Jagdeo’s failure is greater than any other Guyanese leader because he represented a greater promise of change
Of all the leaders we have had, Bharrat Jagdeo had the finest alignment of any constellation of events and circumstances. He represented the strongest promise for change, progress, equality and a new Guyana. Half the population wanted Forbes Burnham to fail and he was expected to fail. Half the population and the West wanted the Jagan governments of the 1950s and 1960s to fail and they were expected to fail.
The majority of this country never saw Burnham, the Jagans or Hoyte as promise, change and hope. They did for Bharrat Jagdeo because he was young, fresh, from a new generation, had experience in economics from state planning under Hoyte, and was new to the political scene. Many non-PPP supporters genuinely believed he was likely to change the political discourse. Instead, this country was wrecked. The wreckage lies not only in the malfunctioning sugar factories or washed-away roads or shaky bridges charging a fortune for people to cross. That wreckage lies in the lives of people. It lies in banditry, criminality, drug cartels, death squads, drug abuse, illegality, outright theft of the nation’s resources, widespread ignorance, criminal killer gangs, failed law and order, taking the law into one’s own hands, raw immorality, the highest school dropout rates ever in Guyana’s history, new schools without toilets and desks, corruption, Pradovilles, inequality, cost of living and draconian taxation.
Jagdeo came with significant expectations. He got a platter like no other Guyanese leader. Corruption and crime were on a significantly smaller scale than present. Jagdeo benefited from significant debt write-offs. Unlike Cheddi and Forbes, Bharrat did not have the spectre of colonialism, the Cold War, a virulent political opposition and dismal economic growth when he came to power in 1999. Yet a total mess was made, including some truly damaging and perverse decisions.
Under the Jagdeo administration, Guyana became a corrupt and criminal state. It became a narco-country. The US Embassy estimated in 2006 that 20% of Guyana’s GDP came from drug trafficking. Decency has gone missing in Guyana under Jagdeo. Dignity has absconded. Morality is selling its soul at every street corner and in government offices for a few dollars more. No one, and I repeat, no one ever got a Guyana this good and had so much promise and yet made it this bad for the lives of its people.
No President ever had the bounties and the promise of a Bharrat Jagdeo when he was handed the Presidency. For that reason, and promise alone is sufficient to define his tenure, Bharrat Jagdeo remains the greatest failure Guyana has produced as a leader.
No leader has dashed his promise so firmly. Bharrat Jagdeo represented a genuine chance at genuine change when he came to power. He had the tools to make this country an economic paradise. But Guyana became an immoral abomination under his watch. The rule of law became the rule of laugh. Taxes from all end up in the hands of the few. Corruption is a plague. People have bettered their lives in spite of the government. They are performing miracles on next to nothing left over after taxes have killed them. They bought their own land for a fortune, borrowed a fortune in a mortgage and yet they have to pay 16% VAT.
Bharrat Jagdeo got a Guyana, broken but still with a rising sun in its horizon. He has left it in a long, bitter, frightening night of utter darkness. Guyana has been debilitated. Guyana has been broken.