Guyana Diary

August 2008

Monthly Newsletter of the Guyana Embassy, Caracas, Venezuela

Quinta Roraima, Prados del Este, Caracas 1050, Venezuela
Telephone: 58-212-977-1158; 58-212-975-3687
Fax: (58) 212 976-3765

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Posted August 2008 - Issue No. 55 - Back to Embassy page

Previous Guyana Diaries are available here.

Petro-Caribe countries receive better conditions at recent summit

The recent Petro-Caribe summit in Venezuela concluded with better and more reasonable offers to assist member states in strengthening capacities to acquire fuel during the present difficult period.

Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, Guyanese Ambassador to Venezuela Odeen Ishmael and Chief Executive Officer (ag.) of the Guyana Energy Agency Mahendra Sharma represented Guyana at the Summit which was held in Maracaibo, Venezuela, on July 12-13.

The summit, attended by Caribbean and Latin American heads of Government and chaired by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, highlighted new considerations.

Petro-Caribe would now cover 60 to 70 percent of countries’ cost for oil shipment and financing provided that the price of oil per barrel exceeds US$100 and US$150 respectively.

Guyana and 12 of the 15 Caricom member states, along with Cuba and the Dominican Republic, were signatories to the Petro-Caribe initiative. These countries benefit from about 150,000 barrels of oil daily and are given up to 25 years to repay with 1 percent interest.

Mr. Hinds disclosed however that alternative means of repayment in the form of goods and services were proposed by the Venezuelan government, such as agricultural machinery. He said Santo Domingo proposed to offer tourism to facilitate Venezuelans.

The Prime Minister said even though Petro-Caribe’s assistance will strengthen the country’s fuel capacity, emphasis on energy conservation was also highlighted.

He added that Venezuela is working to develop photovoltaic factories to strengthen its alternative energy consumption sources and is collaborating with Cuba to achieve this objective.

Food, a commodity which has recently been impacted by energy, was also stressed at the fifth summit and according to Mr. Hinds, Venezuela, which produces about two million tonnes of urea and contributes about 100,000 tonnes to Petro-Caribe countries, was able to make reasonable offers.

Mr. Hinds said Guyana from the inception grasped at the opportunity since it is a crucial mechanism for assistance in difficult times.

About 1.3 million barrels have been imported under the programme and this has to date represented about 5,200 barrels per day.

Amerindian communities have undergone significant development

According to Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Mrs. Pauline Sukhai, Amerindian communities in Guyana have undergone significant development in different sectors such as education, health and human rights.

The recent Grade Six Assessment saw 42 students from hinterland and other regions receiving scholarships for the duration of their secondary education. The Ministry of Amerindian Affairs will also be assisting with meeting the needs of students that wish to further their education, beyond the secondary level, with scholarships for institutions such as the Guyana Technical Institute, Carnegie School of Home Economics and other technical institutions.

Mrs. Sukhai said there is considerable progress being made in eradicating the problem of human trafficking, and indicated that she supports Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Priya Manickchand, in not agreeing with the recent US report that portrayed Guyana as a high risk zone for human trafficking.

Guyana is making a concerted effort to have the situation of human trafficking minimised as much as possible, she reiterated.

Mrs. Sukhai said the health sector in Guyana has seen an increased effort by the Ministry of Health to engage in training personnel for the medical field.

She noted that persons in various capacities are being trained to serve in the hinterland regions. She also expressed her desire for returning graduates from Cuba to be of assistance in the improved health care in these areas.

There is an ongoing training programme for medical examiners and at present approximately 50 persons from this programme will be placed in the hinterland communities. Also there is a Community Health Workers programme that facilitates the training of youths from the communities.

She observed that various plans are being implemented for the development of Amerindian communities across Guyana. The Presidential grant of $150 million has been allocated to this development and, so far, 111 communities have requested projects. Of these communities, 60 percent are engaged in the implementation of the projects. These projects, primarily income generating, also include a few social projects that focus on improving services. These services involve better recreational and multipurpose buildings and transportation facilities.

All these activities are aimed at better quality of life for the population of the Amerindian communities in Guyana.

Diagnostic lab opens in Guyana

The diagnostic and treatment and care capability of the Ministry of Health moved to a higher level on July 3 with the acquisition of the new US$4.4 million state-of-the-art National Public Health Institute building.

The facility was established with funding through the US President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The symbolic key to it was officially handed over to Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, by Country Director of the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck.

Hasbrouck recalled that the ground breaking for the edifice was done in December 2004. He congratulated the government of Guyana for its part in the collaboration with the US government to make it a reality and named it the “Care and Treatment Centre of Excellence.”

