February 24, 2017

In support of a referendum on Constitutional changes

Dear Editor,

This has reference to a recent news item on the Privy Council Brexit ruling by the UK Supreme Court.  In the UK, there was a referendum. The UK Supreme Court ruled that Parliamentary approval is also required for Brexit.

The Guyana Court of Appeals (led by the Chancellor) is expected to hand down its ruling on the government’s appeal of the decision by the High Court (Judge Ian Chang, Ret’d) declaring presidential term limits unconstitutional.

The CJ ruled that changes to the constitution pertaining to rights must be done by referendum and not parliament alone; peoples rights are supreme. I am in favour of term limits. But I also firmly support the idea that the peoples’ rights are stronger and they should give their assent to any constitution or amendments to it.

The Burnham constitution was not approved by the people in a free and fair referendum. Why not grant the people that vote in a referendum as happened in England with Brexit or in Scotland? The country needs constitutional reform. But it must be done legally through a referendum.

The Burnham constitution was the product of a rigged referendum. Judge Chang made a wise ruling mandating a referendum on constitutional changes although I would have preferred a referendum on the entire constitution. Chancellor Chang’s appeal court should empower the people by affirming that ruling.

Related to the Guyana case is the one recently engaged by the British Privy Council on the legality of the procedure “to Brexit”. There was a court challenge, filed ironically by a Guyanese Briton, on whether the UK can break from EU without parliamentary approval. The Highest Court ruled that parliament must give its assent also to what is known as the Brexit vote and cabinet approval.

Guyana’s system of governance is different from the UK. In UK, the parliament is sovereign and supreme over the people unlike in Guyana. In Guyana, parliament cannot act alone in restricting people’s rights or decide on how people will be governed. In the UK, the people choose representatives – under its first past the post representative democracy– to govern them and act for them in a parliament. Thus, the members of parliament in UK can speak on behalf of the people because each represents a constituency.

In Guyana, the parliament is not sovereign and is not a representative body with constituent representatives; we have a PR system in which the party represents the people. Thus, the Members of Parliament cannot speak on behalf of the population on an important matter like restricting voters’ choices in an election. This must be done by referendum. The fact that the constitution was imposed on the population without their assent, a referendum becomes all the more imperative and moral.

It is about time that the politicians give voters an opportunity to voice their view on the Burnham constitution. The politicians say they are in favour of term limits and people empowerment. Instead of a court challenge to the Chief Judge’s ruling endorsing a referendum, why not put the Burnham constitution and all its amendments to a vote? Better yet, why not ask the people to choose between the amended Burnham constitution and the independence constitution of 1966? Why are politicians afraid of the voices of the people?

Yours faithfully

Vishnu Bisram

 

How can the Govt apply VAT on private education in Guyana?

Dear Editor,

The importance of education cannot be stressed enough. We know that education is the key to the future, the key to success and the key to this country’s growth. I can’t understand therefore how it is even possible to consider taxing such a crucial service, or indeed a service like private health care for that matter. Unfortunately the damage has already been done and I am concerned for my future and those of my colleagues who are in the private education system.

A merit good is one which has positive side effects when consumed and education is surely the epitome of such a good, indeed, it is the key. Those agencies that have this vision at heart and who provide supplementary opportunities for education should not have to bear the burden of this VAT. They need to be encouraged to continue and to expand their vision for it will only benefit the entire country when even more capable minds are sent into society.

Furthermore, the incidence of this tax on private education will be passed on to the consumers who are already making sacrifices to send their children to these private schools. I am fully aware that there is public education available but, without a doubt, it has many challenges.

Tens of Thousands of public education consumers are clearly not satisfied with public education alone since the majority of them send their children to private lessons. I understand that there are very fortunate people who send their children to private schools and can easily afford it but there are as many others who are humble and have hard-working parents, that I can tell you from first-hand experience, sacrifice a lot to give their child the best opportunities. This tax imposition does not cater for these people.

