Thursday, February 17, 2011

COHA’s ‘Tattered Legacy’

Cheddi Berret Jagan II: A RECENT “assessment” of the legacy of Guyana’s current President, Bharrat Jagdeo, published by the Washington based Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) and co-authored by Robert Cavooris & Elcin Chang unconvincingly and at times, unproductively seeks to cast doubt upon the merits of President Jagdeo’s tenure in office. A meticulous examination of this article is unnecessary, for any casual inspection reveals one glaring fact—this article is filled mostly with propagandistic vitriol and unsubstantiated accusations tempered by backhanded compliments of Guyana’s economic achievements in a time when the global economy itself is in a tailspin.
Although Guyana has indeed experienced its share of violence, it is irresponsible and even possibly actionable as malicious libel for COHA, without evidence, to insinuate political involvement and ultimately place the blame solely and directly upon President Jagdeo.
It is somewhat laughable that COHA would take any time whatsoever to mention the fact that “Jagdeo ascended to the presidency…not by election but rather through the anointment …thus taking the helm with no popular electoral mandate,” without pointing out that President Jagdeo was elected President in both 2001 and 2006, garnering 54.6 percent of the votes in 2006.
COHA’s article goes on to exaggerate the underlying consequences concerning the government’s spending on education. For instance, COHA ignores the fact that between 2006 and 2010, the Guyanese Government has spent on average, approximately 15% of its National Budget on education.
Additionally, in stating that “there could be pernicious social consequences if education continues to take a back seat on the Guyanese agenda,” COHA completely ignores Guyana’s 2011 Budget Plan concerning Education, which begins by stating:
“There is no investment more important than in our people and, particularly, in the education of our young people. Our Government’s aim is to implement effective programmes to improve access to, and quality of education, with a strong emphasis on equipping the labour force with the skills needed in the domestic economy of tomorrow.
Moreover, according to the Millennium Development Goals Progress Report, funded by the UNDP, “Guyana has made excellent progress towards achieving universal primary education. The country is likely to meet the target of ensuring that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.” Additionally, primary education completion rates have increased from 91% in 2004 to 95% in 2007. These observations would seem to sufficiently neutralize COHA’s bare observations which, fail to take into account the totality of the circumstances.
COHA claims that under President Jagdeo, “Guyana’s motto—‘One People, One Nation, One Destiny,’—only seems a cruel joke in the face of the stark division that has long seized the country—a division that Jagdeo has done almost nothing to address,” yet in a report on Guyana’s progress on the issue of climate change, the UNDP notes:
‘Since 2001, far-reaching constitutional reform has included the establishment of six constitutional commissions and four parliamentary standing committees to promote greater inclusivity in national politics; the introduction of presidential term limits which prevent a President from being elected to more than two consecutive terms; and the restoration of parliamentary oversight to the National Budget process. An independent Office of the Auditor General reporting to the National Assembly is charged with ensuring transparency of Government expenditures, and parliamentary participation in the police, teaching, public service and judicial appointment commissions has been enabled in law. (Transforming Guyana’s Economy While Combating Climate Change, May 20, 2010)’

The article mentions—as if unimportant—that President Jagdeo does not intend to seek a third term in office, but neglects to point out that the constitutional framework upon which Guyana first introduced presidential terms was developed and enacted during President Jagdeo’s tenure, and is ultimately in furtherance of democracy within the region since term limits temper the fear of ‘elective dictatorship.’
President Jagdeo’s unfettered commitment and respect for this constitutional limit tends to cast his legacy in a light much brighter than that of COHA’s article because anyone familiar with Guyanese politics would know that this was an unprecedented move by any sitting Guyanese President and is worthy of its fair share of praise, which COHA has apparently summarily swept under the proverbial rug.

Interestingly enough, not even COHA’s attack could ignore that President Jagdeo has been credited with stewarding economic progress in Guyana.
Even in the face of a devastating flood that hurt multiple Guyanese industries in 2005 (67% of Guyana’s economy and over 300,000 people’s homes and farms were damaged) as well as the most violent crime wave the country has ever experienced in the 2002-2008 period, President Jagdeo’s leadership proved invaluable in improving Guyana’s economic standing, especially regionally, with Guyana’s growth rate of Real GDP increasing from 2.0 in 2008 to 3.3 and 3.6 in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
In the ‘Statement by an IMF Mission to Guyana’, November 19, 2010, chief Therese Turner-Jones, is quoted as saying: “Despite external and domestic shocks in 2010, Guyana’s economy has exhibited resilience, registering a fifth consecutive year of robust growth. Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is projected to grow by just under 4 percent this year…supported by increased activity in the sugar, gold, and services sector.” Read more...........

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