Coalition will lose in 2020 unless they change course
Feb 28, 2017 , http://www.kaieteurnewsonline....-they-change-course/
The installation of the current government in 2015 represented a break from the many violations of the former PPP administration to the fundamental ideas which underpin Guyana’s democracy. Indeed, basic human rights, the rule of law and natural justice, freedom of the press, and equality of opportunity evolved as threats to the survival of the former administration. Further, its entrenched corruption and unparalleled mismanagement of our natural resources, coupled with its support for the illicit drug trade and money laundering, rendered Guyana something of a pariah state internationally.
However, the present trend of the Coalition administration has become an intense source of social distress, so much so that for quite some time now the notion of the possibility of the Coalition being booted at the next elections has become more than a point for public discussion. This was definitely not what the backers of the Coalition going into the 2015 elections had in mind. Earlier claims of corruption aside, the level of consultations in preparation of the Budget 2017, its articulated policies, and recent attempts to influence exchange rates suggest that government’s thrust of economic management is clearly out of sync with expectations.
What many Guyanese do not want is a return of the PPP regime in 2020. Yet what is also undesirable is that the present scheme of things, become the status quo. In this regard, the President may wish to take recourse to a broader spectrum of political and economic advice to facilitate a recovery from what has so far been a disaster in the making for his term in office. Prefacing this is that the Coalition will lose the 2020 elections given the direction they are currently headed.
With this outcome in mind, the following are some issues that need to be revisited immediately: 1) scrapping of the proposals on VAT in the 2017 Budget, 2) resolving the sore issues in the sugar industry in a less acrimonious manner, 3) engaging the private sector as a partner in the modeling of any plans for economic growth and expansion, 4) establish a council of economic advisors charged with providing greater depth and perspective on policies for growth, 5) engage a couple of political advisors.
Much has been written about the unhealthy and burdensome effects of the VAT policies in the 2017 Budget. What seems an absolute certainty is that while these policies may very likely generate the revenues projected; they will also prove to be the undoing of the Coalition at the next national election. From the perspective of political survival and the maintenance of hope for betterment and improvement in welfare promised, it is strongly recommended that the VAT policies in the 2017 Budget be scrapped as soon as possible, and appropriate adjustments to the budget be adopted to maintain the level of the fiscal deficit, if this is desired.
The handling of the issues within the sugar industry has evolved into a political challenge for the Coalition. Regardless of whether or not the issues should be politicized, the fact is, they are, and have been for quite some time. While the dispatch of the former CEO of GUYSUCO was long overdue, the seeming inability of the current executive to chart a solution agreeable to both government and workers is exacting severe political costs.
It is important to government that a positive, productive partnership be established and maintained with the private sector. Success in this area naturally hinges on the attitude and capacity of the government officials responsible for developing and maintaining this relationship in the first instance, and the need to disregard the perceived politics of the private sector’s representative bodies as a basis for establishing and maintaining these productive relationships. The private sector will most probably engage government on policies supporting investment, employment creation and cost reductions. In respect of taxes, government may consider being more proactive in minimizing tax avoidance and evasion through the GRA directly, versus the unfair implementation of measures similar to the proposed VAT changes as a means of recouping underpaid taxes from the population.
In companies as well as government, matters of critical importance, instead of being entrusted to any single individual, are normally handled by oversight bodies such as governing boards, councils, committees, etcetera. Management of Guyana’s economy, as a matter of national importance, cannot be exposed to the risks associated with the oversight of a single person. In this regard, the President should appoint a board of economic advisors entrusted with guiding and advising the budget process while keeping him engaged and informed on the expected outcomes their policy recommendations are likely to realize. They will also be responsible for charting a larger economic policy framework to support the vision for Guyana’s economic development. The adoption of strategies and policies critical to social and economic issues such as sugar and VAT probably require greater consideration of the political implications for decisions made and approaches adopted. This can definitely improve the nation’s opinion of government.