy the country could save significantly from importing food and fuels that can be made at home. As it relates to fuel, I would argue for a renewable energy industrial policy framework utilising wind energy, ethanol and bagasse (the latter has already been in use in Skeldon but there is potential to generate many more MWs as Mauritius has shown) in the interim before hydro-electricity can come on stream. But then again the country would need the human capital and private entrepreneurs to pull this off as Mauritius has done.

Savings or investment constraint?

Several economists at the international stage have argued that remittances can increase domestic savings and promote financial deepening and intermediation in developing countries. However, I am quite sceptical of this view in the Guyana context. Indeed, I have noted in the past that remittances can contribute to the increase of bank deposits, excess bank reserves and domestic savings. But the latter does not imply the savings are channelled to investment projects with high rates of return. The main reason why an increase in domestic financial savings really does not matter has to do with the fact that business demand for investment rather than savings is likely to be the binding constraint (Rodrik and Subramanian 2009). Because investment demand is constrained, higher savings are just not intermediated or channelled into high productivity investments. As a result, we tend to see the society’s savings being channelled into foreign assets, excess liquidity and low productivity but safe traditional production sectors (Khemraj 2008).

Investment demand can be constrained for several reasons. First, poor institutions – which the economics literature has indicated as poor specification of property rights protection, weak contract enforcement, and fear of expropriation of profits by the State or some other entity or individual – retard investment demand (Acemoglu et al 2001; Rodrik et al 2004). In the case of Guyana, however, the notion of institution has to be widened to include a Constitution that is not suited to the bi-communal ethnic nature of the population. In addition, our current titivated 1980 Burnham Constitution has made it possible for the ruling party’s democratic centralism to create a paramount ruling structure over the private sector. In other words, while the PNC once used the army and paramilitary to enforce its party paramountcy; the current PPP government uses the supposed legitimacy of the conflict-generating Burnham Constitution to sustain its paramountcy (of course there are now other clandestine operations that became clear after the Roger Khan trials). Second, investment demand is constrained by the scarcity of entrepreneurs and limited human capital base that we have noted above is weakened by outward migration.

Third, investment demand is constrained by high lending rates and interest rate mark-ups over the cost of fund. This stems from the oligopolistic nature of banking in small economies like Guyana. One of my studies has also indicated a stable relationship between the investment in foreign assets by financial institutions and the existence of surpluses and shortages of hard currencies in the domestic foreign exchange market (Khemraj 2009). Therefore, to the extent remittances are channelled into foreign assets by financial institutions, the much touted multiplier effect of remittances is diminished.

Fourth, investment demand is constrained by the appreciation of the real exchange rate (Rodrik and Subramanian 2009) owing to the inflows of capital whether from short-term hot money inflows or more stable and altruistic remittance inflows. As an aside, one study has shown that Guyana’s remittance inflows are derived from altruistic motives (Agarwal and Horowitz 2002). When the real exchange rate appreciates, it impedes the competitiveness of the export sector – particularly new sectors not dependent on preferential prices. However, published data on Guyana’s real effective exchange rate indicate this latter constraint might not be as serious in the Guyanese context.

Remittances cannot replace FDIs

Several pro-government letter writers have implied that because remittances have surpassed FDIs it should be seen as a critical source of development funds. But we need to get
perspectives straight. Although remittances aggregate to be larger than FDIs, they enter the economy in small units that go directly to families and individuals to prop up private consumption. We have already noted several reasons why the production multiplier effect of remittances is dampened. In other words, these micro quantities are never aggregated into a large high productivity investment project.

On the other hand, FDIs are lumpy and go directly to the production enterprise for which they are intended. FDIs engender direct job creation from which taxes are raised by the State. Remittances are not taxed directly and some economists have actually noted that these inflows could lead to an incentive to reduce work effort by people (in other words some people might prefer to wait on the next handout from abroad rather than seek work). FDIs can have a direct and profound positive effect on development if the government has a clearly defined industrial policy framework (see Lall 2004 for experiences around the world with integrating FDIs with an industrial policy framework). If the government really knows what it wants, FDIs could lead to technology transfers, bring in new management skills, and provide a direct boost for a renewable energy industrial strategy. The latter cannot be gained by the multiple small inflows of remittances as there is no existing mechanism that serves to pool together remittance inflows for large scale development projects.

