Guyana Diary

December 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
embguy@cantv.net

On the Internet: http://www.guyana.org/spanish/venezuela_embassy.html

Notice to our readers

This is the final issue of the Guyana Diary which has provided a monthly synopsis of Guyanese news events since February 2004. Readers can access the Guyana daily news on the various newspapers available on the Internet. We thank you for your support.

Posted December 2010 - Issue No. 83 - Back to Embassy page

Previous Guyana Diaries are available here.

UNASUR Heads express confidence in Guyana’s chairmanship

On November 26, President Bharrat Jagdeo took over the mantle as President of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), succeeding his predecessor Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa at the 4th Regular Summit of UNASUR held in Guyana.

This marked another historic occasion for Guyana as once again the country is put in the limelight but this time in the South American continent.

The Brazilian President in extending best wishes to President Jagdeo challenged him to continue to advance the work of the organisation that was started by his outgoing counterpart.

“I believe (President) Jagdeo that you will know how to conduct the work of integration of all the South Americans and according to the aspirations of our people,” President Lula Da Silva said.

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez also expressed confidence in President Jagdeo’s ability to move the organisation forward.

“We know about the will of President Jagdeo and also of the Guyanese people, we are certain that (President) Jagdeo in taking the reins (of UNASUR) is going to be a masterful chairman; he is going to lead us with objectivity and with concrete actions. We are with Guyana and we are with UNASUR,” President Chavez stated.

The Ecuadorian President also expressed confidence in the capability of President Jagdeo to fulfill the expectations of the organisation’s membership. He pledged his country’s full support.

“I wish you the best in the year ahead, President Jagdeo. You can count on all the support that we can give you so that you can better deliver what you need to be doing towards a consolidated and better UNASUR,” he affirmed.

Accepting the chair, President Jagdeo emphasised that the system of rotating leadership demonstrates that the organisation is not built on historical alliances but on a set of shared progressive values, chief among which is the belief that all countries should be treated equally despite their individual characteristics.

Guyana prepared to build on Ecuador’s efforts- President Jagdeo

President Bharrat Jagdeo, who was handed over the chairmanship of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) on November 26, said that the work of the outgoing chair, Ecuador, was extremely impressive and has led to the advancement of the integration movement. He was at the time speaking to media operatives (both local and foreign) at a press conference subsequent to the meeting of the Heads during Fourth Regular Summit of UNASUR at the Guyana International Conference Centre, Liliendaal.

The Guyanese leader assured that the work that was started by the Ecuadorian government will be continued by Guyana now that the chairmanship has been handed over to the English-speaking nation.

He said that the aim now is to work towards a bigger and more integrated South American space, with stronger political ties, coordinated foreign policies taking common positions around the world on various issues, creating more opportunities for goods and services and of the people across the borders, and breaking down the colonial and historical barriers among the UNASUR countries.

President Jagdeo said that Guyana in its capacity as chair of UNASUR would be focusing on continuing economic growth, and creating a regional economic framework that is guided by a model that is indigenous.

Additionally, he said that efforts will be made to ensure that the prosperity is used to better the lives of people through education, health, housing and other social development.

“We should also use UNASUR in the upcoming period to aggressively reform the United Nations, particularly the Security Council, the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and to create a new financial global architecture that is sympathetic that recognises our concerns,” President Jagdeo stated.

UNASUR implements democratic clause

South American nations at the Fourth Regular Summit of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) resolved not to tolerate any group that attempts to seize the government through unconstitutional means.

The Heads of Government of UNASUR agreed to the Additional Protocol to the Constitutive Treaty of UNASUR on Commitment to Democracy also referred to as the “Democratic Clause”, which states that not only will UNASUR not recognise such a Government but it also includes a consultation mechanism and outlines the measures that would be taken should the constitutional order be disrupted.

Part of the clause states that the Protocol shall apply in the event of a breach or threat of breach against the democratic order, a violation of the constitutional order or any situation that jeopardises the legitimate exercising of power and the application of the values and principles of democracy.

