The first national
and regional elections for the new millennium is less that one week away.
These elections we are told should be about policies rather than personality
or ethnicity. The Roman Catholic Bishop Benedict Singh is advising his flock
to examine the programmes and manifestoes of the contesting parties before
voting. The problem for the poor voter is that of the eleven parties
contesting the March 19, elections only four have so far published their
Manifestos setting out their policies and programmes they will implement
should they win the elections. What must the electorate make of this
tardiness or does it say something of the meaninglessness of Manifestoes?
And if they really are meaningless why do the parties put such effort and
energy and make such a song and dance when they eventually offer their
manifesto more to the party faithful than to the public.
article seeks to examine the four manifestoes made public so far - that of
GAP-WPA which was published on February 17, the Blueprint of the Roar
Initiative released on February 18, the PNC/R’s published on March 5, two
weeks before the elections and that of the PPP/C launched on March 8. With
the resources, long history and experience at their disposal one would have
expected the major political parties to have published their manifestos much
The high quality,
glossy printing reflects the considerable sums of money that characterise
these elections. The PPP/C’s is by far the most colourful but none of the
manifestoes identifies the printer and therefore both the country of
printing and the printer remain a matter for speculation. In the absence of
any campaign financing laws the two major political parties have been
spending with gay abandon and one has to wonder whether democracy in Guyana
is now determined by the depth of the parties’ or their supporters’
pockets. Surely the time has come for this country to address legally the
question of campaign financing to ensure that the results are not determined
by the wealth of a particular party.
The first of these
articles looks at five issues arbitrarily selected which are considered
important to economic progress. The issues selected are: Economic
Management, the Public Service, Science and Technology, Tourism and Tax
Reform. The parties are presented in the order in which they presented their
GAP-WPA is a union
of the hinterland based Guyana Action Party and the more experienced Working
Peoples’ Alliance founded by the assassinated historian Dr. Walter Rodney
in 1980. GAP-WPA claims to bring together practically and symbolically, for
the first time and on equal terms, the dominant racial groups of coast and
hinterland. Their Manifesto is clearly a low cost but effective effort at
putting out its policies. The Manifesto seems to be grounded in reason and
does not make promises about what the union will do but rather what it will
work for in Parliament.
points out that “no government, however well-intentioned, can mobilize all
the professional and technical resources necessary to develop Guyana” and
pledges to set up a Council of Economic and Development Advisers” made up
of resident and non-resident Guyanese. The Manifesto also pledges to create
the institutions including a Ministerial Portfolio for
development/production and a National Statistical Institute to ensure that
economic policy management is located within the country and controlled by
The party pledges
to develop a non-partisan Public Service with a reputation for competence,
fairness, impartiality and courtesy. The roles of the constitutional Public
Service Commission and that of the Cabinet controlled Public Service
Ministry must be clarified.
The GAP-WPA recognises
Science and Technology as a critical factor in the 21st
century and pledges to give this priority by creating a ministerial
portfolio for science and technology, to radically overhaul IAST and to
promote the University of Guyana as a Centre of Excellence, and to
facilitate the rapid introduction of information technology as widely as
possible, in order to revolustionise the approach to information gathering,
analysis and use.
developing trends require special attention to tourism, GAP-WPA pledges to
make this sector a major plank in its economic policy. The party feels that
Tourism, well managed with imagination and drive can be the fastest growing
sector in the Guyanese economy, well conceived and promoted can involve at
enterprise level large numbers if hinterland dwellers, coastal services, and
special cultural, craft and artistic sectors.
pledges to revise the tax system to make it more efficient, equitable and
easy to administer; to amend the provisions of the Consumption Tax Act which
drive our manufacturing sector underground or out of business; to improve
existing company legislation and bankruptcy provisions; and to encourage
thorough evaluation of the National Development Strategy (NDS) and to pursue
all opportunities to develop feasible programmes and projects out of the NDS.
Led by the highly
articulate Indian rights activist, Ravi Dev, Roar calls its Policy Paper a
Blueprint. Roar is committed to building a free enterprise system by
Motivation through Incentives. Roar claims to have a profound understanding
of the fundamentals of a free market system, which includes a competitive
tax regime, an effective incentive scheme and macro-economic stability.
Favouring a federal
system of Government, ROAR proposes that the states would spend their own
taxes and revenue to develop their own economy. ROAR also proposes the
establishment of a Currency Board to preserve exchange rate stability and
ROAR notes that all
of the Ministries and Government facilities are houses in Georgetown. It
proposes to decentralise and disperse these by taking the Ministry of
Amerindian Affairs to Rupununi, the GDF ground troops to Essequibo and
Rupununi borders and the GDF headquarters to Essequibo.