Hasbrouck said it would offer a safe and healthy work environment for staff, where samples of various types will be tested and the results determined without having to be sent abroad for further investigation.

Solar power in the Upper Demerara River community

Solar electricity systems installed in homes at Muritaro Village on the Upper Demerara River under the hinterland component of the Un-served Areas Electrification Programme (UAEP) were officially commissioned on July 4 by Prime Minister Sam Hinds.

Muritaro is located about 24 miles south of Kara Kara, Linden. The venue of the commissioning was the community’s primary school.

The event was also attended by several of the beneficiaries and their families and residents from neighbouring villages along the Demerara River.

A total of 66 solar home systems were installed in as many homes at Muritaro, and one at the primary school. The installations were completed some weeks ago and residents have been receiving electricity since then.

The installation of the systems at Muritaro was initiated by the government of Guyana and funded through a soft loan from the IDB.

Three other hinterland communities to have benefited from the installation of similar systems to date are Yawakita in Region One (Barima/Waini); Capoey in Region Three (West Demerara/Essequibo Islands); and Kurukubaru in Region Eight (Potaro/Siparuni).

Each system produces 125 watts of electricity, which is enough to power a few lights, a radio and a television.

The cost to residents for the service is about G$500 per month per household, and this is mainly because the systems require little or no input, apart from servicing and maintenance. With proper care, the system could last at least 25 years.

Four residents were trained by UAEP to service and maintain the systems, while the village council has been charged with managing the operation.

Buxton/Friendship farmers receive collective compensation

Farmers of the Buxton/Friendship community, East Coast Demerara, who have been affected by the Joint Services de-bushing exercise aback of the village, and who were compensated in the initial phase, on July 9 again received assistance from the Ministry of Agriculture as part of its compensation programme.

Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, during a meeting with the farmers, informed them of other agricultural interventions that will be put in place to assist them, including improved drainage and irrigation.

A contract was signed at the Ministry after the meeting for the cleaning of major drainage canals in Buxton/Friendship.

In April, Minister Persaud, during his second visit to the Buxton back lands, where clearing was ongoing, held discussion with farmers in the Pond Dam area. At that meeting, it was disclosed that a second phase of verification prior to the disbursement of compensation would be conducted.

The farmers' group within the communities will be contracted to undertake additional land clearing, and will be overseen by the Buxton/Friendship NDC and the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority.

Minister Persaud informed the farmers that government is spending approximately $4.8 million to ensure drainage and restoration work in Buxton/Friendship areas to allow farmers to gain access to lands to plant on a larger scale.

Students graduate from academic, skills building programme

Thirty-nine youths from Buxton on July 9 graduated at the end of a 9-month academic and skills building programme – a collaborative effort between the Ambassadors of Christ Ministries of Buxton and Partners of the Americas - Educare (Guyana) Project. Partners of the Americas is an international non-governmental organisation.

The graduating class of adolescents and young adults who were no longer in the formal education system comprised 22 males and 17 females. During the programme coached by tutors largely from Buxton, the participants were taught basic mathematics, basic English and computer appreciation. In addition, the females were taught skills in home economics, cosmetology and soft-toy making, while the males were engaged in masonry, block making, carpentry and painting.

The project comprised two parts – the academic and skills building component and the “Teenage Re-engagement Programme”, a feeding programme through which many underprivileged children of Buxton were fed hot meals, making it possible for them to attend school.

Through this programme, the youths were able to acquire skills for their self-development, as well as marketable skills which could gain them entry into the world of work.

Meanwhile, 47 more students have graduated after completing a nine-month “Educare Teenage Re-Engagement’ programme” at Cotton Field Secondary School on Essequibo Coast.

The project was designed to support the eradication of child labour through education and was funded by the US Department of Labour and executed by Partners of the Americas.

The course targeted school dropouts and the focus was on getting students to access education. The graduating students were trained in catering, carpentry, electrical installation and use of textiles and, after receiving their certificates, they all thanked the Government of the Guyana, the US Department of Labour and Educare for affording them the opportunity.

Increase in sugar production cost minimal

Agriculture Minister, Robert Persaud, on July 12 told the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Economic Services that despite the increases in inflation and the cost of other inputs on the world market, the increase in the unit costs for the production of sugar in Guyana has been minimal. He was at the time responding to questions posed by the Committee to the Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco).

The production cost between 1998 and 2008, he said, rose by about 1.20 US cents, while the inputs, particularly fuel and fertilizer, have seen increases in excess of 100 percent over the same period.

Questioned as to whether resources essential for the efficient maintenance of the industry were diverted to complete the new Skeldon factory, Minister Persaud replied that the efficient maintenance of the industry has continued despite the funding of the factory.