Political economy issues

The local elites and friends of the ruling semi-oligarchy certainly would find remittances to be beneficial. Perhaps this explains why they have tended to conflate the long-term with the short-term when it comes to the true benefits. Remittances provide a stable source of foreign exchange, which enable those who are elected in an ethnically bi-communal society to be able to further divorce themselves from the public facilities. They are able to obtain immediate foreign exchange to send children to foreign universities; they can seek medical help from abroad; they can remit funds abroad; and overall divorce themselves from the local reality. Overall, remittances, provide a false sense of success given the stable and altruistic nature of the flows; and importantly these inflows could very well postpone the need for serious political reforms.

A better role for the Diaspora

Instead of viewing the Diaspora’s role as one of financing private consumption through remittances (and of course contributions at election time), it would be better for the government to come up with a comprehensive plan to engage the Diaspora. This can include knowledge transfer (brain gain or brain circulation), inward Diaspora investments and even special Diaspora financial products.


The remittance phenomenon is a reflection of Guyana’s perpetual underdevelopment rather than a cause of development. The poverty that remittances might reduce in the short-term is caused by Guyana’s production of things that are not important in the global continuum of products. As we have noted above, remittances cannot correct and transform this production structure without a clear and realistic development strategy by the government. Therefore, any short-term reduction in poverty via the subsidy on private consumption – without production transformation – is false success. Also, many government representatives see remittances as beneficial because they confuse short-term stabilisation with long-term production oriented policies.


Acemoglu, Daron; Simon Johnson and James A. Robinson. 2001. The colonial origins of comparative development: an empirical investigation. The American Economic Review 91 (5): 1369-1401.

Agarwal, Reena and Andrew Horowitz. 2002. Are international remittances altruism or insurance? Evidence from Guyana using multiple-migrant households. World Development 30 (11): 2033-2044.

Khemraj, Tarron. 2009. Excess liquidity and the foreign currency constraint: the case of monetary management in Guyana. Applied Economics 41 (16): 2073 – 2084.

Khemraj, Tarron. 2008. The missing link: the finance growth nexus and the Guyanese growth stagnation. Social and Economic Studies 57 (3&4): 105-129.

Lall, Sanjaya. 2004. Selective industrial and trade policies in developing countries: theoretical and empirical issues. In: S. Soludo; O. Ogbu and H. Chang (editors), The Politics of Trade and Industrial Policy in Africa: Forced Consensus? Trenton NJ: Africa World Press.

Misir, Prem. 2009. Remittances are pivotal to development. Kaieteur News, June 25, Letter Column.

Rodrik, Dani and Arvind Subramanian. 2009. Why did financial globalization disappoint? IMF Staff Papers 56 (2): 112-138.

Rodrik, Dani; Arvind Subramanian and Francesco Trebbi. 2004. Institutions rule: the primacy of institutions over geography and integration in economic development. Journal of Economic Growth 9: 131-165.
1 Comment (Open | Close)

1 Comment To "Are remittances pivotal to Guyana’s development?"

#1 Comment By bakr On July 8, 2009 @ 6:05 am

Interesting. One concludes from observation of the Dominican Republic, Morocco, Senegal, Congo, that beyond these effects Khemraj described here,remittances serve to re-orient economic and social activity towards emigration and expatriation of
-human capital
-investments which follow the human capital. And these are investments that locals would have made at home. In short you buy a business or house in Miami because the mentality is foreign-oriented.

