Prados del Este, Caracas 1050, Venezuela
Telephone: 58-212-977-1158; 58-212-975-3687
Fax: (58) 212 976-3765
On the Internet: http://www.guyana.org/spanish/venezuela_embassy.html
Posted August 2009 - Issue No. 67 - Back to Embassy page
Previous Guyana Diaries are available here.
Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues–Birkett on July 11 met in Caracas with her Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro. After their discussions, they agreed to work on a programme of several areas of interest including the resumption of the UN Good Offices process
The Good Offices process of the United Nations Secretary General which is aimed at assisting the two countries in developing a peaceful resolution to the controversy relating to the Arbitral Award of October 3, 1899 has been in abeyance for the past three years following the death of the last UN Good Officer, Oliver Jackman.
The other areas of interest which were discussed by the two foreign ministers, when they met at the National Pantheon of Venezuela, included the advancement of construction of a shelter for the homeless in Guyana, assistance in the area of non-traditional agriculture and dairy sectors, the dredging of the Mahaica, Mahaicony and Abary (MMA) river mouths, and the proposed construction of a road link between the two countries, as well as Venezuela’s proposal for a gas pipeline connecting the two countries with Suriname.
Rodrrigues and Maduro also discussed the proposed establishment of cooperative programmes under the Guyana/Venezuela High Level Bilateral Commission (HLBC) which is expected to meet in Venezuela in November this year. (The Guyana/ Venezuela Mixed Commission, which oversees cooperation aimed at combating the illicit drug trade, subsequently met in Caracas on July 22.)
The two foreign ministers also reiterated their hope for the return to office of the constitutional government in Honduras. Rodrigues-Birkett also laid a wreath at the National Pantheon of Venezuela in honour of that country’s national heroes including the Liberator Simon Bolivar
A team of officials that accompanied Rodrigues on the trip included Ambassador and Director General of the Foreign Affairs Ministry Elisabeth Harper, Director of the Frontiers Department Keith George and Charge d’Affaires (ad interim) of the Guyana Embassy in Caracas, Heather Seelochan, while Venezuela’s ambassador to Guyana, Dario Morandy was also in attendance.
The state-of-art National Ophthalmology Hospital was commissioned on July 25 by President Bharrat Jagdeo at Port Mourant,,Berbice. Eye surgeries have commenced at the hospital which will be offering an entire range of services free of cost to Guyanese and individuals from neighbouring countries.
The Ophthalmology Hospital is one of several projects under the Guyana/Cuba collaboration programme which includes the construction of four diagnostic and treatment centres at Diamond, Suddie, Mahaicony and Leonora. The institution is expected to conduct 10,000 eye surgeries each year.
President Jagdeo, during the opening ceremony, said that the realisation of the facility is testimony to continued efforts by the Governments of Guyana and Cuba to improve bilateral relations and promote greater development in both countries.
“We know what we are committed to, we know what is our task, how we have to serve our people and that is the primary focus of my government,” President Jagdeo said.
Meanwhile, Minister within the Ministry of Health Dr. Bheri Ramsaran said that the genesis of the hospital is a symbolic moment for Guyanese since it comes as a package with new services offered by the Ministry of Health and the Government.
Prior to the construction of the facility, thousands of Guyanese benefited from eye surgeries conducted in Cuba under the Guyana/Cuba “Mission Miracle” programme.
That programme, since its inception in 2006, has touched all population points in the country as persons were able to have corrective eye surgeries.
Cuba’s Charge d Affaires Jorge Rodriquez Hernandez praised Guyana for its support for Cuba which dates back to the time the 1960s administration of Dr. Cheddi Jagan.
“We have received the solidarity of countries all around the world, and we are proud of Guyana being among these,” he said.
On February 9, the hospital began screening patients for various eye ailments, including cataract and pterygium, and thousands of screenings have been conducted since.
Specialized staff from Cuba, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, administrators and bio-medical technicians will operate the facility until Guyanese medical students currently undergoing training in Cuba return to serve the country.
Arrangements for the implementation of the National Hinterland Secure Livelihood Programme for Amerindian communities are gaining momentum, Minister of Amerindian Affairs Ms. Pauline Sukhai said.
Minister Sukhai disclosed that the $88 million budgeted by the government has been released for the programme which aims at developing economic activities and improving the livelihoods of Amerindian communities countrywide .
Minister Sukhai had earlier explained that the Secure Livelihood program is part of a new focus which her Ministry had been developing over the last couple of months, a focus to support and encourage Amerindian leaders and the communities to begin to seriously address community development.