Economic theory states that if the price of a substitute goes up (private education fees rise due to taxation) the demand for the other good increases (more people demanding public education). There will be an increase in demand for public education which may well outstrip the capacity of the already overburdened education sector, thereby causing poorer quality of education to all of our citizens. How will the Government be ready to deal with this? Private education provides quality, supplemental services which include quality computer laboratories, air conditioned class rooms, ample playground and yard space and, most importantly,  excellent teaching. There are few public schools that meet some of these standards and, it can be argued, that the majority lack most of these traits of quality education.

Public education only offers Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) examinations. Some private schools give the important opportunity to write exams like GCE, ABE and SATs. These are all far more internationally preferred and recognised examinations that give students a better opportunity to compete on the international stage. Once this new VAT tax is applied, those middle class families that want their children to write these exclusive examinations will be confined to CXC/CAPE examinations.

I can only hope that my opinion is heard and valued by someone who has the power and vision to see beyond, short-term, Government revenue, and who understands and appreciates the crucial contribution that quality education can play in building a better Guyana.

Yours faithfully,

Othniel Lewis

Nations 6th Form College

 

The APNU/AFC regime is driving Guyana along the same destructive road the PNC took

Dear Editor,

It appears that the Granger regime is determined to show that Burnham’s policies were correct and they could work in our country. From the inception of this Government, it picked up from where the People’s National Congress (PNC) left off and has been hastily implementing many measures that are a throwback to the worst days of the PNC regime.

Last week, the Government finally admitted that there is a significant shortage of foreign currency in the market. That, of course, has been known for a while and was repeatedly stated by the commercial banks and business people much earlier.

This was not a surprise. What was surprising, however, was the announced measures to deal with the situation. The regime said it would put in place arrangements to regulate and control the foreign currency supply. Later, the Bank of Guyana directed the banks and cambios of the rates they must buy and sell for.

This immediately raised red flags of a time past when this was done and the consequences of such actions, which were very destructive. There was a time when persons travelling aboard had to seek permission from the Bank of Guyana to take foreign currency out of the country. A person was limited to US$15. That was then stamped at the back of one’s passport.

The control of foreign currency led to the creation of a parallel economy. America Street became the place where a lot of buying and selling of foreign currency took place. The business was so ‘bright’ there that the street was renamed “Wall Street” by the public.

Of course, we have had many unpleasant incidents there. Police often raided the place to seize foreign currency. Vendors, and even stores were raided; clothing and other items were seized, because even if persons produced receipts for their purchase, they could not say where they got the foreign currency to make their purchases. They, therefore, suffered many heavy losses.

Most of those items seized were sold at Guyana Stores, which was then Government-owned.

The foreign currency seized went to the coffers of the regime.

Many business persons were charged and hauled before the courts. Many small vendors were jailed for having banned goods, for example, wheat flour, split peas, potatoes, etc. Some were jailed for selling goods above the officially controlled price, sometimes, only by a small amount.

Even some lawyers who tried to send money out of the country to pay for their children’s education were hauled before the courts. In these conditions, bribery and corruption became rampant.

Those persons old enough would also recall the long lines for very basic food and household items. One had to have had ‘contacts’ to get toilet paper among other essential items.

Production suffered greatly, too, as replacement parts for machinery and equipment were hard to come by.

In these difficult times, people suffered greatly, not only from the shortages and the high prices, but from the loss of dignity. People were made into criminals if they had bread and roti in their possession.

Extreme malnutrition resulted, as Guyana was visited by illnesses such as ‘beriberi’. This, of course, came about due to lack of nourishment.

Now, this regime, in its quest to prove Burnham right, is driving us along the same destructive road the PNC took.

Recall President Granger’s recent statement on the programme ‘Public Interest’. Responding to his Government’s poor record on job creation, he urged that people make pepper-sauce and cassava chips and sell!

This is the job creation policy of the regime? The results would not be different. Indeed, it cannot be different.

The Private Sector has already stated its opposition to this measure of Government controlling the flow of foreign currency. Other democratic forces in the society must also make their voices heard.

The PNC-led A Partnership for National Unity regime has clearly not learnt anything from their past mistakes. We must stop this decline now.