Guysuco, he said, has continued to pursue its mechanised agenda as it has invested in Bell Loaders, replacement of crawlers with wheeled tractors and the conversion of fields to mechanised friendly layout.

Other investments in the industry, apart from the Skeldon factory and routine maintenance, he said, were air heaters added for the boilers at Enmore Estate, packaging equipment and factory upgrade of Blairmont for the production of “Demerara Gold” sugar, and the replacement of generator units at factories.

The committee was told that the new Skeldon factory will have an installed power generation capacity of 40 megawatts. The project is expected to supply 10 megawatts of power to the national grid.

Region Two residents get new family health clinic

Another big stride has been made to improve the level of local health care with the opening up of a new family health clinic, at Suddie, Region Two, on July 12.

Established at a cost of about $4 million, the clinic will offer testing for malaria, filaria, tuberculosis, HIV, among other conditions, and is staffed with a team of skilled and professional health personnel.

Minister of Health Leslie Ramsammy said at the opening ceremony that Guyana has one of the most comprehensive programmes of providing free health care for everyone for all chronic and infectious diseases.

The Minister declared that his ministry has progressed a far way in providing testing and treatment, from the days when there was only one testing site and samples had to be sent to Georgetown. This has changed over the years as people can be tested and screened anywhere in the country for HIV, tuberculosis, filaria, malaria, and other infectious and chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension.

The Minister added that more will be done to have persons utilise the services and access treatment.

Government assists Northwest Organics

Boosting the capacity of indigenous communities continues to be a focus of government. And to this end, Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh on July 14 presented a cheque for $2,376,858 to Project Coordinator of the Guyana Marine Turtle Conservation Society, Annette Arjoon, who also heads Northwest Organics.

The presentation represented support for the work of North West Organics in purchasing machinery to enable mass production.

The money will be used to acquire five choppers/grinders, five diesel engines with frame/belts, and five tillers with gasoline engines to facilitate the production of a larger quantity of goods, since the company has been asked to export its products to Hi Lo Supermarket in Trinidad and Tobago.

These products include cassava bread and casareep, crabwood oil, and crabwood oil soap, cocoa sticks, and peanut butter, which are retailed at leading supermarkets in Georgetown.

Approximately 100 indigenous women from five indigenous communities located at Hosororo, Waini, Maracaibo, Aquero and Tukapita are involved in the manual production of non-traditional products.

The North West Organics initiative is recognised as an outstanding example of agricultural diversification. The society broadened its objectives in 2005 to include the economic well-being of the user communities and conservation of the environment via the name North West Organics. Since then, North West Organics has been the main marketing tool for products from the Shell Beach area.

GGDMA gets $6M WWF grant for environmental protection

Local gold miners will get a boost to their capability for proper care of the environment with a $6 million grant from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The funding was secured in pursuit of the continued interest of the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) in getting its members to self-regulate and lessen the environmental impact of their operations.

The will use the money to employ a technically qualified consultant to train environmental officers in good mining practices, such as the construction of sediment ponds, turbidity monitoring and proper use and disposal of mercury. The trained officers will then work with GGDMA to complement what is being done by the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission.

The WWF assistance was made amidst growing concerns about the negative environmental impact of poor mining practices on the rivers and forests in the hinterland.

Those concerns arose out of reports about once pristine rivers being permanently discoloured by muddy water from mining operations and the potentially severe effects of mercury used by many miners in gold extraction.

Personnel to undergo training are persons qualified at the level of university undergraduates and the course will last for between four and six months.

New seed paddy plant at Black Bush Polder

The Guyana government has made good its commitment to boost the competitiveness of the local rice industry as a $50 million seed paddy plant was commissioned on July 15 at Black Bush Polder, a main rice growing area in Region Six.

The facility at Lesbeholden was constructed under the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)/ CARIFORUM/Caricom Food Security Project and was financed by the governments of Italy and Guyana. The facility will cater for drying, storing, clearing and testing of seed paddy.

The Guyana government has been placing major emphasis on the rice sector as it plays a crucial role in Guyana’s economic stability and accounts for approximately 20 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 12 percent of export earnings.

The seed paddy plant will assist in the reduction of spoilage and spillage of rice paddy produced in Region Six.

The region has approximately 800 rice farmers of whom 42 percent are small scale producers. The establishment of the facility will help them to increase their yields while ensuring better prices and maximisation of economic returns.

Over the years, seed paddy facilities have been established at Anna Regina in Region Two, and Leguan and Crane in Region Three.

The establishment of the seed paddy plant at Black Bush Polder will be managed by the Rice Producers Association with support from the GRDB and the Ministry of Agriculture. Another plant will be constructed in Region Six to serve farmers from Number 52 to 74 Villages.

