While acknowledging that corruption exists in Guyana and the scourge is having a negative impact on the economy and the society, People’s Progressive Party/Civic presidential candidate Donald Ramotar claims its scope has been exaggerated and used as a potent political weapon.
“We have done a lot to put systems in place to cut down on corruption,” said Ramotar who was in Toronto last weekend to meet with nationals and business leaders. “Before we came into government, bids were not open for tender and contracts were awarded randomly. Our government has put in a place a transparent tending process.
“What we need to do is strengthen the system and perhaps shuffle people around more often. In my view, corruption can only be curbed when the system works well.”
Outgoing president Bharrat Jagdeo and Minister of Housing & Water Irfan Ali accompanied Ramotar on the trip.
Ramotar will succeed Jagdeo as Guyana’s next president if the PPP/Civic government is victorious in upcoming elections constitutionally due to be held before the end of the year. Jagdeo will be the first Guyanese head of government to demit office in accordance with the constitution that allows two-term limits for presidents.
A party member since 1967 and general secretary for the past 14 years, Ramotar gained the presidential candidate nod ahead of National Assembly Speaker Ralph Ramkarran, Home Affairs minister Clement Rohee and presidential advisor Gail Teixeira who withdrew their nominations and threw their support behind the 60-year-old economist.
“My colleagues insisted that I take up the challenge to replace Jagdeo and I accepted it,” said the fourth of 11 children. “I have spent most of my life with the party and I could not turn down my colleagues who have shown so much faith in me.
“I assure you that not much will change with me at the helm. Fundamentally, the party’s policies are based at the executive and central committee level. However, everyone is made up differently and has different life experiences that will reflect in the way they lead and govern. I have my own style and I will bring a calmer approach to the proceedings.”
Ramotar admitted that the narco-trade is responsible for many of the anti-social problems Guyana faces. Escalating violent crimes and drug-related murders have stunted economic growth and deterred potential investors.
“We have to however remember that the narco-trade is not restricted to Guyana,” said Ramotar. “It’s a global issue and we have been calling for regional and international co-operation in fighting drugs. We are prepared to allow for the sharing of information and the establishment of a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) office in Guyana.”
If elected, Ramotar said reforming the judiciary to make it more efficient, implementing training programs for first offenders and weeding out criminal elements from the police force will be high on the new government’s agenda.