NGO says Guyana President leaves tattered legacy

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Friday January 28, 2011 – “Stagnation, violence, corruption, arch-sectarianism, and unfettered crime – this is the heritage that President Bharrat Jagdeo will bequeath to his country.”

That was the harsh assessment by the Washington-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) Research Associates Robert Cavooris and Elcin Chang, in a statement which gave Jagdeo poor marks for his performance during his two terms in office.

“Now that Jagdeo has announced that he will not seek a third term in the upcoming August election he may well ask, as a New York mayor once did, “How did I do?” The answer, in this instance, must be “terribly”,” the statement said.

“Jagdeo could only receive the lowest of marks from any independent evaluation. Through his tolerance of crime, racism, and dismal social progress, President Jagdeo has turned in a fifth-rate performance as president of one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere. As the Guyanese use every strategy, legal and illegal, to flee the dysfunctional country, Jagdeo will go down in history as a man who did almost nothing for his nation while in office.”

COHA did have some positive to say of Jagdeo, amidst the scathing criticism.

It gave the Guyanese leader credit for leading the country on a path of considerable economic growth in the last 10 years.

It noted that the Guyanese economy, which is heavily dependent on the export of six main commodities—rice, timber, gold, bauxite, shrimp and sugar—has expanded at an average rate of three percent over the past decade.

But even in acknowledging that, Cavooris and Chang were critical, saying that despite the improvement in the economy, government officials have been either unwilling or unable to share this modest prosperity with average Guyanese citizens. To support that contention, they pointed out that the allocation for education as a percentage of government spending is significantly lower than it was 10 years ago and warned that “there could be pernicious social consequences if education continues to take a back seat on the Guyanese agenda”.

On healthcare, COHA said there have been some positive results including an increase in life expectancy and a notable decrease in infant mortality, but it also said that there were still man outstanding issues. For instance, it said, about a fifth of the Guyanese population still lacks access to clean sanitation facilities and the World Health Organization estimated that Guyana has one of the highest prevalence rates of HIV/AIDS in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The COHA release further argued that Jagdeo’s tenure would also be remembered for the spike in violent crimes and pointed to several high-profile incidents including the Lusignan and Bartica massacres in 2008, in which 23 people were killed, and a bomb attack on the Ministry of Health in 2009. It also made mention of an attack at the Stabroek Market earlier this month, even though police have already said the explosion was caused when a grenade denoted in a man’s hand and was not an attack.

Cavooris and Chang also allege that the violence in Guyana has ethnic undertones and party affiliation falls almost directly along ethnic lines, and accused Jagdeo of doing “almost nothing” to address the racial divisions in the country.

“Jagdeo has failed during his presidency to advance the freedom and fairness of Guyanese public life, or the inequities of the Indo-Guyanese dominated society,” they said. 

“Increased economic growth is futile if it does not translate into a greater sense of prosperity within the entirety of society. Jagdeo’s two-term presidency fell woefully short on that point.”

The Research Associates concluded by saying that whoever replaces Jagdeo as President of Guyana must work to tackle these persistent issues, and “clear the air of hopelessness when it comes to improving life” in that country. 

Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)