Jagdeo blasts Minister Jordan for “drug economy” statement
January 12, 2020
…commends Private Sector for move seeking evidenceOpposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has taken Finance Minister Winston Jordan to task over his statement about the economy pre-May 2015 being heavily based on proceeds of the drug trade, stating that it is just another excuse for Government’s poor performance.Jagdeo told media operatives on Wednesday that Jordan’s statement is highly political and was expected, especially since it is the political season that leads to the upcoming Local Government Elections. But the former President noted that the Minister’s statement is baseless.“When has this Government seen them find a single case… so much moneyOpposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeolaundering and drug trafficking… Have you ever seen them charge a single money launderer or drug trafficking or illegal proceeds?” Jagdeo questioned, stating that there is no evidence to prove this.On the other hand, Jagdeo said while the State Assets and Recovery Agency (SARA) is mandated to go after money launderers and other white collar criminals, they have not managed to do so. “SARA keeps saying they will do it, SOCU (Special Organised Crime Unit) still running behind Pradoville and a few of us,” Jagdeo referring to himself and his former Cabinet Ministers.He questioned, “Where is this big set of money to keep the economy going?The Private Sector Commission (PSC) said recently it has taken note of the statement by Minister Jordan on the impact of the proceeds of drugs on the economy.The Private Sector body said in an effort to understand the “empirical evidence” relied upon by the Minister, the Commission said it has sought to obtain a briefing by the Minister and, to that end, they have dispatched a letter to the Minister seeking an audience with him.In the letter that was made public to the media, the PSC said it would be “grateful to be briefed by you on the assertions made that the economy pre May 2015 was heavily based on proceeds of the drug trade and that the current economy post May 2015 is no longer affected by such proceeds.”Moreover, the Commission said “as businesses it is important for us to understand the underlying structure of the economy and the various elements that contribute or inhibit its growth.”Outlining that it was awaiting a response, the PSC in its letter to the subject Minister posited that “we look forward to such a brief so that we could betterFinance Minister Winston Jordanunderstand the empirical evidence supporting your assertions.”PleasedIn response to this, Jagdeo said he was pleased for the first time that the PSC is seeking such information. “I must thank the leadership of the Private Sector Commission for asking for details because if a minister of finance says drug proceeds and money laundering were the primary source of financing of many business in Guyana and the buoyance,” he added.However, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) General Secretary said that he is of the firm view that the Minister would not be able to give such an explanation because he has no such evidence.“The buoyancy of the economy had to do with several things, a growing set of economic activities, a growing tax base, larger deposits and more people borrowing and investing. All of that led to the buoyancy we saw. The conserve ills we see now…bad loans, new no investments,” Jagdeo said.Jordan, since his Government came to power in 2015, has made outlandish accusations, without proof, that the PPP Administration before him was able to reflect growth in the economy because it proliferated the trade of drugs.In an interview in 2016, the Finance Minister attributed the reduction in consumer spending to a decrease in illegal activities, including narco-trafficking, which he said had created a parallel economy.Most recently in a response to an editorial done by one of the leading dailies that waded into Minister Jordan’s handling of the financial sector, Jordan retorted, inter alia, “you must have forgotten, conveniently, the deformed and broken economy that our Government inherited in 2015. Lest we forget, too, that economy thrived on rampant drug trafficking, money laundering, and a banking sector in which a few institutions recklessly lent funds for private white elephant projects.”In July of this year, an article was published in the State-owned Department of Public Information (DPI), where SARA’s Chief Executive Officer, Aubrey Heath-Retemyer is recorded saying that the SARA is working tirelessly with the Legal Affairs Ministry to retrieve over $200 billion in State assets lost through corruption between 2010 to 2014.“We have been losing between $28 billion and $35 billion every year between 2010 and 2014 by procurement fraud, in illicit capital flights-$90 billion and in the underground economy (drugs) – about $100 billion,” the SARA Chief had said.However, the PPP has on multiple occasions called out the incumbent Administration for peddling what it said was “blatant lies” in an attempt to justify their “mismanagement” of the economy.