Statement by the Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan,M.P.
Non-attendance of Opposition Dominated Councils at the Inaugural Meeting of the National Regional Developmental Consultative Committee (NRDCC)
On the 20th of January, 2017, the first meeting of the NRDCC was held at the Marriott Hotel in Georgetown.
The committee was conceptualised after central government recognised that there existed a communications, administrative and planning vacuum among the three tiers of government. The NRDCC was designed and implemented to fill that vacuum.
The administration is of the view that each tier of government has a role to play in fostering development, cohesion and nation-building. The administration firmly believes that regional and local government organs are not appendages to central government, but are in fact, bodies which have duties and responsibilities which are unique to them; responsibilities which cannot be efficiently and effectively carried out by central government.
In this construct, central government sees its role as one of empowering sub-national government organs to fulfill their constitutional mandates.
The formation of the NRDCC followed extensive consultations between central government and technical experts, as well as between central government and regional officials, both appointed and elected.
Minister of Finance Mr. Winston Jordan, during his ‘2017 budget speech’ delivered on 2017.11.28 to the National Assembly said the following:
“. . . the need for improved communication within and among the tiers of government, as well as with other stakeholders, we will implement, in 2017, a National Regional Development Consultative Committee (NRDCC). The NRDCC will target representatives of all Regional Democratic Councils (RDCs) and serve as an annual forum where strategic planning and coordination can take place towards improved governance and accountability.”
Central government is legally and morally bound to implement policies within a framework of a comprehensive national direction, with the objective of developing the country as a whole and ultimately benefiting the citizens of Guyana. One example of this is the commitment to a green economy and environmental protection. Another example is the closure of the gap between services available in hinterland communities and those available to residents of coastal areas.
Given central government’s stated commitment to a philosophy of decentralised governance – a policy direction never before meaningfully pursued in Guyana – it was immediately evident that regional officials and central government required a forum in which they can freely interact, discuss matters of concern, exchange ideas, develop financial and administrative plans, and work together to ensure that the diverse developmental plans of each region fell within the national strategic vision of central government, and complemented the plans of other regions, particularly neighbouring ones.
Central government’s establishment of the NRDCC was therefore in the spirit of co-operation, collaboration, cohesion, achievement of developmental goals, regional empowerment, the recognition of the authority of regional governments, and respect for the constitutional provisions which empower regional councils with responsibilities and the decision-making power to fulfill those duties having been given a mandate by the people.
Again, the NRDCC emerged out of respect for regional administrations, and the recognition of constitutional provisions for functional, vibrant sub-national tiers of government.
It was therefore not only disappointing that all seven of the opposition dominated councils chose to absent themselves from the meeting. Absent too were opposition members of Parliament and the Leader of the Opposition, all of whom were, of course, invited. But it was also surprising, as their stated reasons made no logical sense.
They stated that the NRDCC would dilute the powers of the regional councils. Central government rejects this assertion. In fact, the administration contends that co-operation is what is needed to foster stronger ties among regions and the various levels of government, and facilitate and drive social, economic and personal development.
They stated too, that they were unaware of this development. This is a blatant falsehood as the need for the NRDCC was discussed with all regional chairpersons beginning in August 2016.
The administration has extended the open hand of friendship and has been unequivocally rebuffed by the opposition. We can only conclude therefore, that any rhetoric from the opposition to the effect that they desire a united Guyana is nothing more than empty words. Moreover, one may reasonably surmise that since the opposition rejected the opportunity to participate in a forum which was designed and intended to raise the standards of living of their constituents, that the PPP has scant regard for the interests of the citizens who support that party.
The administration, however, will not be deterred from the noble pursuit of cohesion and harmony. We remain committed to social cohesion, regional empowerment and autonomy, regional development, the rule of law, respect for the Constitution, respect for the citizens of Guyana, eliminating divisions, and the creation of a good life for all Guyanese. And we are determined to achieve those goals in spite of obstacles, whether pre-existing or artificially manufactured.
I assure all Guyanese that the administration will represent your interests regardless of your political affiliation. We will serve you without fear or favour, and we will do so always.
I thank you.