Private sector urges govt, U.S. to resume talks on democracy project

Pressure continues to mount for the government of Guyana and the U.S. embassy to return to the negotiating table to determine the way forward on the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded Leadership And Democracy Programme (LEAD).

Despite being rejected by the Guyana government, the LEAD project is being implemented by the U.S. embassy, creating tension here.

On Wednesday, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) called for Guyana and the U.S. to resume productive dialogue on the leadership programme, with the primary objective of arriving at a consensus on moving the project forward.

Guyana had said that it will not negotiate under duress, making clear that it will not enter into negotiations with the U.S. if the project is being implemented. According to the GCCI, halting the project until the problem is resolved is not an unreasonable request, and should be considered by the U.S. embassy.

However, the GCCI said it “fully supports and endorses the objectives of the LEAD project. The chamber believes that its implementation will strengthen political institutions and enhance citizen understanding of how individuals can engage in the larger civic and political discourse in their communities and throughout the country”.

It was pointed out that the LEAD initiatives strives to strengthen the operations of the National Assembly by equipping parliamentarians with the requisite tools for the delivery of effective representation and policy formulation.

 Most timely

“This is a most timely and welcomed project, considering the current parliamentary makeup and circumstances. In summary, the chamber sees the LEAD project as instrumental in meeting the need to foster an environment where compromise and cooperation in the country’s interests comprise the cornerstone of good policymaking.”

Additionally, it underscored the importance of strong political and governance institutions in guaranteeing a stable political environment that leads to social and economic prosperity.

The Private Sector Commission (PSC) is also calling on the government and U.S. embassy to return to the negotiating table. However, PSC Chairman Ronald Webster declined divulging further details on the commission’s position, saying that it will be issuing a statement on Friday.

Govt position

Meanwhile, Presidential Adviser on Governance, Gail Teixeira said “government’s position remains the same”, pointing out that the country will not engage the U.S. embassy under duress.

Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon had said the government was taking the necessary steps to formally provide the U.S. government with Guyana’s final position on the LEAD project; however, it remains unclear whether that response has been issued as government officials remain tight lipped. Guyana had received a response from the U.S. following a list of inquiries.

But Dr Luncheon said that the concerns raised by the government merely invited the authorities here to engage bilateral partners in the U.S. in discussion on the project and its design.

Meanwhile, the opposition has thrown in its support for the project. APNU has expressed disappointment at the government’s move to reject the project. The multimillion-dollar project was designed to advance development in health, economic growth and democracy and governance.

In addition to strengthening Guyana’s electoral process, the project would support the legislature in maximising the effectiveness of its existing website and other technology in the National Assembly.

This may include live broadcasts of proceedings to better inform citizens, bringing the National Assembly closer to the public and encouraging greater public involvement.

The project was also expected to build capacity within the political parties, support the holding of local government elections and women and youth political leadership.