May 18, 2018
What is so different about Guyana from the rest of the world? We have been a troubled society for more than seventy years. Our politics, political culture, racial cartography have presented problems that are almost insurmountable. I have left out a conspicuous feature of Guyana – the underdeveloped economy. The reason is that hundred of countries like Guyana had and have a poor economy, but they do not have our haunting non-economic nightmares.
For all the talk about Burnham and Jagan being visionaries, they were not successful leaders. They were not transformers. Burnham’s vision was limited to economic self-sufficiency. His politics was an abysmal failure. So bad it was that Walter Rodney attracted widespread support from Burnham’s own constituencies. Jagan had inherent flaws that had he lived longer, his presidency would have ended as a complete failure.
Desmond Hoyte was a raggedly failed intellectual. He understood none of the big problems in the politics of Guyana. He was ignorant of the realities of Guyana’s sociology. Jagdeo became the worst president we had. Whereas Burnham, Jagan and Hoyte honestly tried and wanted to create a beneficial landscape for the future, Jagdeo had no such dreams or was ever interested. Burnham’s authoritarianism was accompanied by fantastic economic vision. Jagdeo was simply autocratic without leadership qualities.
Outside of the general post office one day, Ronald Austin, one of most powerful figures in the Hoyte administration told me, long after he left government, that Guyana is a very difficult place to govern. No words can be more pointed. David Granger should not be envied. All the inherent problems of Guyana were worsened by the fifteen-year-old domination of Jagdeo. Whoever it fell upon to lead Guyana, after the PPP lost in 2015, had a frightening task that was truly nightmarish.
But leadership qualities could confront any situation. A difficult country calls for transformational leadership. My academic opinion is that Granger has failed in this respect because he hasn’t sufficient leadership qualities. Guyana is a complex, problem-riddled polity, and if some of the landmines are going to be cleared, it cannot be done by ordinary thinking. No one has asked or is asking Granger to be a heroic visionary. But he has to show some form of visionary capacity.
As a citizen who studies Guyana’s complexities, I haven’t seen any movement from Granger in that direction. On the contrary; there has been extensive backsliding by Mr. Granger, some of which is very worrying for the consolidation of democracy.
Before we adumbrate on the absence of transformational capacities; a word about Mr. Granger’s integrity. There is general consensus in Guyana and abroad that the Guyanese president is not interested in the trappings of financial ostentation. That he is incorruptible. But so were Desmond Hoyte and Presidents Cheddi and Janet Jagan. All three of these presidents I believe were incorruptible. Sam Hinds, the longest serving Prime Minister in the Caricom region, in my opinion was not in the least tainted by a corrupt culture. So let us move on to the politics of David Granger.
How much more time does the researcher need to assess the effective presidency of David Granger? If three years are not enough, then though there may be a point there, one must see some futuristic indicators. One must see some movements in the landscaping of a new horizon. After three years, Mr. Granger is yet to start the architecture.
In analyzing Granger, huge contradictions stare the researcher in the face, an expansion of which cannot hold in one column. I will expand in future pieces. First, Granger is an assertive admirer of Forbes Burnham. His private home houses four projects/foundations in honour of the PNC founder-leader. But in the three years of his tenure, not one item in the huge repertoire of Burnham’s economic ideology have we seen Granger practice. In fact, he contradicts Burnham every day, the most glaring of which was his pronouncement that it is not the government’s responsibility to find jobs. What a neo-liberal, anti-radical rejection of the pillars on which stands the legacy of Burnham.
Secondly, despite his obsession with power and his authoritarian style, Burnham’s essential direction as the administrator of Guyana was to empower people at the lower levels of income. Granger is yet to show interest in this. I don’t think his economic ideology has any broad strands of working class elevation. Granger and his ministers and advisors are neo-liberal practitioners who believe in the trickledown theory of economics.
Space has run out, but finally, I am not sure that the man Granger is a believer in the philosophical essence of freedom, justice and equality.