The Muslim who became President of Guyana: Who is Mohamed Irfaan Ali?

A report by the US network CNBC estimated that Guyana may become the country with the highest number of barrels of oil produced per capita in the world

Mohamed Irfaan Ali is the name of the new president of Guyana, a 40-year-old politician, born into a Muslim family of Indian descent. Last Sunday — August 2 — he became the man who will govern the South American country that, according to international indicators, will have the highest economic growth in the world.

His victory was decreed by the head of the Electoral Commission of Guyana (Gecom), Claudette Singh. This member of the Partido Cívico Progresista de los Pueblos — PPP / C — (Peoples’ Progressive Civic Party) comes to power after an electoral crisis that lasted over 153 days and which occurred — according to the national authorities — in accordance with the Guyanese Constitution .

In addition, four members of the Cabinet were also sworn in: Bharrat Jagdeo, as vice president; and Brigadier (retired) Mark Philips, as Prime Minister. Mohabir Anil Nandlall and Gail Teixeira were sworn in for the posts of Attorney General and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, respectively.

The Gecom statement was issued after receiving the report of the chief election official, Keith Lowenfield, on the presidential elections that took place on March 2.

The CEO’s report was based on data provided by the national vote count, according to which the PPP / C won 33 seats, while the Association for National Unity / Alliance for the Cambio (APNU / AFC) won 31 seats.

After the Gecom statement was released, the outgoing president, David Granger, announced publicly that he respects the ruling of the mentioned instance. Irfaan Ali, previously served as a government minister with responsibilities for sectors such as housing, tourism and commerce.

Will Ali rule the world’s fastest growing country?

The 40-year-old politician also has parliamentary experience since 2006 and during the last National Assembly he chaired the Public Accounts Committee, responsible for examining public spending. He received his doctorate in Philosophy in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of the West Indies.

Five months had to pass for Irfaan Ali to be declared President of Guyana, in the midst of a crisis that was not properly reported by the media, which apparently were not even alarmed as in the cases of Bolivia or Venezuela.

Ali will govern no less than the nation that has the highest economic growth rate in the world (86%), according to the International Monetary Fund. This means, according to a BBC report, that Irfaan Ali will lead a country that will expand its economy 14 times more than China this year.

In July, the World Bank, despite the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, also positioned this nation as the one that will grow the most, in economic terms.

After the crisis ended, Irfaan Ali became the ninth president of that country of some 800,000 inhabitants.

How did Ali obtain the Presidency?

Ali was a candidate for the opposition People’s Progressive Party and ran for office against the Association for National Unity + Alliance for Change of the outgoing President David Granger.

The election was so close that the winning political front obtained 33 representatives before the National Assembly (Congress), while the second was left with 31 members.

In the electoral body’s report, one of its directors states that “he does not believe that the result provided reflects the will of the citizens”, given that in his opinion there were anomalies during the count when votes that he considered irregular were included. Despite this, the entity validated the results and declared the winner.

In the previous months, Ali’s party presented a series of appeals because it was initially leaked that the outgoing president was the winner of the elections and forced a recount.

Between April and March, both parties broke records in legal claims, denouncing each other for alleged fraudulent votes.

Who is the new president?

Mohamed Irfaan Ali was born in Leonora, a town within one of the islands that are part of the Guyanese territory. He has a doctorate in Urban Planning and was a congressman between 2006 and 2015. He also became minister twice.

During his time at the Ministry of Housing, he implemented the most extensive endowment campaign in the history of the country, backed by a massive distribution of lots to citizens of all social strata and geographic regions.

In his parliamentary experience, he chaired one of the most important committees, that of Public Accounts. He has been a member of the PPP for more than 20 years and began his militancy in the youth wing of the party.

Ali also worked as a coordinator at the Caribbean Development Bank and, as part of his campaign promises, proposed to provide relief to the most disadvantaged economic sectors, in addition to empowering the business community.

Among the policies proposed, the elimination of the Value Added Tax (VAT) in key areas such as electricity, water and medical care stands out.

A new oil producing country

Guyana discovered that it has oil wealth five years ago and in 2020 began exporting crude. Although its reserves are not that large -so far-, if they are compared with the largest world producers, it has sufficient production capacity to give it a great economic takeoff, something unprecedented in its history.

“Eventually, it could export between 700,000 and a million barrels of oil a day”, Marcelo de Assis, an expert at the international oil sector consultancy Wood Mackenzie, told BBC Mundo in January. That amount of production would be equivalent to what an intermediate exporter like Colombia sells abroad, to mention an example.

However, by dividing it by the number of inhabitants, one begins to understand the enormous impact that oil production can have on the economy of Guyana, a country 50 times less populated than Colombia.

For example, a report by the US network CNBC estimated that Guyana may become the country with the highest number of barrels of oil produced per capita in the world.

In the midst of all this, Ali must seek a consensual solution with Venezuela over the Esequibo territory, a region that his neighboring country claims as its own and that has been in dispute since Guyana was a British colony.

The Esequibo is a large area rich in mineral and forest resources. It is almost 160,000 square kilometers and represents almost two-thirds the size of the former British colony, which is 214,000 square kilometers.

In all Venezuelan maps the region appears as one more part of the country. The Esequibo debate will surely be the most important international controversy Ali will have to resolve during his mandate.



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