Sincerely,

Donald Ramotar

 

Constitutional reform in Guyana should be taken seriously

Dear Editor,

In welcoming the recent interest of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in constitutional reform, the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) hopes that it will serve to revitalise domestic interest on the issue. As a civic organisation that emerged in response to the infamous Referendum of 1978, which sought to legitimise the current Constitution and, as an active participant in multiple subsequent coalitions and initiatives to redress its baleful effects, the GHRA has been disturbed by the seemingly ambivalent commitment of the APNU/AFC coalition Government to constitutional reform.

The overriding challenge to a successful constitutional reform process historically, has been the lack of political will on the part of the leadership of all major parties, rather than any substantive constitutional issue.

Despite a relationship characterised for decades by disagreements of every description, one area of enduring common ground between the two major parties has been their resistance to reforms which would democratise political power. In the context of this historical resistance, the want of purpose and lack of enthusiasm demonstrated in the APNU/AFC coalition’s statements on constitutional reform are discouraging.

Had reform of the Constitution not been stipulated in the Herdmanston Accord in 1998 it would not have taken place. The timid reform process of 1997 had settled the matter as far as the major parties were concerned. Even with this international mandate, however, the reform process of 1999-2000 was frustrated by the major parties. A good public consultation process with strong civic involvement was subsequently decimated by the Parliamentary Oversight Committee, followed by unanimous approval of political parties too anxious to get to the next elections to even read the Bills properly. The Reynolds reforms to the electoral system were kicked into the long grass and a sensible approach to Human Rights side-lined in favour of the bizarre concoction of ‘Rights Commissions’ the country is now saddled with.

An important lesson for any future process of constitutional reform is to ensure that extra-Parliamentary influences – civic, business and faith-based – be sustained throughout the process. This recommendation is not unmindful of the need for Parliamentary approval as the final stage of the process, but is calling for imaginative ways of ring-fencing the process against any cynical party political manoeuvring.

Constitution-making in Guyana must address three issues: Nation-building, State-building, and Integrity-building.

Nation-building encompasses, firstly, the rights of citizens and the values by which we want the State to be governed. The second part of Nation-building seeks to make socio-economic rights justiciable. Without this essential feature, the concept of all citizens having equal rights will always be frustrated by the limitations posed by majoritarian politics in ethnically diverse societies. Justifiability, socio-economic rights are preferable as a response to ethnic diversity, than prioritising communal units above individual citizenship.

Rather than politicising ethnicity, the GHRA recommends an intensively participatory approach that works towards acknowledging differences but accommodates them within an over-arching framework of being Guyanese. The constitutional reform process must start from the premise that, while respecting culture and language differences, we are all Guyanese who come to public affairs primarily as Guyanese citizens.

State-building needs to address institutional mechanisms by which the values established under Nation-building are to be delivered. Each institution – Parliament, the Judiciary and the Presidency – must be constantly reminded of their responsibilities to citizens.

Promoting Integrity and accountability of all those elected to public office is vital. In the past we have never paid sufficient attention to the destructive potential of corruption and have paid a price in terms of the low esteem in which politics and politicians are held. Integrity must be emphasised to counter the ever present lure of corruption. For this reason, a strong code against corruption is a constitutional priority. For too long politicians have been motivated by greed, rather than service and this has to be eradicated.

The GHRA is requesting the APNU/AFC coalition to clear the air on what it hopes to achieve from the current constitutional reform initiative. For our part, the GHRA strongly supports a broad-based, adequately-resourced consultative process under the management of a multi-stakeholder committee with a time-table that envisages implementation of major reforms.