But a lot depends on the country and the history of emigration. The Moroccans and Algerians and Turks in Europe may be different from Guyanese and Dominicans. This piece requires wide discussion and comment.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

International Financial Institutions need to reform policies

Kaieteur News news item, Wednesday 08 July 2009 - "International Financial Institutions need to reform policies" -

…developing countries need a bigger voice at developed world - Jagdeo

By Gary Eleazar

Head of State Bharrat Jagdeo

Head of State Bharrat Jagdeo

The International Financial Institutions need to reform their policies as to give a louder voice to the developing countries such as the ones in the Caribbean Community according to Head of State Bharrat Jagdeo, who was speaking to regional and local journalists during the recently concluded CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting.
The President drew reference to a recent request to an IFI for an official to meet with the regional heads.
He said that the IFI wanted to send two junior representatives instead. “I would not allow that to happen,” said Jagdeo
According to Jagdeo developing countries are given the cold shoulder by IFIs given that they did not generate a significant part of global output or global investment. Further, their populations are small.
This, the President said, causes developing countries to experience a difficult time seeking to command high level respect in the multi lateral financial institutions. “We don’t pose systemic risk.”
The president said that developing countries must now lead a demarche in a bid to get larger countries that are sympathetic to the views of developing countries to push the developing countries’ agenda.
This, he said, must be a reform of the IFI polices in order to facilitate greater accommodation.
He noted, too, that the reform must also be extended to the instruments through which the IFIs relate to the developing world.
The president was referring specifically to loan and grant instruments with the appropriate conditions and figures.
He noted however that in the absence of the reforms CARICOM would have to mobilise internal resources pointing to the significant reserves currently being held outside of the region.
According to President Jagdeo there would have to be a policy aimed at addressing the investment of the reserves.
There must be sovereign decisions given that the reserves are held by individual countries.
He noted that if those reserves are invested in “our” country ensuring that it is safe and liquid, “then I think that we can use our own resources to develop our region…these are substantial resources.”
The President said that the region will have to do things to make the region much more attractive to investment from non-traditional sources.
He added that the region has to not only seek to depend on North America and Europe for development, but to other large countries that have significant funds. “Take for example the Arab world and their sovereign wealth funds.”
He noted, however, that given the current global financial debacle, assistance through bi-laterals might not be forthcoming in the short term and as such; the developing world has to look to the IFIs to try to trigger the quick flow of the money that was pledged at the recent G-20 meeting.
Only recently, Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh speaking at the United Nations (UN) Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development last Wednesday, said that developed countries should be held accountable for their failure to honour aid commitments.
Dr. Singh also highlighted the fact that the interconnectivity of the world is undeniable and stressed the need for uniform action by all parties to combat the pervasive nature of the global financial and economic crisis.
Addressing the forum, Dr Singh stated his appreciation for the promises made by the G-20 countries to increase the resources available for relief to countries in distress through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the multilateral development banks (MDBs), noting that similar previous promises have gone unfulfilled.
“If the past were to be our guide, there has been no shortage of declarations of good intent. One merely has to consider as an example, that longstanding target of 0.7 percent of gross national product as official development assistance from developed to developing countries, an undertaking of the United Nations General Assembly that is four decades old next year, three and a half decades overdue, innumerable times reaffirmed, and still nowhere in sight of being realized.
“The same can be said of the worthy objectives of the Paris Declaration and the Accra Agenda for aid effectiveness.”
Also, reforms to conditionality have been slow, aid continues to be fragmented and donors uncoordinated, Dr. Singh said.
He said that the success of efforts to restart the global economy will depend largely on the promptness with which the additional support promised by the G-20 countries is delivered to the MDBs, the comprehensiveness and depth of the reforms to the instruments for delivering assistance and ultimately, the actual receipt and effective utilization of the intended support by the countries most in need.
Dr. Singh noted that at this time one-sixth of the world’s population is undernourished, more persons than ever before in human history, and a situation exacerbated by the current crisis.
In the Caribbean, export prices for key commodities are affected, oil prices remain high and are climbing again, activity in the tourism sector which is the dominant employer in many countries is reduced, foreign direct investment is slowed, and remittance inflows are threatened.
Noting that the Guyana Government has been responding with policies aimed at implementing an accelerated public investment programme particularly in enabling physical infrastructure, promoting labour intensive economic activity, facilitating diversification and improving competitiveness in our productive sector, and expanding and deepening social programmes, said Dr. Singh.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Report of the Auditor General 2007: Different year, same mess

