Guyana Diary

December 2009

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 December 2009 - Issue No. 71 - Back to Embassy page

Previous Guyana Diaries are available here.

Norway and Guyana sign historic climate pact

With the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Guyana and Norway to protect Guyana’s tropical forests on November 9 at Fairview Village, Region Nine, on the banks of the mighty Essequibo River, Guyana could receive as much as US$250 million by 2015 to support the implementation of the Low-Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS).

The agreement was signed by President Bharrat Jagdeo and the Norwegian Minister of International Development and the Environment, Erik Solheim.

The MOU is a declaration of the two countries’ determination to work together to provide the world with a working example of how partnerships between developed and developing countries can save the world’s tropical forests.

The partnership between Guyana and Norway is part of the Norwegian Government’s International Climate and Forest Initiative that was first launched in December 2007 during the climate change negotiations at Bali.

The initiative seeks to achieve cost-effective and verifiable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD), and applies to all types of tropical forests.

President Jagdeo, in remarks after the signing of the MOU, highlighted his admiration for the leadership that Norway has shown in the climate change arena.

He stressed that Norway is playing a significant role, disproportionate to its size, and has been putting forward practicable solutions on climate change which they have been willing to back with significant financial consideration.

President Jagdeo assured Minister Solheim that every cent committed by Norway shall be spent in a responsible manner seeking the greatest benefit. He indicated that there would be rigorous oversight at the national level and expressed his willingness to accept international oversight as well.

Under the partnership, Guyana will accelerate its efforts to limit forest-based greenhouse gas emissions, and protect its rich rainforest as an asset for the world. Norway will provide financial support to Guyana at a level based on Guyana’s success in limiting emissions. This will enable Guyana to start implementing its low carbon development strategy (LCDS) on a national scale

Financial support from Norway will be channelled through a new fund, the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF). Guyana’s Ministry of Finance will be responsible for the GRIF’s operations, and a reputable international financial institution to be selected by Norway and Guyana will act as manager of the fund. The mechanism will ensure full national and international oversight of financial flows.

Guyana economy withstands global challenges

The Guyana economy has withstood challenges from the continuing global economic downturn and modest growth is projected by the end of the year.

Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh, in a mid-year review tabled in the National Assembly on November 12, said that at the end of the reporting period, the non-sugar economy recorded positive growth, with expansion in output reflected across a broad base of sectors.

“This result undoubtedly demonstrated early returns to the government’s efforts at diversification, with the strongest rates of growth achieved in non-traditional agriculture sub-sectors. That notwithstanding, difficulties were encountered in some traditional sectors”, he said.

The minister said that in particular, the bauxite industry responded to depressed global market conditions and low prices with reduced production while the sugar industry continued the search for solutions to overcome its domestic challenges, foremost among these being the productive output of the sector and the financial performance of the Guyana Sugar Corporation.

“On balance, the economy is still projected to achieve positive growth at the end of the year and continued macroeconomic stability is expected to be maintained”, he reported.

He said the Guyanese economy displayed “striking resilience” in the first half of 2009, despite depressed external demand and lower prices for certain key exports.

But he added that the domestic economy remains vulnerable to external developments, and performance at the end of the year will be subject to global economic conditions.

The launching of the national policy on avoided deforestation and the initiation of a model for low carbon development provided an innovative new direction for accelerated development in the country, Singh said.

He noted that the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) is based on the principle that environmental responsibility through the protection of standing forests is not incompatible with an accelerated national development agenda, and that the two can exist and be pursued in parallel.

511 graduate from GTI

Some 511 students graduated from the Government Technical Institute (GTI) amidst calls for the institute to become polytechnic (a college offering a range of courses, some of them vocational or technical at or below the bachelor's degree level).

Education Minister Shaik Baksh, who delivered the feature address at the institution’s 56th graduation ceremony at the National Cultural Centre on November 26, said the role of technical institutes will be greater as increasing emphasis is being placed on technical and vocational education in Guyana.

