Is Guyana a Failed State?

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Dr Ashni Singh (right) and Winston Brassington

Major Distortions in Corruption Allegations

By Dr. TARA SINGH

The PNC and its collaborators, including the AFC, has been in the habit of describing Guyana as a failed state under the PPP rule. They had gone further by making extravagant claims that Guyana was a “narco” and a “criminalized’’ state.

One of the foremost exponents of this political crusade is a man who has been anointed the intellectual Guru of the coalition government. A man of ‘ratoon’ fame that has abandoned his deep principles for the working class, and eagerly joined the PNC-AFC elite circle in the quest for power, prestige, wealth and influence. He couldn’t have found those trappings of office elsewhere. This man refused to testify before the Rodney COI (Commission of Inquiry) and it was that escape that helped to lay bare his political and moral somersault.

As most Guyanese know, he was a very close colleague and confidante of Dr Walter Rodney. This man says unapologetically that the country’s national wealth was plundered by the “greedy,” (meaning PPP operatives). In a similar manner that Burnham had proclaimed the Sophia Declaration (“it was also decided that the Party should assume unapologetically its paramountcy over the Government which is merely one of its executive arms”) Clive Thomas enunciated his edict on corruption about 3 decades later, but restricted it only to the PPP. His promulgation was part of his political polemic that had no empirical foundation. Thomas reported, for example, that Guyana had been losing $(G) 333 to $(G) 340 billion a year through corruption. No responsible person would dare to engage in such colossal fabrication! Clive believes that he can seek shelter for extravagance through his academic standing, which has gradually been eroding.

According to Clive, the 23 years of PPP governance would have yielded a minimum of $(G) 7. 659 trillion (or USD 38.295 billion) through corrupt acts. The country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for that 23 year period was a combined total of USD 19.55 billion. What he was really saying therefore was that the PPP stole or caused to be stolen much more wealth than was produced by the country. The value of the alleged stolen wealth was two times more than the country’s GDP. How can anyone steal more than the annual total wealth created? Even in one’s dreams this does not happen.

Where did the PPP and its operatives conceal this massively massive sum of money? For 3 years, SARA (State Assets Recovery Agency) and SOCU (Special Organized Crime Unit) were searching scrupulously (bank accounts, etc) for that stolen wealth but they couldn’t find anything. As a consolation and to save face, Clive and his colleagues decided to institute charges against former Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh and former head of NICIL Winston Brassington for “public misconduct.” Clive should have been charged also for “public mischief” for spreading unrestrained falsehoods and destroying the reputation of good people?

If his allegations had been correct his APNU-AFC party that is in power would have had another $(G) 333 billion annually to spend. And Guyanese would have really had the good life! The reality is that they can’t find something that doesn’t exist.

Speaking as a champion of accountability and good governance, Clive has been very quiet on the controversial USD 18 million signing bonus which turned out to be a state secret. Was that a criminal act committed by the state? Of course yes, but only if it was perpetrated by the PPP. Neither has Clive said anything about $(G) 14 million a month rental which his government is paying for a Sussex Street house that is being used as a pharmaceutical bond? This is corruption of an unprecedented scale. Let’s not forget that stealing an election is the mother of all corruptions. What about the sole sourcing of pharmaceuticals which violated the procurement rules? The PPC (Public Procurement Commission) found that the top Ministry of Public Health officials contravened the procurement rules but regrettably they have no executive authority. Clive’s party created a useless agency.

Clive Thomas

When would Clive and his SARA/SOCU ever go after PNC-AFC operatives who have been engaged in over 40 cases of corruption thus far. This is the only government in the western world where a set of laws is being enforced on only one set or group of people. This is discrimination of the highest order.

Thomas, his colleagues and followers would continue to beat the corruption drum to keep their supporters together. They have nothing significant to show for the past 3 years around which their supporters could rally. The one issue they believe that they have is “corruption.” So they continue to beat the corruption drum. Remember Basil Williams said that they have to continue with these negative tactics to weaken the PPP. They have completely ignored the significant economic progress (with 4.5% annual GDP growth that outstripped the growth of the Caribbean economies) that the country had made over the 2006 to 2014 period. The PPP had also brought the country out of bankruptcy. The housing programs, the 4 lane roads, the new school constructions, among others, plus the development projects such as oil exploration, bridges, and airport expansion are clear evidence of progress.

The figures on alleged PPP corruption as presented by Clive are calculated not as a method of public information but as an incendiary device to incite agitation against the PPP government. Would it be strange therefore for anyone to understand what motivated the so-called “Freedom Fighters” to begin an insurrection against the duly elected PPP government? It has become increasingly apparent that what Thomas was writing about corruption, including narco and criminalized state, fits instead neatly into the APNU-AFC style of governance. While thinking about the PPP, he was drawn to prophesizing the corrupt behavior of the APNU-AFC government. He knows that Guyana is a failed state under the coalition. The good life is an illusion and lofty statements turn out to be political gimmicks.

Clive Thomas questions what he deems as the “hands off” approach to corruption by international agencies. He notes; “the behavior of the international community, particularly the IFIs contrary to their public declarations, is tantamount to giving private behind-the-scenes encouragement for corrupt behavior.” That comment was meant to apply to the PPP term in office. Now, does Clive still hold this view given the high levels of corruption in his government? Why have the IFIs (International Financial Institutions) also kept silent on all the corruption cases with which this coalition government operatives are involved, including the secret USD 18 million signing bonus?

The good life is for just Clive Thomas and his elite circle. GDP has fallen below 4% for the past 3 years and labor displacement has been substantial with the closure of 4 sugar estates accounting for over 7000 job losses alone in the sugar industry. Clive Thomas was the architect of the estates’ closures. We heard recently of the loss of another 347 jobs at the fishing complex, BEV. The jobless figure is around 15%, with youth unemployment as high as 40%. The youth would not make plantain chips and cassava bread for their living! Fisheries was an industry touted as an alternative to sugar but the prevalence of piracy on the high seas makes this unattractive.

Despite the US’s Drug Enforcement Agency’ (DEA) presence in Guyana, drug busts continue, including the destruction of marijuana fields by the police. In the mid-1980s myself and colleague Michael Parris conducted a field research for UNESCO on Drug Abuse in Guyana and we identified Guyana as a transshipment point for drugs coming from South America. Uncontrollable drug use was also used at the famous Jonestown commune in the late 1970s. If Guyana was ever a narco state under the PPP, it certainly retains that title under the Granger administration despite collaboration with the DEA.

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The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the THE WEST INDIAN.

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