Sincerely,

Executive Committee

Guyana HumanRights Association

Youths who voted for APNU/AFC were hoping for a change

Dear Editor,
I am responding to a letter in another publication captioned ‘Give the coalition Government a chance to perform’. The writer tried to convince me to do as was stated in the caption, but it seemed that even the writer was afraid to pronounce it. The main idea was a quote from someone on CN Sharma’s Voice of the People!
I hate it when fellow supporters of the Coalition try to justify what is happening or reassure ourselves that the ‘change’ is yet to come. I remember the President and the Prime Minister asking us to be patient, when at the end of the first 100 days many of what was promised in the manifesto for the first 100 days were not achieved.
May 2015 was the first time I had voted in my life, not that I was not eligible in the previous election, but I could not find a party that truly looked like it cared for the people. In the election fever, I made a decision which I thought was the right one, helping to put this Government into Office.
We voted change for a reason, why must the author write about Lacunar Amnesia? Is that his/her excuse for the Government’s mess ups so far? If it is, then for myself and many more (who do not have a party membership status), voting for the Coalition was a great deception! Forget about the dark days! Let us talk about this ‘change’! Are we saying that the 50 per cent increase Ministers are enjoying, the multimillion-dollar Jubilee Park (which has only hosted one activity per year so far), and the drug bond scandal are acceptable? Was the real change the reduction in VAT? Well if so, then here’s some news. All the taxes we are now paying after Budget 2017 make that reduction look like something in the distant past. Why do we have to pay VAT on water and light? On medication?On communication data? Everywhere I turn, I pay VAT.
So tell me now, what about this parking meter fiasco? Was this another of the ‘change’ the Government had in mind? And don’t tell me that it is the M&CC’s business and not the Government’s. Who has to make it legal? Why can’t the Government that I helped to put into Office listen to the plea of the citizens and do something? It can’t be that the President or the Prime Minister, or any of the many Vice Presidents are afraid of Chase-Green and King! Why must billions of hard-earned Guyanese dollars go into the pockets of some Mexican millionaires?
Let me remind the author that it was undoubtedly the youths of this country that had put the Government in Office. Many of us only knew of the rule of the PPP, and all of us wanted out. We are not suffering from Lacunar Amnesia, we are looking for the change! What a foolish thing to say! To compound matters even more, the writer quoted from the Bible! Are you telling me that you are comparing the Government to God and us, the people, to Israel? I am sure you have offended God because he will never ignore, persecute and rob his people the way the Government is doing. That fever I had during the election is beginning to burn again.
Sincerely,
Wilbert Moore

Churches should provide strong leadership on parking meter issue

I am a frequent viewer of Catholic Media Guyana’s Facebook page because of the many informative posts of activities around the Diocese and bits of knowledge shared on the Catholic faith.
However, I was enraged when I saw that the foundation was laid for a parking meter to be installed directly in front of the Cathedral. My feelings about the parking meter are far beyond the obvious fact that our City is allowing itself to be ripped-off by a foreign company.

parking meter 2
More so, the deal was struck without adequate consultation with those who would have to bear the cost of such a burdensome means of revenue for the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) of Georgetown. The issue here is way more profound than these obvious problems that are not even being addressed.
In a very beautiful way, the preamble of our nation’s Constitution states, “We, the Guyanese people, proud heirs of the indomitable will of our forbearers, in a spirit of reconciliation and cooperation, proclaim this Constitution in order to: Forge a system of governance that promotes concerted effort and broad-based participation in national decision-making, in order to develop a viable economy and a harmonious community, based on democratic values, social justice, fundamental human rights and the rules of law.”
It is clear from this excerpt that the parking meter issue is not in keeping with what our Constitution outlines. There was no concerted effort and broad-based participation in the decision-making process and, in fact, the whole parking meter issue is a total disregard for democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights.
My understanding of Catholic social teaching is that at the heart of this teaching is the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable. This is where the church must, through words, prayer and deeds, show compassion for and be in solidarity with such persons. Catholics are called to look at public policy decisions in terms of how they affect the poor.
Where policies from institutions like the M&CC putting mechanisms in place that hinder people from freely practicing their faith, could this not be considered an attack on religious freedom? On special feast days, like Ash Wednesday, First Friday, and even at funerals where the parking facilities in the Cathedral compound are inadequate, do we now have to pay the local government G$200 or more to celebrate our sacraments and other liturgical celebrations? Is there not a case here for us to consider this an attack on religious freedom?
A mechanism such as the high-priced parking meter system, which is being introduced, is a means of social exclusion and is insensitive, and may even be unethical.
Jesus himself in the gospel expelled those who turned the temple into a means of exploiting people, especially the poor.
Additionally, our country’s Constitution states that Guyana is a sovereign state in transition from capitalism to socialism; however, it seems as though this State of ours, now more than ever, is on a trajectory to capitalism only.
It would appear that the Guyanese people’s role is to serve the system, when it is the system that should be serving the people.
It is when issues like these raise their head that the church should speak, especially through it leaders. I am of the firm belief that people are very willing to support any system once they can recognise and feel the benefits of that system in their lives.
I urge the church and its leaders, as well as the Justice and Peace Commission of the church to not pass on this opportunity to provide strong leadership in an issue such as this and to be in solidarity with all Guyanese.

