The Ceremony started with a lone camera man from SAFE TV. One member of society subsequently entered. But We're off!!!
Members of the Head Table, Representatives of Local and International Organizations, and my fellow Guyanese,
Welcome to the Official Launch of the Democratic National Congress. We will be contesting the 2020 national elections to form a full government under the theme Bringing Guyana Into The 21st Century.
The Democratic National Congress (DNC) was formed to respond to the growing threat of the repetition of the failed politics and policies of Guyana’s two major political parties. In this regard, we have formulated a set of principles and policies which we feel is reflective of the desires of all Guyanese, and offer it to the nation as an alternative political party and system of government upon which to build Guyana.
Our target group comprises workers, the business community, and those who have been left behind by the administrations of our major political parties.
We encourage all Guyanese to examine our ideas and make suggestions, so that come 2020, we can all be confident that we have both a political party and an economic policy framework to which we can together commit to working to make a success as we strive to address our pressing political and economic problems.
Today will finally mark the day in our history when we set aside the politics of race which has divided us as a nation, and unite under a set of tested policies which have advanced the welfare of the developed nations.
Today marks the day when we exchange the race-based policies and lies of the past for a new paradigm, the paradigm which puts our people first.
Today marks the day when we no longer see our different ethnic groups and cultures as threats to each other, but as brothers and sisters in a common struggle.
Yes. Today is a different day.
Today is the day when we confront and defeat the ills of our past which have driven us asunder, and examine and chart the course of our future not as a nation divided, but as one people, one nation, with one destiny.
Today we finally have an opportunity not only to offer the hope of unity that has long eluded us, but to finally succeed at it, because we finally have a policy framework that can deliver on our dreams and aspirations and stand the test of time as we learn to better manage our nation’s business.
Indeed, our party has been established on sound economic policies which see racism as destructive to the intent of our desire for a better standard of living and national unity. We have examined Guyana’s situation and have developed our constitution, what we propose as our Contract with Guyana, and our Agenda for our first one hundred in office based upon this assessment. Today we offer these to you, to the nation, for examination and inspection, for consideration and comments, so that come 2020, we can all be confident that we have solid proposals with which we can unite to achieve of goals of a better life and increased welfare for all Guyanese.
We have in the past been cynical about third parties and their short life expectancies, and have been manipulated by fear of each other. Well today I say to you that it is that same unfounded fear of each other which has brought us full circle with the very real possibility of the failures of our past becoming the course of our future. Because it is obvious to us all now that the politics and policies of our major political parties have failed us, and will continue to do so.
Let us take some time to examine our proposals and see for ourselves that we finally have a set of ideas which can take us forward.
The DNC’s Vision For Guyana
The vision of the Democratic National Congress for Guyana is captured in our theme, Bringing Guyana Into The 21st Century. We are committed, and will work towards developing Guyana so that Guyanese can enjoy the level of welfare and standard of living achieved in developed economies. This will be realized by marshalling our resources and investing in our human and productive capital to generate national and personal incomes which will fund transformations in our physical infrastructure and allow Guyanese to live comfortable lives where they can afford not only basic necessities, but also enjoy the welfare that derives from acquiring the things that appeal to them. Investment will be targeted in four broad areas:
1. Our Citizens
2. Government Services
3. Our Communities
4. The Productive Sectors.
Investment in Our Citizens
Our people are our most important and transformative asset. In this regard, we are committed to releasing the potential of our citizens by investing directly in their capacities. Incomes and unemployment issues have been placed at the center of our economic policy framework. Workers have over the decades struggled under the burden of depressed incomes, which has severely restricted their ability to enjoy basic welfare needs in many instances. Government under the DNC will work closely with workers’ unions to develop a plan for addressing workers’ income issues by aligning these with what our negotiations can agree on as a ‘living wage’. That is, the incomes of all public sector workers will be adjusted by an amount which will raise the wages and salaries of the lowest paid public servants up to the level where we can agree they can live comfortably. We will also work closely with the private sector to address bottlenecks to investment and job creation as a means of addressing our pressing national unemployment situation.
The Democratic National Congress recognizes that much of the corruption in government services results from the depressed incomes of public servants. We intend to address this directly by paying increased wages and salaries to our public servants. Further, a national governance framework is integral to eliminating corruption, minimizing waste of taxpayers’ dollars and maximizing growth and welfare possibilities. In this regard, more weight will be given to the independence of the Public Procurement Commission. All government ministries and agencies will be tasked with drafting governance guidelines for their respective organizations with external assistance where necessary. These will be integrated into the operations of the respective organizations. All staff will be provided with training to ensure that regulations on governance are adhered to.
