Guyana News Brief -- December 16, 1995


The South-East Asia economic giant, Malaysia, recently signed an agreement on economic, scientific and technical co-operation with Guyana. As a result, Guyana is to benefit from technical training in various areas including economic planning. Signing the agreement were Malaysia's Foreign Minister Datuk Badawi and Guyana's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Lall Singh. Following President Jagan's visit to Malaysia in 1993, a Joint Commission was created with diplomatic initiative between the two countries.


The Government of Guyana is contemplating a joint venture arrangement with a private partner for the Guyana Electricity Corporation, which needs a mammoth injection of capital. Government sources say the "Bolivian Model" is being eyed for this arrangement. According to this model, the company is valued and then an equivalent sum is invested by a private partner in the company, out of which evolves the joint venture arrangement. The management is given to the private partner. In a related development, the American firm Leucadia met with Prime Minister Sam Hinds and restated its interest in participating in the development of GEC. Prime Minister Hinds, commenting on the whole issue of privatization of GEC, says this will have to be looked at in the context of the investor, consumers and workers' interest. By December 8, generating units are to be installed by Caterpillar company to augment the present supply of power. Presently, the Kingston Power plant is undergoing maintenance in preparation for the Christmas season.


The Constitutional (Amendment) Bill 1995, was passed in some 40 minutes in the National Assembly on November 24. The constitutional amendment, which requires a two-thirds majority of Parliament, was held up since August 20 when the PNC walked out and refused to take part in passing the bill. The bill is essential for the upcoming elections of 1997 and provides for the membership of the Elections Commission of seven persons. The chairman will be appointed by the President from a list of six persons submitted after consultation with other minority parties.


The Region Five Administration has expended $13M on road rehabilitation so far this year. Among the works completed were the patching of the Main Public road from Mahaica to Ithaca to the tune of $5M, the rehabilitation of the Burma Airstrip - $4M, the DeHoop Branch road _ $3M and the construction of three major access bridges amounting to over $3.5M. Six vital educational facilities have also benefitted from the region's programme. Schools rehabilitated include the Zeeland, Latchmansingh, DeHoop and No 5 Primary schools.


On November 24, the government of Guyana and Japan signed an agreement for a Japanese grant for further improvement of electricity in Guyana. The grant aid project will result in the construction of a 5.7 megawatt diesel power plant at Garden of Eden. Prime Minister Sam Hinds and Japanese Ambassador to Guyana Kuniaki Asomura officiated at the unveiling of the plaque at the Garden of Eden site.


Persons receiving barrels or boxes for Christmas this year should not have to wait for more than four hours to get them cleared. A new arrangement has been put in place whereby the number of staffers in the valuation section of the Custom Department has been increased to hasten the pace of valuation of imports. This is being augmented by the introduction of the Entry Processing Unit, which is to a precursor to the impending computerized international ASYCUDA system to be established in January.


The just-released Inter-American Development Bank 1995 report says the Guyanese economy "continues to exhibit positive macro-economic trends as a result of a high level of investment. Theeconomy continues to shift away from traditional sectors towards activities that attract foreign investment, such as forestry and investment," The government's continued strong export growth was hailed, which has now "moved the trade balance into surplus". The report added: "Export sectors with the highest growth were forestry, rice, sugar and gold....the new investment in milling and the expansion of the varieties of rice cultivated also improved the sector's productive capacity."


The Guyana Government had stated its strong objections to the selection of former PNC Foreign Minister Rashleigh Jackson as a member of the Commonwealth Observer Mission to Tanzania. President Cheddi Jagan reporting to the media was asked about Mr Jackson's participation on the team, following widespread criticisms both locally and overseas. According to the President,

the government's objection to Mr Jackson, who was a senior Cabinet Minister during the period when there was rigging of Guyana's elections, was made to the Commonwealth Secretariat. Dr Jagan said he was not only surprised that the Commonwealth went ahead and selected Mr Jackson as part of the Observer Mission, but also to appoint him as the Chairman. Political groups in Guyana and even some members of the Observer Mission were perturbed by Mr Jackson's presence on the Mission.


Guyana's proposal for the establishment of a Regional Development Fund (RDF) is gaining more support in the region. The idea of the RDF has already been adopted by CARICOM, and it has become one of the major proposals which CARICOM countries feel must be implemented in order to assist smaller economies adjust to free trade which is envisaged for the hemisphere by the year 2005. The RDF was initially proposed by President Cheddi Jagan. At a meeting of the hemispheric Trade Ministerial Working Group on the Smaller Economies held in Washington on December 7 and 8, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) presented a working paper which supported the idea of a regional fund for the hemisphere's least developed countries. The paper's conclusion agreed that "in order to increase the production of exportables, a development fund should be established to improve the economy and wide efficiency in areas such as infrastructure and training." The meeting of the Working Group on Smaller Economies which was held at OAS headquarters was attended by 32 hemispheric countries. Guyana was represented by Ambassador Odeen Ishmael.