ROAR proposes to
establish institutions to develop human and technological capabilities by
separating the Faculty of Technology from the University of Guyana to form a
National Technology Institute and by increasing funding for the Institute of
Applied Science and Technology (IAST) at UG for research and development
ROAR believes that
with the Tourism sector, Guyana can “have its cake and eat it too”.
Guyana attracts a different kind of tourist from the rest of the Caribbean
because it can fulfill a different need. In keeping with ROAR’s general
policy of offering incentives, the party will give various forms of
incentives to investors in this sector.
Noting that the tax
system in Guyana is not only very high but also very arbitrary, ROAR
proposes to establish a Commission on Tax Reform to review the numerous tax
studies to propose a comprehensive Tax Regime for Guyana. It commits itself
to a maximum tax rate of 20% for personal taxes and 15% for small
businesses. ROAR is also committed to eliminating export taxes, the
Consumption Tax and the introduction of a Value Added Tax.
Noting that the
PNC/R is the result of a political conviction that inclusivity enhances
capacity to serve the nation, the Manifesto identifies the need to devise a
new form of governance. The Manifesto reflects the influence of the Reform
component led by Stanley Ming and Eric Phillips and lays much emphasis on
technology and the development and use of the human resource potential.
Manifesto devotes considerable space of its twenty pages to Economic Reform
and sets out the broad macro-economic objectives which it will pursue. It
specifically identifies the establishment of a National Productivity
Council, the establishment of Guyana Investment Bureau to replace GOINVEST
and the creation of a Development Bank.
The Party is
committed to public sector reform through a programme of modernisation that
involves all the stakeholders directly: government, workers, unions, NGO’s
and communities. The PNC/R will also pursue a national programme in
information technology which will be subject to public widespread debate
before it is implemented.
The PNC Reform
tourism policy will concentrate on the development of eco, event, sport,
cultural, meetings and conventions relating to tourism. Guyana will not
compete in the traditional mass tourism market but in the large, highly
specialised niche market.
The reform of the
tax system will be informed by the government’s desire to achieve
reasonableness, equity, transparency and efficiency in tax
This will include the replacement of the current consumption tax regime with
a Value Added Tax and incorporating exemptions from VAT on items such as
non-luxury foods, medicines and other essential goods. Other areas
identified include upgrading the capital market, continuation of the
privatisation programme to secure the widest possible participation of
Progressive Party/ Civic, in its 2001 Manifesto, sees the future of Guyana
as one of economic progress, social development, fairness and justice, and
harnessing the benefits of an ever-expanding globilised economy.
The Party has
identified its policy on economic management as rooted in the National
Development Strategy and the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper. This the
Party says will position the country to attract more investment, further
stimulate our people’s entrepreneurial spirit and establish the economic
base for a sustainable development of our living conditions.
The Party is
committed to public sector reform by refashioning its focus to one that is
more results oriented, improving service delivery through the upgrading of
human resources, revamping systems and procedures and making maximum use of
technological advances, and continuing restructuring in certain key sectors
such as health and education, and introducing programme based budgeting in
the public service to enhance the efficiency in the allocation and use of
recognises the importance of information technology in transforming the
economy and pledges to introduce the Internet into public schools to help
educate the country’s children and establish community Internet access
points for small businesses.
Tourism Plan is largely reflected in its Integrated National Tourism
Development Plan (1997) and the recent National Development Strategy. The
Plan includes the establishment of the Guyana Tourism Authority, the
launching of a major marketing campaign to promote a positive image in
Guyana, expanding the Tourism awareness programme, and developing sports and
cultural/heritage tourism, agro tourism and the arts and craft industry.
As part of its
pledge to build a stable macro-economic environment, the PPP/C will widen
the tax base and reform the tax system with a view to lowering taxes and
creating incentives for private sector activities and export.
Both GAP-WPA and
ROAR are committed to a National Front Government and have explained that
the policies set out in their documents will be advocated and pursued
whether or not they are in Government.
The PNC-R speaks of
the need to move towards a democratic system based on the inclusion of
individuals, communities and organisations.
The PPP/C speaks of
promoting the role of the civil society and decentralisation but does not
refer to inclusivity.
Only GAP-WPA speaks
of localising the management of the economy. No one addressed the question
of a time frame for getting out of the IMF programme. That would have been