Guyana opposition highlights government double standards

Current rules forbid a person from selling a state-issued house lot until after owning it for 10 years, but Guyana opposition parties have taken no less a person to task than President Bharrat Jagdeo for disposing of his original allocation and obtaining another at a preferential rate way before the stipulated time period ended.

The issue of abuse of authority by officials high in the state system, Jagdeo not excluded, came up during 2011 budget debates last week, which ended with an interesting discussion about how governing party officials operate in the eyes of critics and the parliamentary parties.

In what was obviously a well researched presentation, veteran opposition legislator and academic Aubrey Norton accused Jagdeo and his administration of destroying the very rules they have invented regarding the distribution of state lands for housing.

For one thing, he said, Jagdeo last year announced that he had sold his house on the lower east coast for a staggering US$600,000 before the 10-year period had expired and managed just months after to pick up a second piece of state land just across the way from his original estate in the trendy Ogle District.

Realtors estimate that the house is worth no more than half the price for which it was sold to a Trinidad-based Guyanese who gets juicy public relations contracts and is known to be close to the administration.

Ordinary Guyanese who want to dispose of a home in a particular district and to build dream homes in new subdivisions are turned away by the housing ministry, as officials point to rules allowing only one so-called subsidized plot per family and barring an owner of a state plot from selling it under 10 years.

But for legislators like Norton, a new scheme springing up on the northeastern Atlantic shore just fives miles east of the city is proof of “Animal-Farm”-like rules where there are one set of regulations for the ordinary and another for the elite.

“Mr. Speaker, is it not the case that at least one holder of very high office in this land who obtained land after 2000 disposed of it in 2010 in total contravention of this rule?” The rules say that “once you obtain a house lot, you cannot get a second,” Norton pointed out.

Usually vocal government legislators did not challenge Norton’s accusation and up to the weekend, Jagdeo’s office had not issued a statement of rebuttal.

Jagdeo’s is ineligible to run for a third term in general elections scheduled for mid- year. His worst critics have been openly accusing his administration of engaging in unbridled corruption, of having entrenched links to the narco community in addition to giving out choice economic opportunities to a cabal of men close to Jagdeo.

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