Guyana Diary

August 2010

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

On the Internet:

Posted August 2010 - Issue No. 79 - Back to Embassy page

Previous Guyana Diaries are available here.

Jagdeo/Chavez talks fruitful

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has offered to augment the shipments of oil to Guyana from 5,000 barrels a day, as currently obtains under the current Petrocaribe programme to 10,000 barrels daily.

His promise was made on July 21, during a one-day State Visit to Venezuela by President Bharrat Jagdeo. The Guyanese president was accompanied by a delegation comprising Ministers of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett Home Affairs Clement Rohee and Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud, Director General in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Elisabeth Harper, and Ambassador to Venezuela, Odeen Ishmael.

The meeting in Caracas culminated with several agreements which included a Letter of Commitment between Venezuela’s People’s Power for Food and Guyana’s Ministry of Agriculture for the supply of polished rice to Venezuela from 50,000 tonnes and paddy to 70,000 tonnes. Under the agreement, the Guyana government has been able to obtain an increase in the prices for paddy and white rice.

Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs signed a MOU with Venezuela’s Energy and Petroleum Ministry for the supply of urea and jet fuel. Another MOU that was signed catered for the creation of a Committee for the Prevention, Investigation and Settlement of Fishing Incidents.

President Jagdeo expressed his appreciation at the timely decision of the Venezuelan government to purchase Guyanese rice, which has brought benefit to the small farmers of the rice industry, highlighting the values of fair trade. The progress of the project for the improvement of the cold chain for non-traditional agricultural and dairy products, from which small Guyanese producers would benefit by having access to markets further afield was also highlighted.

President Chavez informed his Guyanese counterpart of the recent approval of the necessary resources for carrying out the exercise of updating the hydrographical data of the Mahaica, Mahaicony and Abary rivers in Guyana, needed to execute the dredging works in cooperation with Venezuela.

President Jagdeo also announced his government’s willingness to buy 100 VENIRAN tractors, in a demonstration of the commitment to intensify the commercial links between both countries.

In his address at the signing ceremony, President Jagdeo pointed to the relationship between the two states and thanked President Chavez and the people of Venezuela for their contribution to the Caribbean, especially Haiti. President Chavez said Venezuela’s relationship with Guyana was moving beyond the diplomatic realm, citing the possible establishment of an oil pipeline to Guyana which could also supply Suriname.

The Venezuelan leader congratulated President Jagdeo for his “astute financial leadership,” and extended best wishes to him on his chairmanship of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).

Both leaders highlighted the value and importance of UNASUR as a mechanism for consensus and an effective political entity to solve the differences in South America.

Upon his arrival President Jagdeo laid a wreath at the statue of Simon Bolivar and was presented with the key to the city of Caracas by the Mayor, while the Head of the Government of the city of Caracas gave him a parchment accrediting him as an illustrious guest of the city.

Jagdeo, Chavez discuss Guyana/Venezuela road link

The current status of the relations between Guyana and Venezuela which were founded on the principles of solidarity and cooperation were highlighted by Presidents Bharrat Jagdeo and Hugo Chavez on July 21 during the state visit to Venezuela.

Commitments were also pledged between the two towards advancing the necessary arrangements to execute the feasibility study and the environmental impact study of the Venezuela-Guyana road link as a necessary undertaking for development and integration of both countries.

Specific reference was made to facilitating the process in the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) for the selection of consultants. In that context, they agreed to instruct the Guyana–Venezuela joint technical working group on the proposed Guyana/Venezuela road link to immediately commence discussions with the CDB with a view to having that institution act as the conduit for the resources for the conduct of the pre- and feasibility studies on the proposed road link. Both presidents emphasised that these studies were critical to considerations for the advancement of the proposal.

The leaders also mandated their respective Foreign Ministries to work on the convening of the fifth High Level Bilateral Commission Meeting to be held in Caracas.

They also reaffirmed their confidence in the UN Good Offices process as a mechanism that would assist the two countries to advance towards a practical and satisfactory solution for the border controversy, without affecting good bilateral and regional relations.

In this sense, both Presidents welcomed the appointment of and expressed their confidence in the work of Professor Norman Girvan as the Personal Representative of the United Nations Secretary General. For the Good Offices process, President Chavez announced the designation of Ambassador Roy Chaderton as the Facilitator for Venezuela. President Jagdeo announced the designation of Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran as Guyana’s Facilitator.

Large investments in agri sector

The Guyana government’s determination to make the country the main food supplier in the region through its “Grow More” campaign is being rewarded as investment in this sector continues to increase at a rapid pace.

Over the past two years, the number of investment projects in this sector has more than doubled. The Guyana Office for Investment (Go-Invest) recently reported that in 2008 the agency worked with 67 projects in agriculture, a figure which increased to 152 in 2009. This year Go-Invest projects a total of 230 projects for execution in the sector. This projection is guided by the fact that that agency has already aided 67 projects during the first quarter of 2010.