However in the event of such a breach, the Council of Heads of State and Government or, in its absence, the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs may adopt the respective decision to enforce the following measures:

1. Suspension of the right to participate in the various bodies and branches of UNASUR, as well as the suspension of the rights and benefits enjoyed under the Constitutive Treaty of UNASUR.

2. Partial or complete closure of land borders, including the suspension and/or limitation of trade, air and maritime traffic, communications and provision of energy, services and supplies.

3. Advocate the suspension of the affected State in the ambit of other regional and international organisations.

4. Promote, with third countries and/or regional blocs, the suspension of the rights and/or benefits enjoyed by the affected State under the co-operation agreements to which it is party, and

5. Adoption of additional political and diplomatic sanctions.

Guyana, Venezuela relations now at its best – Maduro

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela Nicholas Maduro on November 26 stated that the relations between Guyana and Venezuela have deepened over the years and are currently at their best.

The Venezuelan Foreign Minister explained that improved bilateral relations between the two South American nations have resulted in improved cooperation at the diplomatic, political, economic and commercial levels.

He further stated that there now exists a permanent communication link between the two countries.

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, according to Minister Maduro, has the best opinion of Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo and he considers Guyana as a brother nation. In this regard he added that Venezuela intends to nurture and preserve the growing relationship between the two countries.

In July, President Jagdeo paid a visit to Venezuela on the invitation of the Venezuelan President during which President Chavez 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.

Petrocaribe, a partnership agreement launched in 2005 between Venezuela and some Caribbean nations, allows buyers to purchase reasonably cheap oil in large quantities from Venezuela and offsets the cost through a 25-year financing agreement on 1% interest and supplying goods to Venezuela.

Both Presidents Jagdeo and Chavez expressed satisfaction over the effective functioning of the petroleum cooperation programme. The meeting 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 purchase of 70,000 tonnes of rice and paddy.

Guyana to get US$32.8M from IDB

Guyana signed three agreements, two for loans and one for a grant, with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) on December 8. As a result, Guyana will access a total of US$32.8 million for infrastructure development and capacity building.

One agreement is to borrow US$22 million for the extension of the East Bank Demerara four-lane highway, from Providence to Diamond. Another, for US$10 million, will be dedicated to the Georgetown sanitation programme that would look, in particular, at the city’s sewage system.

Through the third, Guyana will be granted US$825,000 to address the enhancement of its public financial management system and the continued computerisation of operations.

IMF Mission highlights Guyana’s economic resiliency

Despite external and domestic shocks in 2010, Guyana’s economy has exhibited resilience, registering a fifth consecutive year of robust growth, a release from an International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission to Guyana stated. The mission was in Guyana from November 8-18 to conduct the Fund’s yearly review of the country’s economy.

Chief of the IMF Mission, Therese Turner-Jones, highlighted that the real gross domestic product (GDP) is projected to grow by just under 4 percent this year, above the outturn in 2009, supported by increased activity in the sugar, gold, and services sectors.

“Notwithstanding downside risks, including the global environment and concerns in the sugar sector, the team expects growth to continue on a steady path, supported by expansion in the mining and construction sectors. Despite a small increase reflecting movement in food prices inflation remains relatively low,” the release stated.

The IMF said discussions centred on strategies to maintain fiscal and debt sustainability over the medium-term in the context of the Low Carbon Development Strategy, to further enhance economic flexibility and resilience to shocks, while continuing to reduce poverty.

Fiscal consolidation on the other hand, remains a priority, consistent with the authorities’ commitment of maintaining a sustainable medium-term debt path.

According to Turner-Jones, there were recommendations to strengthen ongoing efforts to improve the fiscal outturn, given existing challenges in the sugar sector. The maintenance of a strong fiscal stance would also help to support external sector stability. Continued improvements in public financial management and tax administration, especially with respect to compliance and risk management were welcomed as well as the increase in the gross foreign reserves position, to about five months of imports at present.

The banking system remains liquid and well capitalized; however, continued vigilance is warranted, particularly against the backdrop of the ongoing housing boom, the IMF stated. Recent enhancements in financial sector supervision and regulation, including new guidelines on risk management, are also welcomed and the dissemination of financial sector indicators, which now appear on the Bank of Guyana’s website, were commended.

