Dear Editor,

The term “constructive criticism” is used loosely these days and any type of criticism is regarded as “constructive criticism”, when in fact, 99% of the time, they are not. Many anti-government advocates, and those with strong opposing views who write in the dailies, on a daily basis, are of the view that the government is averse to “constructive criticism”. The truth is that the government is not averse to constructive criticism, but they are averse to unconstructive, poor, biased, naïve, contrarianism, lousy, complaining, irrelevant, illogical, poorly researched, vague, cowardly, and untruthful criticisms.

The Vice President, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo zoomed into an editorial of the Stabroek News at his last press conference, which is an editorial that fits the above description of non-constructive criticisms. However, many writers, and the political opposition are characterizing that particular editorial as constructive.

There are many different types of criticisms. Almost everyone has a mobile device these days and are connected to the internet. Hence, I would like to encourage all and sundry to “google” the definition for the term “constructive criticism” and re-evaluate the Stabroek News editorial of August 2nd, 2023, to ascertain whether it was indeed a constructive piece of criticism.

‌The definition that one would quickly find for the term constructive criticism is that constructive criticism is feedback that provides specific, actionable suggestions. Rather than providing general advice, constructive criticism gives specific recommendations on how to make positive improvements”.  So, in providing constructive criticism, it needs to include specific positive praise, provide actionable feedback, and use of empathy.

Another definition of the term constructive criticism is that it is “an approach to criticism that seeks to build ideas up as opposed to tearing them down”.

For the readers benefit, there are different types of criticisms as alluded to in my opening paragraph, which are more suitable to characterize the criticisms that the government is faced with on a daily basis. Hereunder, I present the definitions of the different types of criticisms.

‌1. Biased criticism: This is criticism that is motivated by a desire to push an agenda or that is influenced by cognitive bias.

‌2. Naïve criticism: criticism that misses the point due to a lack of knowledge, due diligence, practical experience or understanding. For example, the types of criticisms by Andre Brandli and Janette Bulkan on local content and the carbon credit deal, respectively.

‌3. Contrarianism: this is a tendency to challenge mainstream and accepted thinking. This may be based on skeptical arguments that lack objectivity such as using obscure opinions to challenge authoritative opinions that have far more evidence behind them.

‌4. Lousy criticism: poor quality criticism that is long, tedious, self-righteous, mean-spirited, personal, vague, illogical, non-actionable, poorly researched, naive, cowardly and untruthful.‌

5. Complaining: this type of criticism is designed to solve problems and contribute to knowledge. But is often designed to vent negative emotions such as envy and self-pity. It is difficult to differentiate between the two because it is common for those who complain to claim that they are offering valuable criticism.

‌Editor, it is not difficult to deconstruct poor, biased and contrarianism types of criticisms, in the case of the Stabroek News editorial. I do not wish to do that in this essay, as I have done so in my other writings and columns.

My objective in this essay is to distinguish the different types of criticisms. Further, where constructive criticism is concerned, now that we know the different types of criticisms and their definition, I am sure that most persons would agree with me that constructive criticism is profoundly lacking in our society, especially by the critics of government and anti-government advocates.

Notwithstanding, let me also point out that while constructive criticism is all well and good, it should not be conflated with or confused to be critical, robust, and sound debate, analyses, and evaluation of public policy, and national issues. This is a whole different dimension altogether and like the profound lack of constructive criticisms, these characteristics of public discourse, dialogue, and debates, are immensely deficient as well.

Yours respectfully,

Joel Bhagwandin


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