Sincerely,
Gibion Moonsammy

Bullyism and regulations to control are not the answer

Dear Editor,
It would be negligent of me to let another example of poor public policy under the Granger administration pass by without offering my remarks. The Guyana Chronicle, on February 2, 2017, reported that Finance Minister Winston Jordan informed the Cabinet about the “disequilibrium (imbalance) in the foreign exchange market” and offered as a policy response, more regulations and guidelines to ensure that “exporters repatriate their export earnings to the banking system”.
Knowing that such badly designed exchange control policy in the past was one of the main reasons that contributed to Guyana’s state of un-credit worthiness in the international community under the Burnham regime, one wonders, why are we back here?
Minister Jordan claimed he was cutting teeth in the Finance Ministry in those dark days of the early 1980’s and thus he, more than any, ought to have been aware of the foolhardiness of that strategy then and now. If this is his policy response, I am shocked because he clearly wasted his years in the Finance Ministry. His action today in the face of widespread rejection of these measures from the business community will only guarantee a path to certain economic meltdown over the next two to three years, which will then lead to social and economic implosion that even the promised oil money in 2022 cannot help. Has he learnt nothing from Desmond Hoyte, the intellectual architect who turned around Guyana’s economy?
The Private Sector issued a firm statement which “strongly condemns this move by the Government”. In the words of the PSC, this move by the Granger administration “would have the certain effect of accelerating the capital flight which has already begun with the erosion of confidence in the economy.”
There are two phrases in that PSC statement that send shivers down my spine – acceleration of capital flight and erosion of confidence.
Knowing the information put out by the private sector is one grounded in economic truth and it corroborates what I have already put out in my Straight Up Column of Friday, February 3, 2017, in the Guyana Times on the state of the investment portfolio, I am now calling on President Granger, as Head of State, to seek alternative advice on this issue. This recommended policy action exposes a situation where there is a heavy dose of policy paralysis in the Office of the Finance Ministry. I am absolutely sure even the President’s son-in-law, a longstanding businessman, Minister Dominic Gaskin has a better grasp of this situation.
What is required is policy actions to drive the economic reforms needed to bring back confidence in the economy and stem the capital flight that is now well advanced. Bullyism and regulations to control are not the answer; understanding the real problem is the first step.
Hard-nosed non-political answers to these questions will go a far way in helping the President. Why has the private sector lost confidence in the Granger administration? Why is there a shortage of foreign currency today, compared to May 2015 when there was not? How to rebuild the private sector’s confidence in the economy? There is so much more to share, but out of respect for the newspapers and their space constraint, I have to hold fire on this matter. The ball now is President Granger’s court.
Sincerely,
Sase Singh

I am having a nightmare and please do not wake me

I was having this dream that authoritarianism was about to be resurrected in my dear land of Guyana and I suddenly woke up. I am upset because I have to imagine what the full dream would have been, as opposed to just relying on memory. I am also upset because the leadership of the Coalition regime has penetrated my consciousness even when I am resting. But I have drawn solace from this dream because most of Guyana is suffering from a national nightmare analogous to what I have dreamt. This sort of experience should occur in a nosocomial environment and not during the day at home.

