Last Updated on Sunday, 27 August 2023, 22:17 by Denis Chabrol
Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), Aubrey Norton on Saturday said his party was wary of taking donations from big businesses to stave off pressure to award contracts to them should his party win the 2025 general and regional elections.
“I’m very much interested in us getting small contributions across so that we remove the vulnerability that comes when you rely on a few big business people and then after you get power, they want to control everything. Our focus has to be on delivering to our people,” he said.
Instead, he said the party was preparing to accept donations from supporters at home and in the Diaspora online via a website that was under construction. He said the best approach was for the PNCR to mobilise its own resources and work with its people. “We will accommodate business but we must ensure that the people of Guyana benefit and not the PPP elite, their friends, their family, their favourites that benefit now,” he said.
Addressing party supporters in Maryland, United States, that party leader calculated that the PNCR could raise at least GY$20 million monthly if at least 1,000 persons donate GY$20,000. There is some support from the business community but I want to tell you the real support for our party will come from our support base,” he said.
Under pressure from one of the participants to articulate solutions that involve the Diaspora rather than merely criticise the government as that approach was not yielding a victory, he said the PNCR currently has one person that interacts with the Diaspora but would expand that to a unit. Among its priorities, he said, would be to conduct a survey of available and required skills through a “joint effort.”
Two months ago, he had told reporters on Local Government Election Day that the PNCR did not muster sufficient funds from the business community to allow it to contest in all of the local authority areas. A few weeks ago, party sources had told Demerara Waves Online News that the party could not afford approximately GY$2.3 million per quarter to hold its General Council meetings for the past year.
Reflecting on the PNCR-led coalition’s experience of having been widely tipped to win the 2015 polls, he said businesses had expected “to stay in charge and be in control” after providing campaign financing. At the same time, Mr Norton sought to guarantee the private sector that their investments would not be in jeopardy under his party in government. “The next government will be pro-business but we will have a commitment to ensure that our supporters, our members and poor Guyanese, regardless of ethnicity, benefit from the wealth of Guyana,” he said.
Despite repeated recommendations by international election observers for Guyana to enact campaign financing legislation, both the PNCR and the PPP have expressed fears about publicising the names of donors.
At the same time, Mr Norton announced at the PNCR meeting in Maryland that should he be elected Guyana’s next President, he would rectify inequities being faced by Afro-Guyanese at the hands of the PPP, a largely Indo-Guyanese supported political party. Through its “People Centered Development Strategy” he listed a number of promises.
They include increasing the pensions of public servants who retired in the 1980s and 1990s as their current emolument is calculated on their last salaries in those years. “We are obligated, as a government, that when we are in power, we will bring them to par so that their pension can become a pension that they can live on,” he said. Other promises include the provision of free transportation to school children, tax free salaries to Guyanese who are working for GY$150,000 or less per month, increased food production in all 10 administrative regions, facilitating more agro-processing centres, and food and nutrition education to maximise the consumption of locally produced fruits and vegetables.
Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo had said that general and regional elections would next be held in 2025 and that the PPP’s Presidential candidate would once again be Dr Irfaan Ali.