About 85 to 90 percent of the projects in agriculture are small, hence there is need for larger projects in order to give the sector a more balanced profile. Currently Go-Invest is working with several investors who have interest in large projects for soybean, livestock, cattle and rice in Pirara, Region 9.

The investment in soybean and livestock comes from among some of the largest companies in the Caribbean and would see 10,000 acres of land under cultivation in the Rupununi.

Go-Invest is also working with a European company that is based in Brazil on a special rice seed project slated for the same area, while another well-established Guyanese company, in alliance with some Brazilian investors, is starting a project in that area to grow rice for export to Brazil.

Guyana/Kuwait discussion on funding for ECD four-lane road

President Bharrat Jagdeo on July 23 expressed hopes that some of the initiatives discussed with Kuwait Prime Minister His Highness Sheikh Nasser Mohammed Al Ahmed Al-Jaber Al Sabah during his visit on July 19 would go forward, including funding for a much needed four-lane highway on the East Coast Demerara.

Jagdeo stated that he was very pleased with the visit during which several discussions were held at the bilateral level, built on matters he had discussed during his visit to Kuwait earlier this year.

“We spoke about the debt, some new loans for the housing sector and the possibility of funding for other types of projects: the four-lane road out to the East Coast, we have about secured funding for the four lane up to the airport,” President Jagdeo stated.

He highlighted that having a four-lane road on the East Coast Demerara, particularly up to Golden Grove is pertinent since the traffic is heaviest on that corridor.

During the visit five agreements were signed. These agreements were : (1) an economic and technical cooperation agreement seeking to encourage cooperation of the private sector through the establishment of joint ventures; (2) avoidance of double taxation and prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income and on capital; (3) bilateral trade allowing the two countries to develop trade relations, expand the exchange of goods and services, encourage participation in trade fairs and international markets and also exchanges of commercial delegations between the two countries; (4) establishment of a joint commission to allow the two countries to establish mechanisms that would monitor the cooperation programmes between the two countries in the economic commercial, investment and financial fields; and (5) air services that will allow the two countries to develop bilateral air services and also promote international cooperation in the air services field.

Construction sector grows with increased home ownership

Government’s initiative to promote home ownership in Guyana through the development of several new housing schemes and the availability of affordable financing has generated significant investment in the construction sector.

According to data provided in the last census, home ownership has increased by 19.6 percent and more than 80,000 house lots have been distributed within the past 15 years. The increase in home ownership and house lots distribution has led also to tremendous growth in the construction sector.

Head of the Guyana Office for Investment (Go-Investment) Geoff da Silva also attested to this based on the number of projects in the construction sub-sector that his entity has aided.

He said there have been both expansion and development within the construction sector with substantial investment made in ready-mix cement companies.

“Three years ago there was only one ready-mix cement company, and construction work had to be done manually; today there are approximately four such companies,” he added.

Another area that has seen increased investment by major companies is in the manufacturing of products or inputs for construction of products that were previously exported. This is very significant since it means that foreign exchange is being saved while employment is created and better delivery of the product is guaranteed.

Entities such as Gafoors Group of Companies and Dalip Trading have also diversified their products to cater for the huge demand caused by the growth in the housing sector.

Flood-resistant rice strain to be introduced shortly

The growth and development of the rice industry remains a top priority of government which has been employing technologies to significantly reduce the impact severe weather has on farmers.

To this end, the development of a flood-tolerant variety (flood-resistant rice), a collaborative effort with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is expected to start by the end of this planting season.

Guyana definitely will be a pioneer in this part of the world in this respect if there is to be more resilient rice plants available that can withstand the effects of flood for a period of up to two weeks under local conditions.

This type of genetic improvement in rice has been successfully achieved in Asia (India, Bangladesh) with the assistance of the IRRI. The Chief Scientist is optimistic that this can be achieved for farmers.

The flood-resistant variety has a gene (Sub 1 gene) that allows rice to survive complete submergence for up to 17 days, and this new variety will add to the many others that are currently being utilised. These include varieties that are blast resistant, can withstand delayed harvesting, and which have enhanced cooking and milling qualities.

The Guyana Rice Development Board has already released 10 blast-resistant varieties. Focus is also being placed on the development of aromatic rice which is disease resilient.

Over the past three years, GRDB has developed 5000 breeding lines and is also tasked with maintaining the genetic quality of each.

The administration will continue to make interventions in this sector as huge sums are being spent on the Burma complex, to procure laboratory and specialised equipment in order to improve the diagnostic capabilities of the industry.