She described the programme as a very significant one which was the first step in providing one sub-region and 15 communities with resources to move ahead in the transformation of their economy.
The Ministry has already placed specialists in the Mabaruma sub-region of Region One (Barima/Waini) where this programme will begin
The team includes an aquaculturist, a pest control specialist, a food technologist, marketing and finance specialists, a project management and networking specialist, and a business development specialist.
The experts will be looking directly at supporting communities in developing enterprises that are unique to the sub-region, and which have a good comparative advantage in that region.
They are already working in the field with 15 communities and others are expected to join soon.
The programme is expected to last two years, during which the specialists will be working with the communities to ensure that whatever venture is established is sustainable. Significantly, young people in the targeted communities will be attached to the specialists to enable them to develop related skills.
Minister of Health Dr Leslie Ramsammy, at a press conference on July 17 at the National Aids Programme Secretariat (NAPS) building, assured the nation that there was not any interruption in the services offered by the sector despite the destruction of the Ministry’s main building and annex by fire early that morning.
Minister Ramsammy disclosed that the fire began at approximately 02:00 a.m., and despite quick response and diligent operations by the Fire Service, the two buildings within the Ministry’s complex were completely consumed.
The main building and annex housed a number of offices and departments, including those of Minister Ramsammy, the Permanent Secretary, the Chief Medical Officer, the Adolescent Health and Chronic Diseases, the Nurse Council and the Registry.
The Health Minister stated that planning for the relocation of officers and departments had commenced at the scene of the fire the moment it was realised that the two buildings could not be saved. Among those relocated were the Adolescent Health Department to NAPS building; the Standards Department to the Blood Bank; and the Personnel Department to the Guyana Agency for Health Sciences Education, Environment and Food Policy (GAHEF) building.
Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee, at a press briefing on July 27, said that since the fire on July 17, which consumed the buildings that once housed the Ministry of Health in Brickdam, Police have been actively engaged in investigation, which has so far been highly successful.
He disclosed that investigations have established that the fire was a well orchestrated plan by a network of persons, some of whom are very prominent figures in society.
Minister Rohee noted the network consisted of a hierarchy inclusive of intellectual authors, planners, recruiters, and persons who carried out the act. He asserted that investigations have revealed that persons were promised sums of money to carry out errands to purchase bottles, channa explosives and gasoline.
Investigations have revealed information of the actual persons who carried out the act, where the meeting took place to plan the act, and information on when and where they entered the ministry’s compound.
Rohee lauded the Police Force on their investigations, and said that the developments they have made in such a short span of time is evidence of excellent police work.
The Minister also noted that the act of arson on the Ministry of Health was believed to be conceived within a political context and investigations revealed names and links of both active and passive “players” who were involved.
He used the opportunity to put the alleged network on notice, that given the information that has already been received, it was only a matter of time until the truth would be uncovered. He urged the public to rely only on information provided by the Police noting that anything else would be just theory.
The fire began at approximately 02:00 a.m. destroying two buildings within the Ministry’s complex despite quick response and diligent operations by the Guyana Fire Service.
About 150 Toshaos/(village captains), eight of whom are women, from the various indigenous/Amerindian communities in Guyana converged at the Guyana International Conference Centre on July 27 for the second biennial National Toshao Council (NTC) meeting.
The forum organised by the NTC with support from the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs was a week-long activity aimed at consolidating and expanding the national development and transformation processes to meet the needs of indigenous people, among other objectives.
President Bharrat Jagdeo was among the many government officials who gave remarks at the opening ceremony and also engaged in an interactive session with the community leaders. He encouraged them to be proud of such an event which he said has not been considered by any other country.
“I don’t think that any other country in the whole world has ever assembled all of its elected leaders from the indigenous community to discuss affairs pertaining to their development,” President Jagdeo said.
He added that such an achievement warranted laudability and symbolized the commitment of the Guyana government to strong democracy at the national and local levels.
During the week of activities the leaders were given the opportunity to interact with the various government ministers with responsibility for the various sectors that establish policies and programmes in their communities.
Housing remains one of the focal points for development in Guyana and the administration continues to expend billions of dollars on developmental works for incremental growth. Construction and upgrade of roads, drainage and irrigation systems and installation of water and electricity are among the many interventions made to advance housing development.
Minister of Housing and Water Irfaan Ali disclosed that his Ministry has commenced infrastructure work to have another 600 lots available in the Parfait/Harmonie Housing Scheme by the first quarter of 2010.