Business Page

Posted By Christopher Ram On July 5, 2009 @ 5:09 am In Features, Sunday | No Comments
Report of the Auditor General 2007: Different year, same mess

No change

The report of the Auditor General on the Public Accounts of the country for 2007 has been tabled in the National Assembly and is now officially available to the taxpaying public and commendably on the Audit Office’s website. The story is no different from that of last year, from that of the year before, or from that of the year before that: late by ten months beyond the statutory deadline; a story of reckless abuse of the public funds; condemnation and threats from the opposition; and the nine-day outrage by the public followed by whatever revelation inevitably comes to light. Let us go back to the report for 2000 which was reviewed in Business Page of May 19, 2002 in the form of an imaginary letter to Mr Stanley Ming, then a member of the Public Accounts Committee which is mandated to review and report on the report. In part, this is what the ‘letter’ said:

“A significant number of bank accounts currently in use, including the Guyana High Commission London Account, as well as non-operational accounts were allowed to be overdrawn by large amounts in contravention of Section 22 of the Financial Administration & Audit Act (FAA). Continues.

“The Consolidated Fund is overdrawn by tens of billions while the sum total of all bank accounts (including the overdrawn balance on the Consolidated Fund but excluding the balances on the bank accounts special projects) reflects a positive balance. Continues.

“The State continues to provide funding annually to several public entities even though they do not comply with their statutory duty to submit audited financial statements. Continues.

“The Contingencies Fund continues to be abused despite repeated negative comments on this practice. Continues.

“ Proceeds from the Guyana Lotteries are not being paid over to the Consolidated Fund but are kept in a ‘special bank account’ held at the Central Bank and used to meet public expenditure without parliamentary approval… despite the public commitment given by the President and de facto Minister of Finance that this would be corrected.”

Some change

Some things have changed. The report has been cut down in size – the 2000 report contained 2,120 paragraphs; now it is 557 paragraphs. Government expenditure has jumped from $47 billion in 2000 to $101 billion, or more than double. Reports of corruption no longer make news. There has been a Financial Management and Accountability Act that demands more not less accountability, and an Audit Act that sets greater obligations and higher standards on the Audit Office. Have things got better? I do not think so. Back then, we had a professionally qualified accountant heading the office, now we do not. The independence of the office is now more compromised than it was with Mr Deodat Sharma, Auditor General (ag) reporting that he was summoned for instructions by President Jagdeo, clearly in breach of the constitutional provision that the Audit Office should “not [be] subject to the control or direction of any person or authority.” Egregiously, the wife of the Finance Minister is now in a position to give professional guidance to the Auditor General (ag) by virtue of her position as his qualified assistant.

The administration’s response

Predictably and once again, the Minister of Finance Dr Ashni Singh has criticised the report for not reflecting the comments and responses of the various budget agencies and accounting officers. He cannot be serious. The report is in fact full of such comments, even when they make little sense or are misleading. For example on page 5, the Ministry of Finance’s response to the absence of end of year outcomes required under section 68 of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act 2003 is that the information was not forthcoming from the ministries, agencies and departments. That obligation falls on the Minister of Finance who has more than an adequate set of sanctions to ensure that he gets the information he needs.

But I suspect that the reason is more political. One of the major variances is the revenue collected from the new VAT and Excise Tax introduced in 2007. A single agency over which the Ministry of Finance exercises controls administers those taxes. More than one of them knows that the reason for the massive surplus is that the VAT rate had been incorrectly calculated, but that despite the early detection of the error, the government persisted in what some may consider a fraud on the nation. This information was around and an independent Audit Office should have done its own assessment and put the findings to the ministry.