He also pledged the support of his Ministry to the technical institute in its endeavours to reach polytechnic status.

Speaking to the graduates Baksh said, “If you would have passed through the Government Technical Institute you would have been motivated, you would have been inspired to lifelong learning. . . I want to encourage you to move on and see a high percentage of you entering the University of Guyana.”

The minister added that because of this Guyana has been investing in technical education, something that is visible with the operations of eight technical institutes around the country.

He also pointed out that in the construction of two more technical institutes – at Leonora, Region Three (Essequibo Islands/West Demerara) and Mahaicony, Region Five (Mahaica/ Berbice) – will begin in the first quarter of 2010 with financial support from the Caribbean Development Bank amounting to US$7.5 million.

Deadline set for resolving GUYSUCO, GAWU dispute

The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO) and the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) on November 11 exchanged submissions on their wages and salaries dispute and presented copies to Chairman of the Arbitration Tribunal, Dr. Gobin Ganga.

Ganga, said the two parties would study each other’s arguments and present their separate cases to the tribunal.

He underscored the importance of both the workers and the corporation to the survival and success of the sugar industry and pledged that the tribunal would work to resolve the issues in an amicable manner.

Ganga said the two sides would hear the verdict on the wages and salaries controversy on or before December 12.

GAWU President Komal Chand said the union looked forward to resolving its differences with the corporation in the best interest of the industry’s stakeholders.

Chief Executive Officer Errol Hanoman emphasised that GUYSUCO’s differences with the union should not be seen in a negative light, as the parties enjoyed a good working relationship.

Minister of Labour Manzoor Nadir imposed compulsory arbitration on the two sides after their conciliation talks were declared deadlocked. He subsequently named the members of the arbitration tribunal, and appointing Ganga, Bank of Guyana Deputy Governor, to chair it. The others sitting with Ganga are GUYSUCO representative Sonya Roopnauth and Yog Mahadeo, representing GAWU.

GAWU, in negotiations with GUYSUCO, had demanded a 15 percent pay increase for its members, but subsequently adjusted its demand to 10 percent after taking into consideration the financial status of the employer.

But GUYSUCO, from the inception, made it clear that, given its grim financial position, it cannot offer more than 3 percent, which was withdrawn after the union refused to accept.

Workers at all the GUYSUCO estates, who were on strike in support of the pay hike, resumed work on November 5.

Health Ministry placing more focus on chronic diseases

The local authorities have bolstered efforts to address chronic diseases after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared them part of a global emergency.

The Ministry of Health said increased focus is being placed on the risk factors that cause the illnesses, among them lack of exercise, diet and use of tobacco and alcohol.

The Ministry said chronic non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, heart ailments and cancer account for more than 60 per cent of deaths in Guyana and most of the disease burden in this country.

Currently, the majority of hospital bed-days and much of the out-patient services are accounted for by those sicknesses and a proactive stance is being taken to address them.

Measures being adopted include encouraging breastfeeding – because a baby that is breastfed has a reduced chance of developing chronic diseases – and increasing awareness of the importance of knowing a person’s body mass index.

The incidence of chronic diseases places a greater burden of the Health Ministry’s budget and, aside from the costs, the sicknesses represent an increasing emergency that led to a number of existing disabilities.

Major equipment boost for agriculture sector

The Ministry of Agriculture on November 18 received a large quantity of equipment from the Government of China, testimony to the excellent relationship between the two countries. The 137 pieces of equipment, comprising 100 portable generator sets, 28 gasoline water pumps, and 9 tillers, are worth US$6 million, not inclusive of the cost of transporting them to Guyana.

Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud accepted the donation and expressed appreciation for the delivery on behalf of the farmers and the agriculture sector. He pointed out that the donation will be useful and will support the El Nino interventions especially in areas in the hinterland and even in coastal communities.

Zhang Jungao, Ambassador of China, said he is certain the donation will be helpful to the people and farmers of Guyana. He noted that it was a reflection of the more than two decades of friendship shared by the two countries, and he assured his embassy will continue to play an active role as a bridge between the two countries.