Guyanese scholarship graduates return from Cuba

Several sectors including health, public works, agriculture and communications will be significantly boosted with the return of 39 graduates of the Cuban scholarship programme who are ready to enter into the world of work.

These and 65 medical students who have to complete their final year of studies returned on August 1 to Guyana.

This is the largest batch of students that has returned since the administration increased the number of scholarships to Cuba.

Within the next three weeks 150 students are scheduled to leave for Cuba to further their studies in various disciplines. Fifty of these will pursue medicine, while 100 will be studying in the fields of engineering and agronomy.

The graduates will be placed in different sectors throughout the country where they are expected to provide technical improvement in their fields of study.

Among the 39 are 20 engineers, seven veterinary medicine/zoo technologists, and seven agronomists, while the remainder have been trained in sports-medicine and communications.

Since 2006, the Scholarship Division of the Public Service Ministry has been facilitating many scholarships in varied fields. Government secured significant assistance from Cuba during a visit to that country by President Bharrat Jagdeo and a team in 2006. Among the assistance was the offer of 715 scholarships for Guyanese to pursue medicine in Cuba over the next five years, as well as 250 in the disciplines of agriculture and engineering.

Development projects on stream

The Ministry of Agriculture has awarded five contracts, worth $268 million, to construct and rehabilitate drainage and irrigation (D&I) structures in several parts of the country. The works will be undertaken in Regions Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam), Three (West Demerara/Essequibo Islands), Four (Demerara/Mahaica) and Five (Mahaica/Berbice).

In Region Two, a scour protection will be built at La Union outfall channel on the Essequibo Coast to ease erosion and increase the performance of the La Union sluice. That project will be executed at a cost of $72 million.

A new sluice will be built at the DeWillem, West Coast Demerara, and this is expected to benefit approximately 600 hectares of agricultural cultivation, mostly sugar cane. For sea defence in the area revetment and rip rap sea defence protection will be constructed at a cost of $153 million.

Irrigation infrastructure valued some $27 million will also be built at Garden of Eden, East Bank Demerara. In addition, the Kuru Kuru sluice will be rehabilitated and the creek channel along Soesdyke/Linden Highway cleared at a cost of $6 million.

On the East Coast of Demerara, the double door Bellamy West End sluice at Mahaica, which serves nearly 12,000 acres of cultivated land, will undergo $8 million in rehabilitation works.

In addition to these D&I projects, the government has approved several contracts, including the approval of projects to boost the housing and water sector in Regions Three (West Demerara/Essequibo Islands) and Five (Mahaica/Berbice).

The contracts include paving of the main access road at La Parfaite Harmonie Housing Scheme, West Bank Demerara, to cost $76.4 million; clearing of land at Block ‘B’ Tuschen Housing Scheme, East Bank of Essequibo at a cost $16.01 million; and the installation of a pure water supply network at Block ‘D’ Bath, on the West Coast Berbice in Region Five, to the value of $24.4 million.

DDL launches new premium rum

One of Guyana’s beverage giants, Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL), added another premium product to the El Dorado family when the El Dorado Premium Lite Rum was launched on July 16.

The El Dorado products are renowned for their quality and excellence. The El Dorado 12, 15 and 21 year-old rums have won the Gold Medal in this year’s International Wine and Spirit Competition.

DDL’s flagship product, the El Dorado 15-year-old rum also won the Best Rum Trophy. This brand has the distinction of winning the Gold Medal for the past ten years.

The El Dorado Premium Lite Rum which comes in an exquisite package is now available at all DDL outlets across the country.

Chanderpaul awarded the Golden Arrow of Achievement

Guyana and West Indies prolific batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who is currently listed as the No. 1 batsman on the ICC Test Player Rankings, was appointed by President Bharrat Jagdeo as a member of the Order of Service of Guyana and has been awarded the Golden Arrow of Achievement.

An Office of the President release on July 31:

“His Excellency Bharrat Jagdeo, President of the Republic of Guyana, Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Guyana and Chancellor of the Orders of Guyana, is pleased to appoint Shivnarine Chanderpaul as a member of the Order of Service of Guyana and has awarded him the Golden Arrow of Achievement for “his consistently outstanding performance as a Cricketer, especially as a batsman, at the national, regional and international levels.’

The 33-year-old Chanderpaul joined an illustrious group by becoming the fourth West Indian batsman to reach 8,000 runs in Test cricket on the fifth and final day of the third Digicel Test against Australia recently. The reliable left-hander ended the series with an aggregate of 442 runs to win the man-of-the-series award.

News Briefs

Credits: Stabroek News, Chronicle, Mirror, Kaieteur News, GINA

Compiled and edited by Evangeline Ishmael

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