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PSC backs negotiation of US-funded democracy project

Last Updated on Saturday, 26 December 2015, 21:00 by GxMedia

President Donald Ramotar during a meeting with members of the private sector at the Office of the President on Monday. Also in photo are Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon, Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, and Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce (ag), Irfaan Ali (GINA photo)

The Private Sector Commission (PSC) has been stressing the need for the United States (US) and the Guyana government to negotiate the US$1.2 million leadership and democracy project, a top official of the business organisation said Tuesday.

PSC Chairman, Ronald Webster confirmed that a delegation last week met with the Head of the American embassy here and on Monday of this week with a government delegation led by President Donald Ramotar.

Webster told Demerara Waves Online News that the PSC decided to intervene in a political matter because it was seeking to avoid yet another bout of instability that could further affect the business climate. “It’s not something that we would normally get involved in. This is more than a political rather than…but we have a very basic concern and that is the general stability of the economy and we have had enough of these ups and downs last year. Let’s see if we can avoid it as far as is feasible,” he said.

The PSC last year had spoken out against the opposition’s veto of a number of key projects including the construction of a nearly US$1 billion hydro power plant, the rehabilitation of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, building of an Indian-funded Specialty Hospital and the blackilisting of Guyana by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) after the voting down of amendments to the Anti Money Laundering and Countering of Financing Terrorism Act.

Webster declined to comment on the details of both meetings but confirmed that the PSC tabled its desire for the Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) Project to be renegotiated. “Definitely there is room for negotiations. There are many things that can be done and you’ve got sovereignty issues, all sorts of things. These things can be dealt with in a civilized manner.”

The PSC in some quarters is regarded as being too cozy with the Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPPC)-led government. While the US insists that the Guyana government has been properly consulted beforehand, the administration here has been strenuously contending that the US had long approved funds, designed the project and hired IRI.

Like the President Donald Ramotar-led administration, the PSC wants the project being implemented by the International Republican Institute (IRI) to be put on hold before any negotiations take place. “The suggestion was made but it’s not necessarily a lead suggestion but it’s one way of resolving a problem,” he said.

Other PSC sources confirmed that the LEAD project was welcomed by the umbrella business organisation.

The PSC boss said the meetings were part of a fact-finding mission about the issues concerning the project. “It’s for our own guidance. We needed feedback on some issues and we have made some suggestions. Let’s see if they are followed through,” he said.

The parliamentary political opposition and the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) have unconditionally welcomed the LEAD project that seeks to involve youth, women, political parties, politicians and the wider public in problem-solving, policy formulation and legal drafting.

In addition to the alleged absence of consultation on the US’ part, the Ramotar administration has specifically objected to the project on grounds that Guyana does not have a system that finances political parties and will not support any foreign initiative that can lead to constitutional reform. Rather than engaging political parties directly, the administration has said that it would have preferred if the project had gone through established institutions like the Parliament. The National Assembly is identified as a stakeholder in one component of the three-year project.

On the other hand, the PPP has expressed historical fears that the initiative is aimed at bolstering the fortunes of the opposition as had been the case back in the 1960s when the US had played a major role in removing the Cheddi Jagan-led administration from office.

Worried that Jagan would have led then British Guiana into independence from Britain and make the South American country a Soviet satellite state in the Western Hemisphere, the John F. Kennedy administration had persuaded Britain to ensure that independence was granted instead under a Forbes Burnham-led administration.

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