I do not mean to start the New Year this way, but what the Guyanese public has experienced for the past year has been a nightmare of nightmares which arguably will be repeated this year. I say this because ever since this regime stumbled into power, there have been pantheons of pathological problems which have taxed the very will of even the toughest Guyanese to survive. While some sections of the population have applied a wait and watch approach to this regime, other sections have not been so sympathetic and have used labels like corruption, cronyism, mismanagement, criminality, highhandedness, incompetence and witch-hunting to describe the APNU/AFC coalition. These labels have become so common to many households that satirically speaking, the national motto has now been transformed from one nation, one destiny to omniaparatus – you jump, I jump. What a way to live!

Like so many, I was sceptical when the regime assumed power about 20 months ago and argued in the letter columns of the dailies that its actions were inglorious, lacking substance and reminded the public not to expect much then. I repeat, do not expect much this year either.

My declaration emerged from the assessment of the 100 days manifesto and the appointed Government Ministers. I argued that if the Coalition delivered 20 per cent of what was promised in the manifesto then Guyanese would be floored. I also declared that most Government Ministers lacked political métier and those with experience – the old heads, their nicknames in Guyana – have shown little acumen and determination that they would deliver, other than grabbing the State coffers for themselves. Guyana’s national treasury has become a political feeding trough. How else can one describe Government Ministers grabbing State scholarships for themselves and their families? How else can one describe the handing out of Government’s contracts to favourites with a limited transparent tendering process?

Am I way off to say that the regime has dished out so much rhetoric to the Guyanese public that the nation has reached a tipping point to which the regime refuses to admit? I do not think so, and if you disagree I point to the extremists, propagandists, the die-hard supporters, spokespersons, the activists, the mouthpieces of this regime to support my viewpoints in so far as they are now reeling every day from disappointments with the regime’s failure to deliver. These individuals and outlets have taken an about turn chastising this regime for failed promises. I understand their position. I say welcome abroad and I do hope your reality is not as traumatised as my nightmare.

I am not going to belabour the obvious, but ask readers to just take a cursory look at the many available sources on the performance of this regime and they will see nothing majorly impressive but incompetence and irreversible corruption, such as sole-sourcing in the inner inviolable sanctum of the Government.

There is, too, this fear that the Government is moving with supersonic speed to bring back or rebuild the images of the former Forbes Burnham-led PNC. The regime seems unshackled by old loyalties. Fair minded individuals, Indians and non-Indians, communists and non-communists, and friends and foes in and out of Guyana, I argue, they will find it difficult to distance themselves from the thought that the Red House fiasco is an attempt to physically destroy and desensitise the legacy of CheddiJagan?

If this action is a misjudgement from the regime, I say give the regime a second chance to redeem itself by using Guyana’s system of law and order to resolve what it believes to be a national dishonesty from the PPP to house Jagan’s history at Red House, a State-owned property. I will be proud of this action. If the regime remains stoic to its action, I think we are embarking on a journey that would lead to more ethnic divisiveness and distrust that would eventually dissipate the lip service of any lingering hope of social cohesion in an already ethnically divided nation. I do hope I am wrong.

(lomarsh.roopnarine@jsums.edu)

Red House is about Dr Jagan who was instrumental in our country’s development

Dear Editor,

Please allow me to weigh in on the Red House fiasco, which unfolded when the APNU/PNC/AFC Government pushed ahead with an asset recovery effort. Glaringly, such a drama is a demonstration of how Government ignored the rule of law in preference for absolute power when it attempted to illegally purge the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre (CJRC) from the Red house.

On December 29, Government demanded that the CJRC must quit tenancy within 48 hours. One day later, Government iron-fisted the CJRC when it invaded the premises in a takeover attempt. Employees from Ministry of the Presidency ripped down the “Cheddi Jagan Research Centre” sign and changed the locks. Such abuse of power should never be acceptable and should never be emulated. Government needs to give democracy a chance or else this country will drift into chaos.

By all means it is unsurprising that Government invaded the Red House, given that in all of our history, Indo-Guyanese have been strong-armed. Government needs to be reminded that plenty of civilised options are available if it wants possession of the Red House and they include – negotiation, mediation, arbitration and litigation.

The CJRC is about Dr Jagan, who was instrumental in our country’s history. But Government is way too divisive to tolerate the CJRC in the Red House. Clearly, Government lacks skills, sophistication and sensitivity necessary to run a multi-ethnic society. The impact of such a fiasco is calamitous. Government deals a death blow to racial unity which is necessary for moving this country forward. Guyanese need a Government who can unite this country and not one that divides it.