Realizing our vision of bringing Guyana into the 21st century necessarily involves investing in our communities. We will work with regional and municipal administrative bodies to ensure that they embrace the sound governance practices established for central government. They will be consulted regarding their respective budgets and the responsiveness of these in delivering on environmental standards for cleanliness and other physical and social infrastructure necessary for increasing the standard of living in these communities.
Our Productive Sectors
Investment in our productive sectors is crucial for realizing our vision for Guyana. In this respect, we encourage all Guyanese to examine their available productive assets and consider what resources they need to generate wealth. The government of the DNC will hold consultations with all productive sectors, from agriculture to manufacturing, mining and IT, to ensure that every sector has the necessary support to increase production and wherever possible, facilitate access to export markets.
The DNC’s Contract with Guyana:
The DNC’s Contract with Guyana spells out in clear language the roles and responsibilities of our government to the people of Guyana.
1. Maintain the Constitution of Guyana so that it reflects the will and wishes of the People.
2. Promote economic prosperity for all by creating an enabling environment which provides the legal, regulatory and physical infrastructure to support innovation and industry within the private sector.
3. Ensure that income levels and unemployment are central to our policy framework.
4. Provide the physical and social infrastructure to ensure a mobile, healthy, educated work force.
5. Guarantee social, cultural and religious freedoms to all ethnic groups.
6. Guarantee equal rights of citizens under the law.
7. Guarantee freedom of expression and freedom to associate.
8. Develop and maintain Guyana’s national security to safeguard against both internal and external threats.
9. Work with the United Nations Commissions on Human Rights to facilitate the adoption of its universally established rights, to the extent that these rights reflect our country’s values, customs and traditions.
The DNC’s Agenda For Its First One Hundred Days In Office
1. The Constitution of Guyana - A Constitution Commission will be established to identify issues with our constitution. These will be examined to determine the appropriate course of action for each, counter-parties to resolution if necessary, total time expected for a full resolution of each, and all issues. This will be presented to the public for discussion, and subject to any other recommendations, mechanisms will be established to proceed with a full resolution of all identified issues. Periodic press releases will be made to keep the public informed.
2. Public Servants’ Wages & Salaries - The wages and salaries of our public servants have taken a drubbing for in excess of two decades, and will be brought to the front burner immediately. Public service union leaders can therefore look forward to making proposals on public servants’ salaries, because we have some which we are confident will stir interest.
3. Investment, Job Creation & General Private Sector Matters - Foreign investors have the potential to significantly accelerate Guyana’s development prospects, and in this regard, GO-INVEST will be further strengthened, with greater efforts being extended to marketing Guyana abroad in an effort to attract investor attention.
A public/private panel will be set up which will focus on local private sector concerns regarding investment, job creation and general matters that concern private sector expansion. Also to be covered here is infrastructural development.
4. Welfare Benefits and Unemployment Insurance - The DNC acknowledges the integral role workers play in innovation, production and overall national development. In this regard, it will initiate a systematic assessment of welfare benefits provided to our adult population by the government of Guyana to determine the effectiveness of these benefits in responding to recipients’ particular circumstances.
To the extent this has not already been done by 2020, our administration will undertake steps aimed at drafting legislation which will finally realize the provision of unemployment insurance to our nation's affected workers. An evaluation will be conducted to determine funding requirements and alternative mechanisms for financing these benefits.
5. Taxation - The applications of VAT in the 2017 budget will be repealed. Further efforts will be paid to seeing how VAT can be scaled back. Some mechanism will be also put in place to lower income taxes generally, and an investigation into the appropriateness of having a lower flat tax for businesses will be made.
General reductions in tax rates will follow increased government revenues which are expected to flow from the policy matrix government implements after consultations with various stakeholders. Reductions are also subject to infrastructural demands.
6. Rice & Sugar - Discussions will be held with representatives of the rice sector to address bottlenecks within the sector. Greater supervision will be made available to ensure rice farmers are fairly treated.
The problems in the sugar industry should have been addressed long ago, and will be brought to a closure sooner than later. International experts will be consulted to determine the industry’s viability in the future. The DNC proposes to have sugar workers who left or were released from 2010 to the present included as part of the negotiations, which we think is an appropriate cut-off point for inclusion. Failing any firm agreements which will involve the union regarding privatization, we have already drafted some proposals which include the distribution of land to sugar workers along with a financial compensation package. The distribution of land will fall within a larger policy support framework for those receiving these lands.