The equipment donated was promised to the government when Mayor Wong of the Municipality of Chin Chong visited Guyana last August.

National Parks Commission launches urban development

The National Parks Commission (NPC) has launched an Urban Forestry and Biodiversity Conservation Programme towards a greener environment in Georgetown and other local townships.

The programme, said general manager, Ms. Yolanda Vasconcellos, is in recognition of how important conservation of biodiversity and the natural heritage of Guyana is, and is supportive of the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS).

She says that locally, many urban people are becoming increasingly removed from the natural world, even though their lifestyle depends on biodiversity. She added that the NPC recognises the urban areas as having potential to be clean and green and playing a meaningful role in biodiversity conservation, hence the initiative.

The programme, an extension of the role of the NPC, is to be undertaken in partnership with the private sector and other key stakeholders, with the LCDS and the avoidance of deforestation being some of its main guiding principles.

It will investigate the loss of biodiversity in urban areas such as Georgetown and the other townships, and identify areas of high conservation significance.

It will also recommend and support the conservation and rehabilitation of urban landscapes, including tree planting.

The initiative will also stimulate public awareness and understanding of the importance of urban forestry and conservation, in the light of global warming and climate change.

Investments this year surpass expectation

The Guyana Office for Investment (Go-Invest) has recorded approximately 420 projects so far for this year. The Director of Go-Invest Geoffrey Da Silva, stated that investments have surpassed expectations for this year and noted that many persons are returning to Guyana to invest due to the favourable investment climate.

He said: “So far we are working with over 420 projects, I would say about half of those rolled over from 2008; but this year there is the largest number of projects we have ever worked on in the history of the Guyana Office for Investment, so I believe that this is a reflection of what is happening in the economy. What is most exciting too is that there are many projects outside of Region Four and one of the key tasks in the National Development Strategy is how to get more economic activities to be dispersed across the country.”

There are approximately 65 projects approved for the Lethem area, of which 98 percent of the investors are Guyanese from Lethem. In addition, there are a few foreign projects that are being finalised with the Office of the President and the Ministry of Agriculture, Da Silva said.

Go-Invest is working with the bus companies on the establishment of a bus terminal in the Lethem area and also with the shipping companies to establish a warehouse zone and container yard.

With the construction of the Berbice River Bridge, facilitating a smooth flow of traffic and enhanced transportation service, investors have started showing more interest in Region Six and work has commenced in several areas.

“We are also working in the Region One area which is not as highly developed as the other regions, and has a lot more challenges, especially because of transportation; but we are working with a number of mainly micro groups, like the Blue Flame women’s group in Hosororo, and two groups in the Waini River, that produce the organic crabwood seed oil, soaps, some of which they export, and cocoa sticks,” Da Silva said.

A local company investing in the aquaculture sector will see the development of a major project at Onverwagt, West Coast Berbice, while there are similar projects in the Mahaica and Mahaicony Rivers and on the West Coast of Demerara. Da Silva noted that a new seafood processing plant was recently established by a number of fishermen in the Windsor Forest area, which will be commissioned shortly.

The services sector has continued to expand over the years with new and existing services. In the financial sector, two banks have been constructed in the Lethem area, while another is being encouraged in Region One.

In the medical arena, another private hospital will be opened at Belvedere, Berbice, early next year, while in the retail commercial sector, several projects have been implemented in Lethem along with a large number of restaurants.

The information and communication technologies (ICT) sector has seen investment on a small scale in terms of numbers, but has been progressively expanding over the past few years. “In terms of employment, they tend to be largest creator of employment, recording even more employment than agriculture. We don’t evaluate this sector based on the number of projects but on the impact of these projects. We continue to see growth of call centres. Qualfon has about 1,000 employees, which is comparable to any centre in this part of the world,” Da Silva said.

Another call centre was established in Georgetown last year, which has upgraded from 20 to 240 employees, and another was established at Diamond on the East Bank of Demerara, recording success. A major company from India is exploring the possibility of opening another call centre.