Like most Guyanese, I too was flooded with repressed memories of the abuse I endured in this country as I watched the Red House invasion. Government obviously lacks the moral standing to move this country forward. Although, Government is in the midst of an asset recovery effort, it is also draining much needed State assets that can never be recovered. How can the G$12 million per month Government spend for a drug bond to store a few boxes of condoms ever be recovered? How can the mega salary increase which Government awarded itself ever be recovered? How can funds used to cover salaries for friends and family ever be recovered? The list goes on and on. Government needs to lead by example. Government needs to know that it is hurting our country. And last but not least, Government needs to apologise to the Guyanese people for the Red House fiasco.

Sincerely,

Annie Baliram

 

 

 

The poor and middle class will feel the pain of drug shortages

Dear Editor,

During the period 2007 to the end of 2011 the management of Drugs and Supplies saw real and credible success and it was because we had the systems and leadership focus that were geared towards improving the supply and delivery of medicines and supplies to all ten Regions in Guyana.

Under the guidance of Minister Ramsammy, we worked closely with our partners to ensure that we build a supply chain system that would ensure 100 per cent availability of vital medicines and 90 per cent of all other supplies in every health facility nationwide. And this was done using a fraction of the current budgeted money for 2017.

Our first step was to ensure the proper training and retention of key personnel; we built strong working relationships with our suppliers and implemented a robust procurement planning strategy that was based on a number of factors that included Guyana’s geographic location, data availability and effective forecasting. But most importantly, everyone at the MMU had a passion and the will to make sure our country is served.

In 2010 we implemented the first ever Public Prequalification system to short-list eligible suppliers for medicines and supplies, and this remained the standard until now. However, a lack of appreciation and understanding for all the hard work done, it was instead forgotten and fell to the wayside. As stated in the BoI it is clear the MMU is in a state of crisis.

We also had a functioning efficacy laboratory for testing the quality of medicines before accepting them from suppliers, and we rejected any medication that was delivered with less than six months shelf life remaining.

There was a donation policy that restricted NGOs and individuals from making Guyana a dumping ground for expired products and it was 100 per cent in effect.

With support from our international partners, we built the pharmaceutical bond at Diamond with the aim of making it a distribution centre and a centre of excellence for not only the Caribbean, but all of South and Latin America. In 2010 we were the envy of the South American countries for having the best distribution system of which countries like Bolivia and Peru were willing to come and learn from us.

Regardless of the unfair criticism and unjust politicking, we pushed on to make sure poor patients are not out of drugs when they need it the most. And I take great pride in having the opportunity to lead the Management of Drug Supply during this period.

Now we have a national crisis on our hands and we must take a minute to truly understand the severity of this problem; it is the poor and middle class that will feel the pain of drug shortages and this will have unforgiving ripple effects on other aspects of these poor families’ economic situations.

I believe there is good intent to fix the system, but it requires more than intention, we need political will, skilled people and visionary leadership if we want to really see improvement in drugs supplied in Guyana. I see this as a bipartisan issue and believe that everyone should come together to solve this problem.

A supply chain solution is required and the Government must act fast before it’s too late. With a G$6.5 billion 2017 Budget, there is more than enough money to ensure everyone that requires public healthcare, gets access to medicines and supplies.

The following are a few things the Government should consider:

* Understand that a Supply Chain System is required and not simply buying, storage and delivery.

* Skill-set is a must and it’s a non-starter if you don’t have the right people in the right function.

* The 2017 Budget has more than enough money to fix the problem.

* Make this a bipartisan issue and remove politics from the process.

* Think about changing to a Supply Chain Department and create a system where you can find and pay for the right skills with some elements of private sector style management.

* Part-time overseas consultants WILL NOT solve the problem, it never has. It needs a local organic approach with people who understand the local system and culture.

I would personally put my politics aside to help on this front.

Sincerely,

Malcolm Watkins

Certified Supply Chain Professional