A constant refrain in the responses is that the Head of the Budget Agency had indicated that this matter was being addressed by the Ministry of Finance; that these were presently engaging the attention of the Ministry of Finance; that the Head of the Budget Agency had indicated that this issue was being addressed by the Minister of Finance; and that the Head of Budget Agency had explained that the administration had since written the Finance Secretary to have this matter rectified and was awaiting a response (they are all in the same building). The state of the audits for entities coming under the Office of the President and for which reports have not been laid in the National Assembly deteriorated, while the excuse by the budget agency that “every effort is being made” to do so was met with a further comment from the Auditor General (ag) calling for “special effort” – at best an apparent form of indifference by the Audit Office. But can society be so indifferent about the failure by the administration to properly account for public funds? Since the Minister would also have been aware that a substantial part of the report is of prior year matters which have not been resolved, his response to the report can only be seen as a political rather than technocratic reaction, confident that all will soon be forgotten.

New GPC again

For all the apparent sound and fury generated by the report, all it does is identify some of the better known examples of gross financial irregularities and improprieties that feed the public’s appetite for scandal. Advances of hundreds of millions of dollars to the New GPC, friends of the President, continue to be made for the company to buy drugs for the Guyana Public Hospital Corporation in breach of the tender procedures. One of GPC’s senior officials sits on the board of the hospital, which also does not maintain proper accounting records so that both the non-receipt of items and their issue cannot be determined. What successive reports have failed to do is cause any change in behaviour by a government whose financial management is repeatedly endorsed by the electorate. Perhaps the President was right when he described segments of the public as financially illiterate.

By now the public is well aware of the breach of the constitution regarding the Lotto funds and one wonders why the report only mentions the amount over a ten-year period rather than the period covered by the audit. The report also does not state that the Lotto money is being spent by a person who has no authority under the law to spend any money. There is no great virtue in repeating the statement that the Lotto funds are not being put into the Consolidated Fund as required by the constitution. It is not that it is being held safely in trust or investments – the money is being spent by President Jagdeo as he pleases.

Tardiness and illegality

Where are the sugar unions in the face of the continuing failure to provide satisfactory evidence of $1.451 billion as deposits held for investments on behalf of the Sugar Industry Labour Welfare Fund, the Sugar Industry Rehabilitation Fund and the Sugar Industry Price Stabilisation Fund, two of which have not been audited for twenty-eight years and the other for eleven years? One of the ironies is that GINA, which is being used to defend the government’s record of financial management is itself in breach of the audit requirement.

The report also highlights a transaction involving Region 6 that smells of illegality including differences in vehicle chassis number and full up-front payment when the contract calls for progress payments. If the Customs officers could be referred to the DPP why not those involved in this purchase? And why has the Guyana Elections Commission not taken action against the “firm” that took 268 cartons of Polaroid film valued at $30.485 million which it has failed to recover from the “firm”?

Value for money

Once again the report announces that a Value-for-Money Unit (VFM) is being set up and after four years we can expect a VFM report. That we had to get assistance from Canada to achieve this is bad enough, but the choice of entity makes the idea into a mockery. I visited the Palms briefly not too long ago, and it was shocking to see the conditions under which the residents are housed and the staff have to work. The laundry, kitchen, sleeping and dining facilities are all in a state of disrepair, strangled for cash and other resources. What the Palms requires is not a Value-for-Money audit, but a money-for-value audit, refurbishment, additional staffing, new equipment for the kitchen and laundry, etc.


The recurrence of the egregious weaknesses and exorbitant losses resulting from poor financial administration and a weakened Audit Office suggests either an unwillingness to deal with the problem or a ‘we-like-it-so’ attitude by the government. Even the superficial enhancements in the Audit Office have to be financed with grants and loans, and in 2007 a second grant was obtained from the IDB to implement certain aspects of the office’s three-year Strategic Plan. Unable to do some of the most basic audit functions, to discharge the office’s obligations under various legislation and to complete the audits of the state entities in a timely manner, the Audit Office is now about to establish a Forensic Audit and Quality Assurance section.

How that will solve the problems that have persisted for more than ten years is anyone’s guess. Meanwhile the Auditor General tells us he cannot be sure about the accounts presented to him for audit by the Ministry of Finance.

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