THE PROGRAMME OF THE NEW PPP GOVERNMENT
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Shortly after the PPP won the 1957 general election, Dr. Jagan announced his list of ministers. They included himself as Minister of Trade and Industry, Brindley Benn (for Education and Social Development), Edward Beharry (for Agriculture), Janet Jagan (for Labour, Health and Housing) and Ram Karran (for Works). Under the constitution, the Governor remained responsible for defence and external affairs.
It was obvious that all the plans of the Governor and the colonial authorities to prevent a PPP victory had failed. They, therefore, had no choice but to work in cooperation with the new government. As part of this cooperation, the Governor appointed only six nominated members to the new Legislative Council, instead of the maximum eleven for which he was empowered. Four of these nominees were selected on the advice of the new PPP government. Thus, with the PPP holding nine elected seats and with support from at least four of the nominated members, the party was guaranteed a majority over the total votes of the five opposition elected members, the three ex-officio members and the other two nominated members.
The new Government immediately began to implement its development programme. It was dissatisfied with the plan handed down by the Interim Government and argued for one with a larger scope in order to push development and reduce unemployment. The original programme called for an expenditure of $90 million over the 1956-1960 period. The PPP agitated for a more feasible plan which called for an expenditure of $200 million over the four-year period. The Government stated that its emphasis would be on agriculture and industrial development in order to encourage diversification and sustained growth.
The British Government refused to support this expanded plan, and Dr. Jagan began an attempt to raise capital resources to meet the needs. The British immediately launched a campaign to frustrate this process and refused to guarantee a loan of eight million pounds sterling from the Swiss Bank in London. Efforts by Dr. Jagan in Washington also failed, no doubt because of British intervention to the US Government and the World Bank.
Faced with such opposition from the colonial authorities, the Government could not proceed with an expanded industrialisation programme, which would have benefited the urban communities immensely, and so it shifted its emphasis to agricultural development to the benefit of the rural communities.
The political opponents of the PPP seized on this development to accuse the Government of racial discrimination, claiming that agricultural development would benefit Indians who predominated in rural areas. By not giving much emphasis to industrialisation, the political opposition claimed that Africans who resided mainly in the urban areas would not receive similar benefits, particularly in the area of employment. Interestingly, these politicians did not attack the colonial authorities for frustrating the Government's efforts to secure loans for industrial development.
Nevertheless, the Government gave tangible encouragement to private enterprise to boost industrialisation. Thus, by 1958 the Demerara Bauxite Company had already started on the construction of an alumina plant at Mackenzie, and Banks Breweries had enjoyed a successful first year of production. The Government also enacted legislation which allowed the duty free importation of machinery and equipment for private industry.
Major works carried out included the construction of extension roads, a new telephone system, new schools, hospitals and housing schemes, and the rehabilitation of steamer, railway and harbour services. The new large drainage and irrigation scheme covering 27,000 acres and aimed at settling 1,500 families, was started at Black Bush Polder on the Corentyne. A flood control and irrigation scheme at Boerasiri in the West Demerara area for the improvement of 130,000 acres of land also was on stream. And engineering works for a drainage and irrigation project at Tapakuma in Essequibo had already begun.
With agriculture being emphasised, there was a steady increase in the acreage of land under rice, which resulted in rice production increasing from 137,000 tons in 1957 to more than 175,000 tons the following year.
The early years of the government also saw improvements in the labour conditions of workers. Legislation was enacted to allow for holidays with pay and benefits under the Workmen's Compensation Ordinance. In 1958, the first day of May, Labour Day, was declared a public holiday after a motion was passed in the Legislative Council.
In the area of education, the government by the end of 1958 constructed four new primary schools and extended the size of a few others, thus providing 2,271 additional places for students. The Government Training College for teachers expanded its intake by 30, and a series of refresher courses for primary and secondary teachers was instituted by the Ministry of Education throughout the country.