The parliamentary Opposition, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), on Friday said 2017 was characterised by job loss and poor leadership.According to Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, the year 2017 was an unprecedented year. Zeroing in on the economy, Jagdeo said Government has missed its economic growth target. “2017 has been an interesting year, with thingOpposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo (centre) along with Chief Whip Gail Teixeira, and parliamentarians Priya Manickchand, Juan Edghill, Odinga Lumumba, Pauline Sukhai, Clement Rohee, and Dr Vindhya Persaudhappening that were unprecedented. If you look at the economy, we have missed our growth target twice in the year… even a lower than budgeted growth target was not met. The Government in 2017 failed to unveil an economic plan for the country… a plan that was promised since 2015,” the Opposition Leader said.He added that Guyanese are given new promises for the future but without any proper economic policy, those promises are empty.“All we have is new promises that they will continue to work on a green state strategy for the future… which will be the economic plan for Guyana. So at this point in time, we are adrift once again. No leadership from the Government in the economic sphere. No coherent economic policy. We saw the Budget 2017 sand its draconian measures devastate the business sector and people’s lives.”Jagdeo pointed to the job losses in the year. He gave the experiences in the sugar sector as an example. The former President also noted the various scandals that rocked the country during the year. He referred to the US$18 million sitting in an unaccounted for bank account; the new Demerara Bridge crossing.“So you can characterise it as the year of significant loss of jobs. In the sugar sector, people were devastated. Nearly 5000 sugar workers were sent home. In almost all the other sectors people have lost jobs. And their promise that they will create thousands of new jobs has not been kept. In fact, our country has gone backwards.”“Thirdly, we have seen several scandals emerging. From procurement of drugs, single sourcing, to the infamous bridge contract, to the US$18 million that still remains in an account not provided for by our Constitution or our laws.”Jagdeo did not forget the unilateral appointment of a Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman. He pointed out that this act threw away decades of practise in which the two political sides worked together to fill the post.In summing up the year, Jagdeo said these occurrences combine to put Guyana’s democracy on a more tenuous footing than before.Parliamentary affairsAlso attending the press conference was party Chief Whip Gail Teixeira, parliamentarians Priya Manickchand, Juan Edghill, Odinga Lumumba, Pauline Sukhai, Clement Rohee, and Dr Vindhya Persaud.Zeroing in on parliamentary affairs, Teixeira slammed the parliamentary excesses and described the National Assembly as a rubber stamp. She also questioned the haste to appoint a Chancellor of the Judiciary, querying whether this may be to secure a more amenable decision in the cases before the courts, including the case of the GECOM Chairman.PatheticSumming up the country’s rate of implementing its major projects and the work of certain agencies, shadow Public Infrastructure Minister Juan Edghill described the Government’s performance as “pathetic”.He pointed out that in 2017, the country started the year with the establishment of Power Producers and Distributors Inc (PPDI) and a promise that Guyana Power and Light (GPL) would do better. However, he noted that the fact that blackouts continued into Christmas Day tells volumes. According to Edghill, there remains no comprehensive plan for energy.Pointing to the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), he noted that despite declarations that 81 per cent has been expended, there are more works to be done.According to Edghill, pipe dreams are being sold. He recalled the promise for a waterfront development project and the road link between the East Coast and the East Bank. Instead, he noted that all the Ministry’s implementation projects were routine works.
Local law schoolWhile President David Granger on Friday impressed on the Council of Legal Education (CLE) the need for a local law school, Council President Reginald Armour has noted that Guyana’s feasibility study is deficient, and more work has to be done.On the sidelines of the ceremonial opening of the CLE meeting at the Marriott Hotel on Friday, Armour was asked for an update on the feasibility study the Guyana Government did into a local law school.The report and business plan were submitted weeks ago by Guyana’s Government. Armour explained that a subcommittee looked at the report. However, he revealed that the study does not sufficiently address concerns regarding quality assurance and the curriculum.“A subcommittee has looked at that feasibility study. We’ve met with theCLE President Reginald ArmourGovernment of Guyana feasibility study committee. We did that (earlier) this week. We’ve expressed certain concerns we have, to do with the fact that the feasibility study does not sufficiently address quality assurance, curriculum and the proposal of a school at the moment is not compliant with our treaty,” Armour said.“And we’ve asked the Government of Guyana to do some work and come back to us. They’ve agreed to that. I’ll be discussing that with Council this morning and out of that decision from Council, I expect the most that will happen is that we’ll fix a timetable to continue discussions with the Government of Guyana.”Armour assured that territories in the Caribbean region are not necessarily barred from establishing their own law schools. But he noted that it’s another matter when the Council has to give its approval.“There’s nothing to exclude any country from having a law school. If they then come to the Council of legal education and say would you approve our law school, we then have to do a number of quality assurances and curriculum monitoring tests to ensure it reaches the standard that we adhere to. (But) all possibilities exist and that’s what we’re discussing this morning.”Improved legal educationPresident Granger who gave the feature address at the ceremony, meanwhile noted the crucial role of the Council of Legal Education. But he reminded the attendees of the need to improve access to legal education throughout the region, including Guyana.“The Council’s contribution to the Caribbean jurisprudence is undisputable. The Council, however, should seek new ways of improving access top and delivery of affordable education, to all corners of the Caribbean.”“There’s much work to do for the Council to improve access. These measuresAG Basil Williamsshould include, if necessary, embracing new technologies which support their objectives. It should also ensure that non-discriminatory admissions to the regional law schools are (pursued),” President Granger said.The Hugh Wooding Law School takes in 25 Guyanese law students each year. Granger made it clear to the Council that Guyana’s demand for lawyers cannot be satisfied with the quota in place.During his address, Granger noted the importance of improving overall access to legal service. According to the President, legal aid programmes will be rolled out in previously underserved areas.“Legal Aid services need to become regionalised. The support for the criminal justice programme will soon facilitate the provision of Legal Aid services to many of our hinterland communities. Access to the courts is being enhanced with new magisterial districts and specialised courts.”“Two new magisterial districts; the Upper Demerara Magisterial District Court and the Rupununi Magisterial District Court were commissioned over the past year. The establishment of these district courts reduces the need for residents to travel out of their home regions to access legal services,” the President outlined.It was only a few days ago, ahead of Guyana’s hosting of the three-day meeting of the CLE, that Williams had given all assurances that the path was cleared for the establishment of a local law school in Guyana.