Guyana Gov't Approval Ratings Collapses Amidst
Photo : Dr. Vishnu Bisram
Midway through its term in office, the coalition APNU+AFC Guyana government's approval rating has plummeted to a dismal 27%, according to the findings of the latest opinion poll conducted by the North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA); 64% disapprove of the government's performance with 9% not giving an opinion. The approval ratings of the President and Prime Minister (PM) and of the Alliance For Change (AFC) party have also seen their numbers plunging. This is a sharp reversal in fortunes for the President, PM, AFC, and government that had high rating of around 60% right after coming into office in May 2015 as people wanted to give them a chance. But, as obtained from views of the public, it has been downhill in popularity ever since the coalition awarded themselves a more than fifty percent increase in salaries right after installation in office. Scandal after scandal, secrecy in awarding contracts and in signing agreements, and endless unforced errors, among other mistakes have led to a loss of support for the government, President, PM, and AFC in what is their lowest approval marks.
NACTA, founded in 1990 and directed by Vishnu Bisram, Ph.Ds, conducts regular public opinion surveys in Guyana and Trinidad and other Caribbean societies as a public service and for research purposes. The latest poll, which interviewed 442 individuals to represent the ethnic diversity (41% Indians, 30% Africans, 18% Mixed, 10% Amerindians, 1% others) of the population, was conducted by this writer earlier this month. The poll findings, analysed at a significance level of 95%, has a margin of error of 4%.
The government, AFC, President, and PM have drawn poor marks for handling of the economy, corruption among their own, governance, race relations, crime, secrecy in conducting business, and other matters. Almost everyone feels the government has not been honest with them on a number of issues. Many now say that this government cannot be trusted, in much the same way like the previous one. Many also say it is lacking compassion by terminating thousands of workers from the sugar industry as the year end holiday season approached.
Only 39% of respondents said they approve of the way David Granger has handled his job as president; 56% disapprove and 5% did not give a rating. For Moses Nagamootoo, 35% approve of his performance as Prime Minister with 59% disapproving. Supporters of the AFC and PPP are most disappointed with Nagamootoo. Voters said they had expected the PM would have spoken out against the many corruption scandals, blunders, and racist policies of the government. But he has been silent and worse defending the the indefensible.
The AFC has seen its support collapsing with its approval rating now a mere 21% from a high of 80% in 2011. This is a sharp slide for a party that less than three years ago was touted as the future governing party of the country and as one that would heal the country's nagging racial rift. When it joined the PNC in 2015, it was felt it would hold the PNC accountable for good governance. Instead, it is now seen as most discredited for not taking an independent position of the PNC and for not championing the interests of those who voted for it.
Asked if the AFC has betrayed its principles, 71% answered in the affirmative with 22% saying no. Asked if the AFC should leave the government coalition, 59% answered said yes with 32% saying no. Many said the AFC should seek to enforce the March 2015 Cummingsburg Accord. Asked if people will trust (future) third parties in light of AFC(betrayal0 behaviour, 62% said no with only 27% saying yes and 11% not giving an opinion.
The government, AFC, President and PM have registered discontent even in their own base because of broken promises. However, supporters of AFC and PPP still hold out hope that the PM and the AFC will reverse course in their behaviour and win back their approval.
Unlike the others, Bharrat Jagdeo has seen his approval numbers ascending to 59% and his disapproval going down to 33%.
Guyanese cited a variety of challenges impacting on the well-being of the nation and support for the ruling coalition. Large majorities expressed concern about crime, corruption, the economy (poverty, wages, joblessness, inflation, etc.), future (wrong) direction of the country, health care, education, race relations or racism, governance, and drugs as among serious problems worrying the nation. In general, a large majority of people from across the political divide, supporters of all three parties, feel the government has not done a satisfactory job in managing the affairs of the nation and in handling the issues noted above. They are also not pleased in how the President appointed the Chair of Gecom that has badly divided the nation.
Based on the findings of the poll, 92% expressed a fear of crime with many saying criminals have become emboldened and daring in staging robberies, carjacking, and carrying out violent activities. People feel elements of the police are involved in criminal activities including “providing cover” for or facilitating criminals making solving crime difficult.
A whopping 90% said the country is moving in the wrong direction, an indication of a lack of confidence in their future well-being.
On other issues, 83% said they are worried about corruption, 79% on the state of the economy, 69% on unemployment (citing termination of sugar workers), and 67% on race relations or racism. People are also not satisfied with the government´s (Ministry) handling of education, health care, agriculture and combating drug trafficking – with dissatisfaction figures of 73%, 71%, 66%, and 68% respectively.
The poll found that David Patterson, Carl Greenidge and Cathy Hughes were rated among the best Ministers. Similar findings were found in last October´s poll.
Asked if they approve of the appointment of Ret´d Judge James Patterson as Gecom Chair, 59% said no with 30% saying yes and 11% unsure. Some 57% feel the government has violated the (spirit of the) constitution in not choosing someone from the list of nominees of the Opposition Leader.
Asked if they support the closure of Rose Hall and Enmore Estates, 63% said no with 24% saying yes and the others offering no opinion.
Asked if they approve of the latest budget, 61% said no, with 24% saying yes and the others not offering an opinion. Several speakers came in for praise for their contribution to the debate – Bharrat Jagdeo, Irfaan Alli, Anil Nandlall, Frank Anthony, Gail Texeira, Vindya Persaud and Juan Edghill, Carl Greendige, Moses Nagamootoo, David Patterson, Valerie Garrido Lowe, Sydney Allicock, and Joe Harmon.