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Granger’s APNU

July 19th, 2014

At a recent press conference to mark the third anniversary of the APNU, the major opposition force in the National Assembly, coalition leader Mr. David Granger addressed the unrivalled successes of the APNU in its relative brief existence despite what he lamented as the serious lack of facilities and resources it faces. Mr. Granger, who is also the leader of the PNC-R and of the Opposition in the National Assembly, came to politics after a career in the military of which he also became a historian, and a stint as an entrepreneur and publisher of the Guyana Review. Starting today, I will attempt an analysis of Mr. Granger’s assessment of his coalition and his claim of limited resources.

In his press conference Mr. Granger disagreed with his unidentified or unnamed critics that adequate work has not been done and also disagrees with anyone that the work of the APNU had not been adequate over the last 30 months. In what appears to be a poorly expressed thought Mr. Granger claimed that the APNU had “achieved a lot more than has been achieved in the last 20 years”.

There seems something wrong with the framing of Granger’s statement. It is incongruous for the 20-year period that includes the thirty months of the APNU since elections 2011 to be less successful than those of the three years, unless Mr. Granger is saying that the previous seventeen years produced negative achievements, an indictment of his predecessors President Desmond Hoyte and Robert Corbin who shared that period.

Unfortunately, none of the journalists at the press conference is reported to have asked Mr. Granger to identify either his yardstick for measuring success or to name a couple of those successes. Even if the commentator is able to make his own assessment of the successes it would be futile to second guess Mr. Granger’s yardstick.
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Luncheon reduces Manickchand to a wild animal

July 9th, 2014

Dr Roger Luncheon, Head of the Presidential Secretariat, may have intended to provide cover for and defence of acting Foreign Minister Ms. Priya Manickchand whose toast at the Fourth of July celebration of the Independence of the United States of America, and farewell for its ambassador to Guyana Mr. Brent Hardt has drawn widespread criticism. There have been words like “disgust”, “lacking decorum”, “descent into the gutter”.

But none of these can compare with Dr Luncheon’s “feral blast” which by implication reduces Ms. Manickchand to the level of a wild beast. It is insulting and demeaning for Dr Luncheon to associate any person, and moreso a woman, with such language.

Ms. Manickchand should reject such an association with her, or any action taken by her. I believe that she should have refused to deliver such a “toast” which could only damage the relations between Guyana and United States of America and the public’s perception of her.
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Challenging Statistics

July 7th, 2014

Origin aside, ever since the quotation made famous by Mark Twain, that there are three types of lies – lies, damn lies and statistics – the profession of statistics invariably finds itself under the microscope and the practitioners of the profession having their output continually challenged.

The preliminary report on the Guyana Population and Housing Census 2012 which began in the fourth quarter of 2012 and closed in January 2013 has just been published. The census was conducted as part of a regional effort coordinated by the CARICOM Secretariat and in compliance with the United Nations’ mandate to execute the 2010 Global Round of Censuses.

The two principal criticisms I have heard of the preliminary report relate to a gratuitous comment made by the Chief Statistician about migration and concerns expressed by a number of persons that they could not recall having been enumerated in the census. Data for the years 2004 – 2013 published by the Ministry of Finance and the Bureau of Statistics show official net outward migration of approximately 12,700 persons per annum which accords with my own best estimate using figures published by the Bureau of Statistics from data supplied by the Registrar of Births and Deaths.

The second matter, if true, is serious but for a different reason. Population size feeds into two key economic indicators used for international comparison purposes – per capita GDP and per capita GNP. Age and geographic distribution are useful indicators for planners in education, health and pension policies, in determining the location of schools and medical facilities and estimating the expenditure on pensions.
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Not a ‘marginal’ reduction in population

July 2nd, 2014

The 2012 census data are now out. The report shows that Guyana’s population has dropped to 747,884, down from 751,223 recorded for 2002. Taking an arithmetic approach Chief Statistician and Census Officer Lennox Benjamin calculates and describes the decline of 3,339 as a “marginal reduction.”

I would have had no difficulty with our Chief Statistician if he had simply provided the figures and let analysts and commentators consider their implications, or himself do so. In a matter involving so many components it is misleading, even dangerously so, to take two bald figures, subtract one from the other and then make a qualitative judgement therefrom about substantial or marginal. Mr Benjamin then adds the gratuitous comment that the “marginal reduction” was “mainly influenced by migration.”

There is nothing marginal about the numbers. If we add to the population of 751,223 persons in 2002 the 124,805 representing the number of births over deaths over the same period, the population at 2012 should have been 876,028 persons. In other words, we have lost at a minimum 128,144 persons. I describe this as minimum because over the past 10 years Guyana has attracted an indeterminate number of mainly Brazilians and Chinese at a rate not experienced by this country for more than 70 years.

If the number of inward immigrants is put conservatively at 1,000 persons per annum, it means that Guyana has lost a staggering 138,144 persons to outward migration, on a population that is less than three-quarters of a million.

Surely, surely it is time for those who manage this country to reflect on the causes why Guyanese are still leaving this country in droves and on the implications for the country of its best, brightest, most productive and ablest persons opting to leave.

I will review more fully the preliminary report on the 2012 census this weekend.

Potential financial crisis looms

June 22nd, 2014

My blog of April 20, 2014 was captioned Doubts about Government respecting the budget non-approvals. That e-column followed the passage of the Appropriation Act 2014 introduced by the Minister of Finance and passed on April 16, 2014. In that column, I noted that the passage of the Appropriation Bill had given way to skepticism, suspicion and speculation and I expressed three possible responses by the Government: returning to the courts; bringing the first Supplementary Appropriation Bill for 2014 to restore the noncontroversial items which were victims of collateral damage, or thirdly that the Minister of Finance would “simply release the funds that [had] been removed by the Opposition and accepted by the Government in the amended Appropriation Act.”

It is now known that the government, through the Minister of Finance, chose to spend public moneys on items in programmes that had been specifically rejected by the National Assembly. Last Thursday, by way of Bill No 12 of 2014 the Minister presented to the National Assembly for rubberstamping $610,404,711 for current expenditure and $3,943,357,280 for expenditure under the capital programme, a total of $4,553,761,991.

In today’s e-column I seek to explore whether the Minister of Finance has acted properly, legally and constitutionally and the potential consequences of his action which one presumes he pursued on the advice of the Attorney General Mr. Anil Nandlall. According to the Bill presented by the Minister which comes up for debate and approval/non-approval next Thursday, the expenditure is authorized under Article 219 of the Constitution and sections 24 and 41 of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act. I have serious doubts about that. But let us look at each of them.
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