7. Other Agriculture - Exports in 2016 for the world's two top agricultural exporters, America and the Netherlands, were estimated at US$129.7 billion and US$100 billion, respectively. Curiously, Netherlands is just over 16,000 square miles, or about one-fifth the size of Guyana. It attributes its performance to returns on its investment in innovation and research over the years. Given the achievements of these two countries, our Ministry of Agriculture will be tasked with conducting a complete evaluation of our available agricultural resources. They will also be tasked with engaging with America, the Netherlands and other top agricultural producers and exporters in an effort to source available research and technologies which can be adapted to Guyana's own conditions. The National Development Strategy will be consulted for locally available information on the subject.
8. Natural Resources Sector – Guyana’s natural resources represent a great source of income and wealth to Guyanese. In this respect, international consultants will be engaged to ensure that Guyana obtains maximum returns from investments in this sector while remaining competitive in respect of the concessions offered to investors and corporations interested in entering this economic sector.
Gold Mining - Within the gold mining sector, in the absence of stronger policing systems, royalties and other punitive charges need to be reduced to improve official gold declarations, and encourage investment and job creation within the sector.
9. Amerindian Affairs - The cultures and lifestyles of our Amerindian peoples are such that where this has not already been done, legislation will be crafted to preserve these, to the extent that they do not contradict the laws of our country. The Ministry of Amerindian Affairs will be tasked with producing a policy framework paper which documents issues which concern Amerindians. The paper will contain proposals for addressing highlighted issues and suggested times for resolution. The Amerindian Peoples' Association will be consulted to determine how best to approach the social and economic development of Amerindians without eroding their cultures. They, in consultation with the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, will submit proposals on recovering aspects of their culture which were previously lost, with particular emphasis on their languages.
10. Water & Electricity - The Guyana Water Inc. will be responsible for preparing and submitting information regarding unserved areas. They will also develop and implement a plan for addressing the availability of potable water.
Concerns about electricity supply and cost will be addressed as a matter of urgency, with a more clinical approach to addressing needs and resource utilization mechanisms.
11. Health & Education - The Ministries of Health & Education will be tasked with identifying weaknesses in their service delivery, and making proposals to address these weaknesses. For example, much more needs to be done to address the performance of students at the common entrance or National Grade Six examinations.
12. Sports - Sports is considered integral to achieving the successes in welfare defined by our party’s constitution. Sports will be elevated and will form part of Guyana’s marketing strategy under our government. For a start, specific sports disciplines will be identified and resources allocated to raising Guyana’s performance on the global stage.
13. Governance - A national governance framework is integral to eliminating corruption, minimizing waste of taxpayers’ dollars and maximizing growth and welfare possibilities. In this regard, more weight will be given to the independence of the Public Procurement Commission. All government ministries and agencies will be tasked with drafting governance guidelines for their respective organizations with external assistance where necessary. These will be integrated into the operations of the respective organizations. All staff will be provided with training to ensure that regulations on governance are adhered to. Governance issues will also be addressed with the Private Sector at the Public/Private dialogue forum.
14. Housing - The fee structure for issuing house lots will be revisited to provide more relief to house lot recipients. This approach is necessary and appropriate since much of the poverty and depressed wages which exist in Guyana were and are a direct consequence of poor government policy in the first instance.
Defining Guyana’s Future
Guyana’s future and national development will be continuously addressed through public/private dialogue with the Private Sector. This will ensure that both government and the Private Sector share a common vision for the expansion and national development of our country. Increasing incomes will naturally result in the expansion of our residential communities and increased demands on our municipalities. The government of the DNC will therefore work along with our administrative organs to produce plans for the extension and development of their respective communities. Ideas for development which were previously tabled will be examined to determine their ability to respond to the demands envisaged under our administration.
Draft Constitution of the Democratic National Congress
The Democratic National Congress is committed to the following principles:
1. That Guyana be governed as a Democratic Republic, where the authority of the state and its government is created and sustained by the consent of its people through their elected representatives;
2. Preservation of a sound, effective political system for choosing and replacing governments through free and fair elections;
3. Encouraging and facilitating the active participation of all Guyanese as citizens, in politics and civic life;
4. Delivering effective government which recognizes industry, innovation and workers as central to the attainment of our country’s goals of a standard of living where we can enjoy the fruits of our labor, achieve of our goals, be healthy and happy;
5. Recognize the income levels of our citizens and unemployment as central to our efforts in advancing welfare growth;
6. Protection of the human rights of all citizens;
7. Enforcement of the Rule of Law, where the laws and procedures of Guyana apply equally to all of our citizens;
8. Freedom of Expression – Everyone is guaranteed the right to communicate with each other and express ideas freely in an open and fair society.
The Democratic National Congress rejects all forms of racism and race-based politics and policies.