Chinese investment to support LCDS

President Bharrat Jagdeo in Shanghai, China, on July 15 witnessed the signing of a framework agreement between the parties to the Amaila Falls Hydro-Plant project. The agreement sets out the parties’ intention to reach financial closure within 12 months.

After the agreement was signed, President Jagdeo described the Amaila Falls project as a “flag-ship” of Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), and said: “For years, we have been advocating that it is possible to align the developmental interests of small poor countries with the global need to combat climate change. The Amaila Falls hydro-electricity plant – which came a step closer to reality today – is proof of this. It will deliver cheaper energy, and at a stroke remove virtually the entirety of Guyana’s energy related greenhouse gas emissions. So it is good for Guyanese consumers and businesses, it is good for the Guyanese economy, and it is good for the world.”

The signing formalised the co-operation between the Guyana Power and Light (GPL), Sithe Global Amaila Holdings, the China Development Bank, and the China Railway First Group.

Sithe Global Amaila Holdings is an 80 percent subsidiary of the Blackstone Group of the United States of America, one of the world’s largest private equity companies with an investment portfolio of over US$100 billion of assets under management.

Sithe, directly and indirectly via its management team, has completed over 15 hydro-electricity projects around the world, and 15,000 MW of energy projects.

The China Railway Group is the world’s 133rd largest company, with annual revenues in excess of US$52 billion. It was selected as the construction partner following a competitive bid process that started in 2008, when an Expression of Interest document was delivered to over 30 firms with the capacity to take on a project of this nature.

The Amaila Falls project is the biggest infrastructure investment in the country’s history. From the start of its operations, it will provide value to Guyanese citizens and the wider economy through cheaper electricity, while simultaneously enabling Guyana to switch from nearly 100 percent dependence on fossil fuel sources for electricity generation to nearly 100 percent clean, renewable energy sources. Twenty years after it starts operating, the hydro-electricity plant will be transferred to the people of Guyana at zero additional cost – thereby bequeathing long-term energy independence, national competitiveness and environmental sustainability to the Guyanese children and future generations.

200 youth complete skills training

Two hundred youths are now empowered to join the workforce having completed training under the residential Youth Entrepreneurial Skills Training (YEST) programme conducted at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports’ Kuru Kuru Training Centre.

The 2009-2010 batch of students graduated at a ceremony held on July 16 at the Kuru Kuru Training Centre on the Soesdyke/Linden Highway after having successfully completed the ten-month residential course.

The programme seeks to provide opportunities for youths to develop their talents in cultural activities, sports and confidence building, and entrepreneurial skills through practice, in order that they become well-rounded individuals. The students graduated in nine subject areas including business studies, carpentry, electrical installation, joinery, masonry, motor mechanics, plumbing, welding and fabrication and garment production.

Guyana and Norway establish REDD + Investment Fund

Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo and Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg on July 13 announced the establishment of the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF), and stated that they have invited the World Bank to act as the fund manager.

Norway will be the first contributor to the GRIF, and will pay US$30 million into the fund. The payment is in recognition of Guyana’s efforts to protect its 16 million hectare rainforest, and follows the memorandum of understanding signed by the two countries in November last year.

Norway intends to pay up to US$250 million into the GRIF between 2010 and 2015, based on Guyana’s performance in avoiding greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, as well as Guyana’s on-going and planned strengthening of inclusive and transparent forest management.

This will enable Guyana to place its forest under long-term protection, catalyse public and private investment for clean energy (to move virtually the entire economy away from fossil fuel energy dependence), and create new low carbon economic and employment opportunities for forest dependent communities and other Guyanese citizens. The process will be evolving with the full and effective participation of involved stakeholders, including indigenous peoples groups. President Jagdeo and Prime Minister Stoltenberg repeated their desire to continue a close political dialogue on the global response to climate change.

They two leaders were in New York to attend the second meeting of the United Nations Secretary General’s Advisory Group on Finance, which was set up to identify ways to raise US$100 billion in annual climate finance for developing countries by 2020.

South Korea expresses interest in agri investment

A delegation of visiting South Koreans on July 12 met Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud and discussed several areas of potential investment and cooperation between the two nations.

The Koreans said they were examining the prospects of establishing several projects and were seeking the Ministry’s input on any likely areas of priority.

Minister Persaud listed some of Guyana’s ongoing ventures including aquaculture, tropical hardwood processing, livestock, fruits and vegetables.

He said the internal consumption as it relates to rice and sugar is limited, prompting Guyana’s dependence on export markets.

However, he mentioned that Guyana has been looking for partners in the area of deep-sea fishing which is largely an unexplored zone.

With South Korea being an industrialised country, the Koreans said they were interested in diversifying their agricultural product since food security has become an issue.

They expressed interest in forestry products and soybean plantations, and were also asked to ponder on the operation of a sugar refinery.

