Mr. Carl Greenidge, Finance Minister in the PNC Administration has been one of the chief targets of the PPP/C since 2011 for what they claim to be his mismanagement of the economy prior to 1992. This claim is at best one-sided and at worst totally dishonest, completely ignoring the performance of the economy when Greenidge demitted office in 1992. Perhaps as the calypsonian Chalkdust sang: “they ‘fraid Carl”.
A question for the PPP/C is if the Economic Recovery Programme (ERP) which they in opposition had dubbed Empty Rice Pot was so bad, why did they not replace it? The truth is that the ERP negotiated by Greenidge with the IMF and other international lenders and donors placed Guyana on a trend where its economic growth rate was well above anything the country has ever witnessed, before or after. Asgar Ally, riding on the wave of debt write offs initiated by Greenidge, kept the economy roaring until he was undermined by then Junior Finance Minister Bharrat Jagdeo.
Jagdeo’s reverse gear
Following the appointment of Jagdeo as Finance Minister the economy went into reverse, a trend which continued with his micro-management of the economy when he succeeded Janet Jagan as President in 1999. Let us see how the numbers stack up.
In October 1992 when Asgar Ally took over as Finance Minister, GDP was growing at 7.7% following a 6.1% growth in 1991. But as the graph below shows, the economy recorded its first decline in the decade of the nineties under Jagdeo as Finance Minister, an underperformance repeated for three years between 2000 and 2005 under Jagdeo’s presidency.
The PPP/C would also have the nation believe that their Government paid off the debts inherited from the PNC. The reality is different. As a result of the economic recovery programme constructed by Greenidge, Guyana benefitted from substantial debt write-offs even as the PPP/C engaged in its own borrowing spree, both locally and internationally. For the domestic debt, see table below:
Unfortunately for Guyana, economic mismanagement is not the only or worst failure of Jagdeo. He consistently violated the Constitution; undermined the judiciary; compromised public accounting and accountability; facilitated a network of slush funds; politicised and debilitated the public sector; gave Guyana the most expensive river bridge crossing in the world; made personal and political corruption into an art form; elevated extra-judicial killing into state policy in collusion with a drug kingpin; crippled the National Insurance Scheme; and his worst political/economic sin of all: destroyed the sugar industry first by his misconceived and mis-named Skeldon Sugar Modernisation Project and his mindboggling, brainless decision to give the construction of the factory to the Chinese.
To cap it all, Jagdeo did not wait on an independent parliament to reward him with a fair retirement package. He ordered his Cabinet and the then PPP/C majority in the National Assembly to administer to Guyanese the ultimate insult: a retirement package for him that is equivalent to the average earned income of sixty sugar workers. Or to put it another way, the equivalent of the old age pension of 240 persons.