In the tourism sector, several new projects are expected to come on stream shortly, with the construction of resorts in the Demerara and Berbice Rivers. The Down Under Riviera Echo Resort is nearing completion and a few Guyanese who have returned from the United Kingdom have partnered to build a small resort on the Demerara River. Da Silva stated that the Princess Hotel will be launching its casino soon while work is ongoing with a few partners to have another Five Star Hotel constructed.

EU grants 17.1M euros for sea and river defences

Guyana on November 23 received a €17.1 million grant from the European Union to advance works on the sea and river defences. The initiative will facilitate the reconstruction of 1.5 kilometres and rehabilitation and maintenance of 18 kilometres of sea defences

The grant will promote the development and implementation of a sector policy framework on sustainable sea defence management appropriate to the resources available to Guyana; enhancement of the capacity of the Sea Defences Board and the Sea and River Defence Division to manage and maintain sea defences; maintenance and restoration of the structural integrity of lengths of sea defences in Region Two (Pomeroon/ Supenaam), Three (West Demerara/ Essequibo Islands), Four (Demerara/ Mahaica), Five (Mahaica/ Berbice) and Six (East Berbice Corentyne); reconstruction of critical sections of sea defences n Regions Three, Four and Six; extension of Shore Zone Management System to include remaining regions and parameters; and a pilot project for mangrove regeneration.

Construction in progress on several interior roads

The Ministry of Public Works and Communication has been constructing roads to link Amerindian communities to facilitate easier access to social and economic activities in the Regions. In addition, access roads will improve administration and the delivery of public services in remote areas. These roads are being constructed in Regions 1, 8, 9 and 10.

In Region 1 the Government has allocated $160 million for the construction of the Santa Rosa to Kwebanna road. Road rehabilitation from Mathews Ridge to Baramita is also in progress. At present 14 miles of road have been completed and 7 miles of road up to Mora Swamp are under construction.

Meanwhile the construction of the 26-mile Karasabai to Meterzero road is expected to be completed in April 2010. It will cost $180 million and the works involve the construction of a four-mile section of the roadway through a flood plain, installation of 11 culverts and three timber bridges and the rehabilitation to the remaining length of the road.

In light of the opening of the Takutu Bridge the Ministry has completed designated roads totalling three miles in Lethem, Region 9. The Linden to Ituni road in Region 10 is in progress and will soon be completed. The cost of the project is $52 million.

Estimates are currently being prepared for the construction of 18 miles of road from Wanaina Bridge to Yarakita Landing and 2.5 miles of road from Thomas Hill Foot to Barima End (Morawhanna) swamp road, Region 1. Tenders are also being prepared for the Lethem to Aishalton and Lethem to St. Ignatius roads in Region 9.

New Linden Hospital Complex commissioned

President Bharrat Jagdeo on November 1 expressed the government’s commitment to ensuring development in every region of Guyana, including the township of Linden, when he delivered the feature address at the commissioning of the new Linden Hospital Complex.

The Linden Hospital Complex, which has the motto, “Improved Health Care: Access through Partnership”, was constructed at a cost of G$1.8 billion and equipped at a further cost of $200 million under the Health Sector Programme (HSP).

The HSP is a five-year, US$25.5 million (over G$5 billion) programme co-financed by the government and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The goal of the programme is to improve the effectiveness, quality and equity in access to health service in Guyana.

Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy explained that the new medical facility is part of the larger initiative to rebuild and rehabilitate the degraded physical infrastructure of the health sector that government met in 1992 when it took office. He noted that it is a massive investment programme that will bring “modern facilities for modern health care” to all Guyanese.

However, President Jagdeo stressed that rebuilding the health sector was not an easy achievement, which has seen more than 325 health facilities across the country benefiting from rehabilitation works or major reconstruction. He highlighted that to reach this point, the government had to commit to prudent fiscal policies to reduce the overwhelming debt burden that it has inherited.

News Briefs

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

Compiled and edited by Evangeline Ishmael

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