BY GHK LALL
As we approach the one-year milepost of His Excellency, President Dr. Mohamed Irfan Ali’s installation in office, I cut through the national forest of political propaganda and PR fluff, and measure the record of the man and leader using six yardsticks. In no particular order, they are: unity, transparency, accountability, economy, COVID-19 credibility, and floodwater gravity. The most wholesome comments I can summon follow.
First, the current flooding saw the president getting his feet wet through hands-on involvement. I laud the leader for his example, but he should have had the wisdom to know when to step back, and put his head to work. With a truly national disaster under his belt, his mind had to be already ranging fluidly as to how to prepare for the next one. Of any kind. This has meaning for Guyana, because flooding of immense heights is not a Black Swan (one-off) event. I give the president a generous ‘B.’ The cautionary note is he must know when to delegate, move on: he may think of himself as high-minded miracle worker, with circumstances conducive, but he must know he is foremost the manager of a nation, with other grave demands.
Grave demands brings us (and president) to the pandemic, which is sending too many Guyanese to that final resting place. I thought president and government did spiritedly earlier on, but now I ask how much of the full impacts of this virus are shared with citizens. It was feared that the elderly were high-risk, with numbers of infections and deaths loosely corroborating. But now young adults and younger are among the stricken. I give credit to president and Health Minister for bringing some (some) coherence to virus handling (vaccines, information, mobilization), and wish I could say more. I can’t. Areas of concern are: curfew obstinacy, endangering the majority to favor supportive minority (private sector), and schools. On children, the education minister was open (reopening), the health minister was obscure (statistics). What will it take to move to another level? What when even the U.S categorizes Guyana re COVID-19 risk, as it does? The president as leader takes the hit: a ‘C-minus’, which is a stretch in his favor.
Third, I touch the unity the president promised. He is practiced script reader, but poor deliverer. For this most vital need in this society, he sends the well-named Mark Philips. He is a good soldier, but is not a Mark Antony, because a huge segment of Guyana does not lend him their ears. He has many countrymen, but few friends. And though he speaks with stereo sound volume (Philips), none listen. President and Prime Minister will appreciate the thankless task of the Social Cohesion man, Dr. George Norton, who healed no one. Being the leader that he has turned out to be, the head could care less. His mantra is sing the song, do the dance, and on to the next photo op. The road is long, and the load is heavy; the president has stumbled and faltered early, an absolute nonstarter of a leader on unity. He flatters to deceive. For unity, the president gets an ‘A’, meaning, absent. Or anemic.
Fourth, there is the economy. All Guyanese should relate to how I present. The president has never seen a loan he doesn’t like. Zero percent down, zero APR, and nothing upfront unleashes frenzies in him, always remembering that others will repay. He mutates into George W. Bush (another president supporters thought poorly of): bring it on down. Or is it Sam Cook: bring it on home to me? With so many billions borrowed and to be borrowed, comrades will be in corruption heaven. Correction, they already are. Of course, Central Bank wizards will trot out statistics that tell of growth and prosperity, which leave poor Guyanese wondering how they missed the gravy train. On the economy, His Excellency receives a ‘C-minus’ with the letter standing for counterfeit. It fits.
Regarding the highly hailed commitment to transparency, the president thinks citizens are dummies. Tell the nation about oil and the leadership relationship with oil magnates, skipper. Secret contracts. Cotton Tree. The police. And comrades carving out deals on the side. Financiers being protected. And cover-ups and containments at the EPA, PRO departments, and a Praetorian Guard of conspirators. I should say the president is first class falsifier. All I say is that he fooled us with promises of transparency. He earns an ‘F’ on that, which means more than fail in this instance; relates to people taking advantage of others. Think law.
Last, the president gleamed on accountability. It was his last twilight. Clearly, Guyana’s head live on a different planet. For instead of accountability, it has been a year of the murky, an annum of inaccuracy, a time of non-answerability by those who shelter under confidentiality and secrecy. The list is revealing COVID-19 cash, loan details, gold smuggling, money laundering, corrupt comrades recalled, court cases called off for other comrades. For accountability, I give the president, not a grade letter, but number. It is zero which he may mistake for a million. It has been that kind of year, the best year of our lives.