CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM


The financing of political campaigns without accountability can lead to corruption and it often does. This is the reason why there are campaign finance laws. In many countries, these laws are extensive and are enforced. Several election cycles ago in Guyana the issue of the reform of campaign finance laws was raised by Mr. Christopher Ram. He got nowhere for his pains but has doggedly stayed on course. Others have since weighed in on the issue, including Transparency International Guyana and David Hinds of the WPA. At one time the AFC promised campaign finance reform but that party appears not to have been able to persuade its senior coalition partner, APNU, to support such a project. Latterly, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, has made some serious, supportive comments on campaign finance reform. But there are still issues as to whether our political culture will sustain it.

At the basic level, there are too fundamental objectives of campaign finance reform, namely, to know who makes the contribution and to limit the amount of the contribution. These ensure, firstly, that the public would know the identity of the contributor and, secondly, the size of the contribution is not large enough to purchase influence. It is believed that public knowledge of these matters would tend to limit the potential for corruption. It is routine in Guyana, and many other Caribbean countries, that those who make significant contributions to losing parties suffer discrimination or are fearful that they would do so. Political discrimination is rife in Guyana and is frequently on public display for all to see. Therefore, it is believed that if there is a requirement for disclosure of names, contributions will dry up. If the amounts which can be contributed are limited, it is certain that political parties would not be able to raise enough funds to contest elections. These are the essential reasons why our major political parties have not been keen on campaign finance reform.

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STILL TIME FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM


President Granger’s address to the National Assembly completely omitted any reference to constitutional reform.  Since a budgetary provision was made, the Guyanese people were entitled to be told what legislative initiatives to expect from the Government.   

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SWEEP AWAY THE COBWEB


An extensive debate is currently raging in the media on the Government’s lethargic approach in preparation for the oil industry. Among the contentious issues are  legislation for local content, the sovereign wealth fund, petroleum legislation, the department of energy. The most glaring deficit appears to be the lack of expertise in Guyana on oil and gas and the deep concern that these issues will not be addressed in time for 2020 when the production of oil is due to begin. Mr. Imran Khan’s eloquent defence of the government’s efforts recently on an Al Jazeera television programme which included Messrs. Christopher Ram and Jan Mangal, has not diminished concerns.

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THE $20 BILLION QUESTION FOR GUYANA

On Friday last the New York Times published “The $20 Billion Question for Guyana.” It was a lengthy review of Guyana and the impact that the oil discovery by Exxon and its partners in offshore Guyana is likely to have. Two recent articles by the Wall Street Journal and Foreign Affairs, of world-wide reputation, like the New York Times (NYT), were published and reprinted in Guyana. Few Guyanese would recognize the description of Georgetown by one of them as ‘sleepy’ or by the NYT as a ‘musty clapboard town…which seems forgotten by time.’ Notwithstanding these unflattering first impressions of Georgetown by foreign journalists, the articles helped to highlight, not only the amount of financial resources that will become available to Guyana, but how those resources can be used or misused.

Guyana is described as an unlikely setting for the next oil boom. It is ‘one of the poorest countries in South America can become one of the wealthiest.’ The NYT article said that all the talk in Georgetown is about a sovereign wealth fund to manage the money. It underlined Minister Raphael Trotman’s comment, perhaps speaking hyperbolically, if he indeed said so, that we have been given a chance to get things right because ‘the Chinese cut down our forests and dug out our gold and we never got a cent…we could end up with the same experience with ExxonMobil.’ Whatever the dangers, Rystad Energy is quoted as predicting that Guyana will get $6 Billion by the end of the 2020s. But this is a modest estimate with a production of eventually 500,000 barrels a day. Doug McGhee, Exxon Operations Manager, predicted better social services and infrastructure, ‘if the government manages the resources right.’

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CHARLES RAMSON (JR) DECLARES FOR PPP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

Charles Ramson (Jr) recently announced that he would seek the PPP’s nomination to be its presidential candidate for the 2020 general elections. That’s not the way it’s done, admonished General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo. At the appropriate time the party will have a discussion on the matter and the candidate will emerge, he explained.

Ramson’s announcement was made immediately after the CCJ ruled that the two-term presidential limit did not violate Guyana’s constitution, thereby ruling out former president Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo for a third term, for which the PPP would have nominated him. Mr. Ramson clearly wanted his name to be placed among those under consideration before an anointment is made. He joins (in alphabetical order), Irfaan Ali, Frank Anthony and Anil Nandlall who have been identified by observers as being the persons from whom a ‘choice’ will be made. While no one has yet emerged as a ‘front runner,’ it could well be that one among the three has already been identified. If this is so then Ramson’s may possibly have been seen as an intruder, prematurely disrupting what might have been a carefully orchestrated selection process.

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