Al-Aziz beverage company commissioned

Residents of Canal No.1 and its surrounding communities will benefit from the services of a beverage company, the Al-Aziz Splash Inc., which was commissioned on July 11. The project which is intended to create employment for approximately 50 persons has the capacity to produce approximately 550 litres of beverage per hour.

It will also encourage farmers in the area to increase their production to supply the factory with fresh fruits as raw material.

The beverage company, which produces citrus juices and drinks, will have a significant impact on the well-being of the community and beyond.

Guyana’s hesitancy to accept EPA agreement fully vindicated

President Bharrat Jagdeo said that much more benefits could have been derived if other countries in the Caricom region had collectively held on to the same position before signing on to the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU).

The President was at the time speaking to media operatives on July 7 during the 31st meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community at Rose Hall Beach Resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Responding to questions on his hesitancy in becoming a signatory to the scheme, the President said, “I don’t regret it; in fact, today we feel more vindicated than ever before that many of the things we had said came to pass and that the agreement is haunting us in our negotiations with others.”

Jagdeo added that the South American Common Market (MERCOSUR) was prepared to have the agreement with the region on the principle of not demanding full reciprocity as the EU is doing.

“This is in itself, a strong signal that maybe we should have been a bit more cautious,” he noted.

He added too, that Guyana holding out until the last day before signing in the face of threat of sanctions had resulted in a mandatory five years review in the document and a provision that the EPA must not conflict with the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.

The EPA is a scheme to create a free trade area between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. It took effect from 2008 and is a key element of the Cotonou Agreement, the latest agreement in the history of ACP-EU development cooperation.

In the events leading up to the signing, President Jagdeo had remained adamant in his position that becoming a signatory to the EPA agreement would undermine some aspects of the regional integration movement including the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME).

Before the initial signing of the agreement, the EU included the two clauses for which President Jagdeo lobbied. With these in placed, Guyana signed the EPA on October 21, 2008 in Brussels.

364 graduate from College of Education

On the evening of July 8, 364 teachers graduated at a ceremony held at the National Cultural Centre. Speaking at the ceremony, Education Minister Shaik Baksh indicated that 2,000 more will be trained over the next five years that would complement the 5,000 existing trained teachers.

In ensuring that CPCE trainees and teachers receive adequate and sufficient teacher training, the Ministry of Education is facilitating the up-grade of teacher educators at the college.

Under the Teacher Reform Agenda, teacher-educators would be sent overseas to up-grade their qualifications to the master’s level. This would enable them to efficiently coach the trainee teachers; thereby fostering improvements in the sector.

Additionally, from this year the institute would see the introduction of an associate degree programme. The Ministry has made the necessary arrangements with the University of Guyana to accommodate those teachers who are up-grading their qualifications at the institution.

Caricom concerned over US people trafficking ranking

Caricom leaders have expressed deep concern about the US continually placing several of the region’s countries in the Tier 2 Watch list of its Trafficking in Persons (TIPs) annual report as countries that are placed in this category for three consecutive years will be subjected to sanctions.

A communiqué from the July Heads of Government meeting in Jamaica said the leaders have since extended an invitation to the US government to engage in dialogue with the community on the matter in advance of the issuance of the 2011 TIP report.

The leaders also called on America to provide evidence to support the allegations made in its 2010 TIP report.

According to the communiqué, the Heads of Government reiterated their commitment to combating trafficking in persons and they noted the existence of appropriate legislation and the adoption of policies of prevention, prosecution and victim protection which have been implemented in their member states to address the crime.

“Heads of Government are concerned that the 2010 Trafficking in Persons report and previous reports issued by the United States State Department were not prepared through a consultative process and that many of the allegations could not be substantiated. In addition, the United States has rejected requests by affected member states to provide evidence in support of their allegations,” the communiqué said.

Guyana is one of the countries that strongly objected to the report which once again placed the country on the Tier 2 Watch list and had called on America to provide the evidence to support its conclusion that the country has a “significant” number of TIP cases.

Hours after last the report was released, in a fiery objection to its contents, Minister of Human Services and Social Security Priya Manickchand said it was “based on sheer ignorance and eye pass.” Several of her cabinet colleagues also expressed their outrage.

However, the US State Department later said it stood firmly behind its 2010 TIP report on Guyana, while the government indicated its intention to take its protest to the US Congress in an effort to “correct these misleading reports.”

Ambassador-at-Large Luis C de Baca of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons had told local reporters at the US Embassy via a video link from Washington that the information contained in the report was accurate and its sources were authentic.

Asked whether the US would consider withdrawing the report in the face of strenuous objections from Guyana, the ambassador offered a terse, “No”.

News Briefs

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

Compiled and edited by Evangeline Ishmael

This page is part of Guyana News and Information.

© Copyright 2010