By Lincoln DePradine
The leader of the political opposition in Guyana says he’s heartened by the support received in areas contested, including the capital city of Georgetown, in this year’s local government elections (LGE) in the country.
“Our support base voted for us and we continue to be in charge of Georgetown. We were extremely happy with the results in those areas in which we participated, including Georgetown, Linden and New Amsterdam,’’ Aubrey C. Norton, who has just ended a visit to Toronto, told The Caribbean Camera.
Norton is leader of the People’s National Congress–Reform (PNC-R) and also heads an opposition coalition, A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC), in the Guyana National Assembly.
The People’s Progressive Party (PPP)/Civic, headed by President Irfaan Ali, formed the government of Guyana in 2020 and has been overseeing an economy that’s being boosted by revenue from oil, gas exploration and drilling.
In the recent LGE, the PPP/Civic won a majority of the 80 Local Authority Areas across Guyana.
Norton, who addressed a meeting of Guyanese nationals in Toronto on Sunday and plans on visiting Washington shortly, said the North American trips are in keeping with a commitment to meet with Guyanese in the Diaspora.
“It’s really an outreach to keep in contact. I’ve undertaken that I would try to do it once a year; to be in the Diaspora, especially Canada and the United States,’’ he reiterated.
Norton, an ex-foreign service officer and former part-time lecturer in political science at the University of Guyana, highlighted current government shortcomings and challenges facing Guyana.
They include high cost of living and government mismanagement, Norton claimed.
“Our country is being mismanaged badly. With oil resources, we’re seeing an increase in poverty and the people of Guyana are not benefitting in the way that they should benefit from an oil-rich country,’’ Norton charged.
“We know that, over the years, that there were many countries that discovered oil and today, they are still in poverty. And so, we must be very careful to ensure Guyana doesn’t go down that road.’’
The opposition, in response to the perceived difficulties and to attract enough people to their side to win the next national election, has initiated what Norton described as a “people-centred development strategy’’.
“The whole aim is to ensure resources from oil and gas end up serving the people of Guyana and in the hands of the people of Guyana,’’ he explained.
“We have outlined measures to help with the cost of living, particularly expanding agriculture in the non-traditional regions – Regions 1, 7, 8, 9 and 10 – which weren’t agricultural areas per se, but they have significant agricultural potential.’’
The proposed economic and agricultural development strategy, according to Norton, will bring “our human resource, technology and the land in those areas into active use, so that they will become productive and contribute to a reduction in the cost of food. Developing agriculture in those areas will ensure that we have the level of food self-sufficiency that is needed’’.