As the country observed independence from Britain on May 26, one has to give the PPP administration credit for performance. In spite of many challenges such as Covid, rise in transportation costs, servicing a huge debt left by the preceding coalition government, closure of sugar estates, flooding, inflation, etc., the government has performed credibly unlike its predecessor.
The current government has spared no effort in serving the country to tackle the problems inherited and improving lifestyle over the last 22 months, much to the shame of the preceding regime. The coalition was given an opportunity to show its mantle, but it disappointed, according to people interviewed for an ongoing poll being conducted by this writer. The coalition overtaxed the population and selectively served communities or individuals on account of political and racial affiliation, turning away many supporters. The PPP has serviced all irrespective of party affiliation or race. The government has worked for the upliftment of all rather than a selected group and indeed most people interviewed for the poll say their lives have improved although they complain about rising food costs.
Since returning to the office, the PPP has made effort to implement aspects of its manifesto – the contract with the population. The population looks forward to the implementation of the rest of the manifesto contract.
The government served the country’s poor through various pro-poor schemes (various Covid and health grants and increases in pension and NIS, as well as school grants, agriculture grants, fertilizer grants, etc.). During the COVID-19 pandemic, the government gave out countless hampers to the poor and made vaccines available to everyone (including booster shots).
In conversations with people from Crabwood Creek to Charity last week for an opinion poll I am conducting on approval ratings and performance, people say they are better now than under the preceding administration. However, they did say that things could be better. They complain about a number of things (to be reported later) including low salaries, inflation, and aspects of misgovernance.
They commend the performance, zeal, and honesty of some Ministers and other officials while being critical of others. The President, Vice President, Prime Minister, and some others came in for high praises with very strong approval ratings. In contrast, the Opposition Leader, Mr. Aubrey Norton, has not won over the imagination of the population although he received kudos for agreeing to meet with the President as required by the constitution and for his position on Indian Arrival Day (instead of mere Arrival Day). Respondents did complain that some officials serve their self-interest without bothering about the problems or welfare of the poor and marginalised sections of society. They feel those (names were given) who abused their office should be replaced.
The Vice President remains the most popular political personality in the country. Jagdeo was accorded a grand welcome during the agri conference and at Uitvlugt and Anna Regina. He was mobbed for pix at the Agri conference. His presentations at the Agri conference, Uitvlugt, and Anna Regina were well received. He captured the attention of the audience and listeners elsewhere. He is a dynamic speaker; everyone cheered his speeches. He uttered remarks people wanted to hear. In travelling around the country in sugar-producing areas, particularly in Uitvlugt, Skeldon, Enmore, Albion, etc., it is noted that sugar has never faced the debacle it is in today. Sugar workers put their full confidence in Jagdeo that he would take interventionist measures to put in place competent management, as he promised six months ago, to rescue and transform Guysuco to boost productivity. Workers in Uitvlugt repose faith in the VP that he will have the factory up and running again.
The VP’s no holds barred political onslaught on the preceding government at Anna Regina was also well received. The audience agreed that the coalition governed was detrimental to the interests of the working class and poor and to the development of the nation. The residents of Essequibo also repose faith in him in the promised grant to start small businesses and assistance (fertilizer, in particular, and marketing) to increase farm productivity. Rice farmers complained that rice millers are cheating them and urged the VP to address it.
President Ali was also accorded a very enthusiastic reception at the Agri conference and in Essequibo during the first flag hoisting event in that county – a commendable policy of taking governance to the people, not previously undertaken. The PM, Mark Phillips, has also been given a hearty welcome at the Agri event in Essequibo.
The affection is shown to the President, VP, and the PM and some Ministers during their various visits around the country would propel the government to deliver on the rest of the manifesto.
By Dr Vishnu Bisram