Pineapple farmers get incentives

The government has given financial assistance to pineapple farmers of Mainstay/Whyaka, in keeping with a promise by Minister of Agriculture Mr. Robert Persaud. He had given the undertaking four months ago when he visited the Amerindian community to look at several problems facing the crop.

Persaud had encouraged dozens of farmers, last June, to expand pineapple cultivation, so as to increase production and keep the processing factory in operation. In the drive to make new lands available for the purpose, he had given the farmers the assurance that every acre they cut, burn and clear, the government will pay for an additional one.

On November 18, when Minister Persaud, accompanied by Chairman of Region Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam), Mr. Alli Baksh and Vice-Chairman, Mr. Vishnu Samaroo visited and met farmers in the Prince Ville Community Centre, he announced that the government will honour its commitment of support to them.

Farmers who completed work on their plots plus the additional one acre were given an incentive of $30,000 each while others obtained $15,000 each. Persaud said the assistance to Mainstay/Whyaka farmers is to help them get back into large scale pineapple cultivation.

Village Toshoa Yvonne Pearson told the Minister that the pineapple factory was not in operation this crop, because not enough of the fruits were available to keep it working. She said Mainstay is now feeling the effects of climate change and reported that AMCAR, the company that secures international markets for the pineapple chunks, has proposed to reduce the price per pineapple from $90 to $60.

Ms. Pearson said officials only want to talk to farmers through the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs and Minister Persaud agreed the meeting will be facilitated by that Ministry. However, he assured farmers that his ministry could give technical support to help them find other markets for their pineapples.

Toshoa Pearson declared, though, that the factory will resume operations with or without AMCAR, as dozens of women were out of work.

Government announces salary increase for 2010

The Guyana government on December 3 approved a five percent across the board salary increase for all public servants and members of the disciplined services with effect from January 1, 2010. The five percent increase will also be paid to all Government pensioners.

Teachers, who were previously paid a five percent increase from January 2010 in accordance with their 2006-2010 multiyear agreement, will be paid an additional one percent in lieu of the performance incentive contemplated by that agreement. That agreement is now in its final year of implementation.

This decision by the government is taken against the background of a year in which countries across the Caribbean and beyond have been confronting severe fiscal challenges. These challenges have resulted in significant job losses in many jurisdictions, wage freezes, and even voluntary wage cuts to save jobs.

In Guyana, the government has continued to implement prudent macroeconomic policies aimed at protecting the stability of the economy, and ensuring that worker interests are protected. Instructions are being issued to the relevant officials in the Ministries to ensure that steps are taken to process the payout as soon as possible.

Brazilians show great interest in Guyanese products

Brazilian visitors to the Entrepreneurship Trade Fair, staged in Boa Vista in mid-November, displayed a great deal of interest in Guyanese products showcased there. During the exposition, too, many visiting Guyanese businessmen made contact with their counterparts and settled arrangements for further interaction on trade and commerce between the two countries.

The exhibition was done from scores of booths manned by entrepreneurs from Brazil and Venezuela and the five-day activity was hosted in the border town by SEBRAE, the Brazilian Small Business and Micro Support Organisation.

Among those present were Guyana’s Ambassador to Brazil, Mr. Harry Narine Nawbatt, Guyana’s recently appointed General Consul in Boa Vista, Mrs. Leila King, and a GO-Invest Team, led by its Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Geoffrey Da Silva.

The merchandise on display at the fair included products of Edward B. Beharry Group of Companies, Comfort Sleep, Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL), Price Busters, Princess Hotel, National Milling Company of Guyana, and Stabrook Food Industry Inc. of Sisters Village, West Bank Demerara.

AINLIM, another local company represented, did not mount any exhibits on that occasion, as its representative was more interested in looking for business in Brazil and was facilitated by GO-Invest and SEBRAE, in collaboration with the Private Sector Commission.

