Is President Granger a Federalist?

first_imgAt my presentation to the Steering Committee on Constitutional Reform I promised to ease up on my use of the “F” word – Federalism. Not that I had changed my mind on its ultimate utility for addressing many idiosyncrasies of our political culture and practice, but because I have come to accept that the change will have to be incremental. And also that  time and demographics had vitiated one of the major reasons the precursor of ROAR – the Jaguar Committee for Democracy – had proposed it in 1989: the African Security Dilemma.As was said then, “And we will now have “Local Government Elections (LGE) next month presumably taking our “democracy” deeper into the body politic as “power to the people”. But will it actually? While I believe it is a positive step – it is not more than that: a step. And that is because the framers still envisage local Government only in terms of “decentralisation”. The problem, however, is power will still emanate from a “centre” from which it is expected to flow outwards – which almost occurs  without constitutional protection from the centre.” Which is the essence of Federalism.But as one of the originators of the proposals of Federalism for Guyana, Baytoram Ramharack, reminded me recently, it appears that President David Granger might be a closet Federalist. Subsequent to the successful holding of the LGE, President Granger has been very expansive as to what he envisions these elections will lead to – and they all point to Federalism.The most radical announcement was his announcement, “I see a Region in Guyana as being a State in America.” You cannot get more “federalist” than that, since the US led the world movement from centralised monolithic power structures towards a distributed one to return “power to the people”.In line with his equating our regions with the American states, such as New York or Wyoming, was his early radical insistence that each of our 10 regions/states would now have its own flag – an idea that not even ROAR had floated. While flags have been used since antiquity, the modern nexus of flag and territory came about in the 17th Century, with the creation of the first modern States consequent to the treaty of Westphalia. President Granger’s announcement showed he appreciated the significance of a territory having its own flag. A flag is not just a piece of cloth but it represents an idea, or an ideal which it represents and the President emphasised  what that ideal was: “regional pride”.The President also announced each Region will have its own “Capital town” which will be its “administrative” centre providing most government services that were normally purveyed at the national capital. The President was quite unequivocal: “the Capital town can have its own banks, public services, NIS offices, GRA offices [and so on]. Anybody must be able to go to these capital towns and transact their business… All of the Government functions which are centralised should be decentralised,”This is identical to the reality that the US states each have their own capital town or city. In a federal system, the states are also in charge of local services going beyond the normal municipal services, but ones that encompass the local ethos, such as education and medical care. And again, this is precisely what President Granger has called for: “Capital towns” must provide economic services to citizens: commerce, shipping, insurance, banking, micro-financing, telecommunication, tourism and manufacturing. The availability of these services will be an indicator of economic development within our Regions.”Most importantly, the President seems to appreciate that economic activity must also be controlled by his “Region as State” concept. “These ‘capital towns’ are expected to lead economic development in each Region by encouraging growth through four factors: infrastructure, investment, information and communications technology, and innovation.”With the new Local Government legislation authorising the local government organs to raise their own funds, one can understand President Granger’s charge has to be undergirded by an acceptance that “revenue sharing” with the Regions are on the cards – in addition to a Regional tax.All we need now are some constitutional changes to demarcate the competencies of the Region/States and Central Government. Over to you, Mr Prime Minister.last_img