He said there have been concerns in relation to the allocation of middle-income lots in Regions Three and Four as a result of the Ministry’s aggressive house-lot allocation exercise.
The Housing Ministry, he said is moving ahead in negotiating with the Guyana Sugar Corporation to find new sites for future development in Regions Three (West Demerara-Essequibo Islands) and Four (Demerara-Mahaica) where there is a continuous increase in demand from applicants for house-lots.
The Minister further stated that it is the Ministry’s hope that by the end of October another 1000 low-income lots will be available in the Onderneeming Housing Scheme where infrastructure work is also ongoing.
The World Trade Organisation (WTO), in its second trade policy review of Guyana in July 2009, has commended the government for its trade and export policy. The following is an extract from the review:
As a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Guyana’s trade policy is underpinned by the country’s rights and obligations under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. In this regard also, Guyana’s external trade policy is widely coordinated within Caricom, including external trade negotiations with third countries.
Coordination of Guyana’s trade policy is the responsibility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs . . . . Despite budgetary constraints and a limited number of trade staff, the Ministry has proven its capability to deal with complex trade policy matters, such as the recently concluded Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union.
The Ministry leads a National Advisory Committee for External Negotiations (NACEN) which involves major public-private stakeholders and ensures their participation in trade policy matters.
Trade taxes are not a major source of revenue for the Government’s budget, which reflects Guyana’s commitment to an open, market-based trade regime. Internal reforms such as the introduction of the Value Added Tax (VAT) in 2007 have helped Guyana to significantly streamline tax administration, strengthen the tax base and reduce the reliance on border taxes.
Guyana has seen strong export growth during the period under review. Expanded production of traditional and non-traditional products and favourable world market prices for key commodities are largely responsible for this performance. Imports have grown as well, and Guyana continues to have a significant trade deficit.
Some diversification of export destinations has occurred in the last five years, with increased exports to non-traditional markets, such as China. In the same way, more and more imports are sourced in new markets, notably China, India and Brazil.
Expanding exports to new markets is a key priority for Guyana. Currently, most exports still go to a small number of countries and are often driven by preferential market access, as it is the case for sugar and rice.
There is still relatively little trade with Guyana’s neighbouring countries, with the exception of oil imports from Venezuela. Further investments in physical infrastructure have to be made to enable trade on a larger scale.
Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy is gaining momentum across the country and in the region through the public consultations and the awareness programme, according to top administration officials.
President Bharrat Jagdeo, current Chairman of the 15-member Caribbean Community, secured firm commitments for Guyana’s model from his colleague heads at the July summit in Georgetown.
Stephenson King, St Lucia’s Prime Minister, who has lead responsibility for climate change among the leaders, is due to return to Guyana this month to advance the region’s position at the United Nations summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December when a new global deal is expected to be reached.
King, sharing the press briefing with President Jagdeo at the Guyana International Conference Centre, Liliendaal, said climate change deserves “our total commitment in the months and years ahead”.
The heads agreed on the region’s priorities including the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions; mitigation and adaptation; the transfer of technology; renewable energy; forest conservation and avoided deforestation. Importantly, in the declaration they recognised the value and potential of standing forest, including pristine rainforest, and affirmation of its potential contribution to Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD).
“Forest conservation or avoided deforestation and sustainable management of forests are important mitigation tools against climate change in a post-2012 agreement. We also support the approach to harmonizing climate change mitigation and economic development as proposed by Guyana in its Low Carbon Development Strategy,” the Caricom leaders said.
Government’s overall goal is to ensure that Guyanese are not subjected to abject poverty and to achieve this goal, the Difficult Circumstances Unit of the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security continues to assist the most vulnerable in society.
To date over 10,000 people have received assistance from this unit to help them to get out of difficult circumstances.
The unit provides primarily economic support to persons who have suffered from disasters or have been living in poverty.
Other forms of assistance given include subsidizing the cost of spectacles for pensioners, providing medical assistance to person who are poor and unable to afford a medical bill, assistance to victims of domestic violence, assistance to persons who might have been discriminated against because of an illness such as HIV/AIDS and might have been put out of their homes, and providing assistance for funeral expenses to families in need.
The other key function of the unit is to provide short-term assistance to persons to help them maintain themselves. This is done through proving grants to persons to start small businesses. In the interim, while the business is becoming viable, the ministry may provide public assistance.
This year the Ministry has been allocated over $4.5 billion for its social services programmes. This will ensure that more than 100,000 Guyanese are assisted.
Credits: Stabroek News, Chronicle, Mirror, Kaieteur News, GINA
Compiled and edited by Evangeline Ishmael
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