Guyana, Suriname advance talks on bridging Corentyne River

President Bharrat Jagdeo and his Suriname counterpart, Desi Bouterse, on November 20 met in Guyana where they wrapped up their third meeting in about two months and further signalling their firm intention to deepen ties between the two neighbours, including bridging the border Corentyne River.

They announced that the two governments would seek Chinese investment to build a bridge across the river, and said the project was advanced during President Jagdeo’s visit on November 19 to Nickerie where he and Bouterse and top cabinet ministers from the two sides held cooperation talks. In a clear signal of their desire to work together, the two Presidents travelled on the Canaiwaima ferry across the Corentyne River to Moleson Creek, from where they motored to scheduled visits on the Corentyne Coast.

After visits to the Tain campus of the University of Guyana, where they met and answered questions from students, and a tour of the Ophthalmology Centre at Port Mourtant, they told reporters at the Little Rock Suites Hotel in New Amsterdam that putting up the bridge across the border river was high on their agenda to advance trade and other bilateral ties.

“We have had discussions on it [the bridging],” Mr. Jagdeo said. “It was the subject of a meeting yesterday (November 19) as to how we would proceed with the next step. We have defined the work of the committee that we agreed when we met in Guyana, so [the committee] will proceed now to [look at] the technical options available; where would be the best site to locate the bridge.”

He said the joint committee will study the various sites, and then look at the technical specifications of the bridge – whether it would be fixed or floating, the height and other parameters.

“On the basis of that, we will then seek proposals from various sources, and we hope those proposals will involve some financing options. And then we will make a determination and, hopefully, move forward with the bridge,” President Jagdeo said.

Spanish Repsol opens office in Guyana

Spanish oil conglomerate Repsol, which will be partnering with CGX Energy Inc and Tullow Inc to drill for oil during the second quarter of 2011, has opened its offices in Guyana and has gathered its team of experts with a view to a successful drill campaign following promising data from studies done.

The drill site is located 130 kilometres northeast of the nearest shoreline near Port Mourant, and 160 kilometres east/northeast of Georgetown. Water depth at this location is approximately 230 feet and the well is proposed to reach a total depth of 21,450 feet – or four miles – below the seabed. Drilling is to commence in April 2011.

The well will be the deepest ever drilled in the region and drilling operations will be carried out by Atwood Beacon, a jack-up rig capable of drilling beyond 25,000 feet in depth. The company noted that the Atwood Beacon rig has already arrived in the region and it will be towed to Guyana to start drilling, according to Repsol.

The company said to properly support the drilling of the exploratory well, Repsol has initiated works with local contractors to set up an operations shore base, as well as a helicopter base at one of Guyana’s international airports.

Process for citizenship made easier for Chinese nationals

President Bharrat Jagdeo on December 3 set the record straight on a number of misconceptions about the country’s immigration policy towards Chinese nationals gaining access to citizenship and work permits.

At a meeting convened at the Guyana International Conference Center, Liliendaal, he told over 400 Chinese nationals that “you are welcome in Guyana.”

President Jagdeo said that a lot of “horror stories” have been reported as it relates to Chinese trying to get work permits. In some cases, many of them have been solicited for bribes from individuals.

As a result, the government, in its commitment to ensure that the entire immigration process for Chinese who wish to do so lawfully is made easier, decided on several interventions. These include: automatic citizenship for persons who have been residents in Guyana for seven years and an increase in the duration of a work permit from one to three years.

He pointed out that over 150 years the Chinese have established their presence in Guyana, their contributions towards the country’s development have been very valuable and urged those who are now coming to continue the same trend.

He also expressed outrage at the fact that when some Chinese nationals come to Guyana to work, their passports are being held by their employers or other persons who brought them here.

“People who come here to live and do so in their own free will, must be able to work and travel freely,” the President asserted.

As it relates to the treatment of Chinese nationals, he said that as a result of their industriousness, the business community in Guyana is sometimes fearful of the competition the Chinese bring to the fore and as such, resort to saying a lot of adverse things about the Chinese community.

He emphasised that while it is not compulsory to learn English, they should make an effort to do so, as it will make the process of integration a lot easier and urged that they send their children to school.

The President said that while he wants people of all races and religions to receive the same opportunities, there may be times when specific skills are needed and hence the necessity to import those skills.

Road, fibre optic cable to strengthen Guyana & Brazil linkages

The Brazilian government is as determined as its Guyanese counterparts to see the fulfilment of infrastructure linkages across the two borders realizing its importance in building the relationship between the two countries.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva who was on November 25 conferred Guyana’s highest national award, the Order of Excellence, said in his acceptance speech that there is progress in relations between Guyana and Brazil.

“Less than a year ago in my last meeting with President Jagdeo, we created the border committee and soon we will implement the other agreement on a special border regime between the locations of Bon Fim and Lethem,” President Lula said.

Chief among them are the Lethem to Linden road and the stringing of a fibre optic cable system which President Lula assured will be the infrastructure projects strengthening the links between the two countries.

The stretch of road from Lethem to Linden is one of the most important network used by heavy volumes of traffic travelling to the hinterland areas. In times of rainfall however, traversing some sections of the road is almost impassable.

“We need also to follow up the paving project for the Lethem/Linden road which will allow the connection between the north of Brazil and Guyana,” President Lula said as he highlighted the importance of integration.

“This broader vision of integration, based on diplomacy of solidarity and understanding amongst equals, is the major objective of the Brazilian foreign policy; … it is not possible for Brazil to develop itself without our neighbours, also finding the road to peace and prosperity,” President Lula said.

The road paving process is seen as important given the advancement in trade and investment between Guyana and Brazil, particularly northern Brazil.

In the agriculture sector, several joint venture projects are underway, rice in particular, and other produce in Region Nine, Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo.

President Lula said there is need for a stimulation of bilateral trade given the decisions taken to concede preference for a list of products from Guyana that will be entering Brazil with zero tariffs.

With the establishment of a fibre optic cable the full benefits of an improved Information Communication Technology sector will be realised.

The cable from neighbouring Brazil will complement the Suriname-Guyana Submarine Cable System (SG-SCS), invested by the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GT&T) company connecting Guyana and Suriname to Trinidad and Tobago and the rest of the world.

The bridging of the Takutu River was made a reality last year and has already impacted positively on the economic, social and personal links which have been on the increase.

Odeen Ishmael appointed Ambassador to Kuwait

Ambassador Odeen Ishmael has been appointed Ambassador of Guyana to the State of Kuwait, in keeping with a commitment to strengthen relations between Guyana and that country following the visit to Kuwait of President Bharrat Jagdeo in January and that of Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammed Al Hamed Al Jaber Al Saber to Guyana in July. The Government of Guyana recently received the agreement of the Government of Kuwait for Ishmael to be appointed as resident Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Guyana to the State of Kuwait.

Ambassador Ishmael served in Washington from June 1993 to October 2003, and was appointed to Venezuela in November 2003, where he is currently serving. He is expected to take up his new appointment in Kuwait in January.

Since 1993, Ishmael participated as a member of Guyana's delegation at the UN General Assembly and represented the country at the OAS General Assemblies and other specialised meetings of this body in various countries of the hemisphere.

He has headed Guyana's delegation to meetings of the Regional Negotiating Machinery of Caricom from 1997 to 2001, and as an OAS-trained trade negotiator, participated in the initial stages of negotiations of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). He was also a member of Guyana's delegation to the summit of the World Trade Organisation in Seattle in 1999.

From 1997, Ambassador Ishmael led Guyana's delegation to meetings of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). He also participated in the Summits of Heads of States of the OIC in Tehran in 1997 and Qatar in 2000.

After becoming Ambassador to Venezuela in December 2003, he represented Guyana at meetings of the Latin American and Caribbean Economic System (SELA), headquartered in Caracas, and at specialised meetings of UNASUR. He was elected vice chairman of SELA’s governing body, the Latin American Council, for the period 2004-2006 and was then elected as Chairman of the body in November 2009. In October 2010, he was again elected as Vice-Chairman of the organisation.

Ambassador Ishmael is also a published author and has written extensively on political developments in South America.


News Briefs


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

Compiled and edited by Evangeline Ishmael


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