Guyana Diary

February 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 February 2009 - Issue No. 61 - Back to Embassy page

Previous Guyana Diaries are available here.

Guyana, Norway strike climate change deal

Guyana is getting significant backing, including financial support, from Norway, for its model to push saving rainforests as a central platform in the global plan to avert climate change disaster, as was announced in Oslo on February 3.

The support is covered in a Memorandum of Understanding President Bharrat Jagdeo signed with Norway Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.

The two leaders agreed on the need to keep climate change firmly at the top of the international agenda, underling that it is essential to reach an ambitious agreement in Copenhagen in December. Efforts are underway for an effective United Nations global climate deal in Copenhagen to succeed the current Kyoto accord that expires in 2012.

Under the Oslo document, Guyana and Norway have agreed that if the world is to prevent irreversible climate change, it is essential that greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation are drastically reduced, given that deforestation and forest degradation currently cause about one fifth of the global emissions.

The bilateral co-operation agreement will be founded on a broad-based, transparent, inclusive, multi-stakeholder national strategy developed in Guyana. Crucial components will be the creation of low-carbon employment and investment opportunities in Guyana, sustained efforts to avoid deforestation and forest degradation, strengthening open, transparent forest governance, and establishing an international monitoring, reporting, and verification system for Guyana's forests. A financial mechanism run by a reputable international organisation will be set up through which performance based compensation can be channelled to implement Guyana's low-carbon development strategy.

On this basis Norway is prepared to provide performance-based, substantial and sustained compensation for the progress Guyana makes in limiting emissions from deforestation at low levels and further decreasing forest degradation. In cooperation with Guyana and its multilateral partners, this will include contributing to the development and implementation of the necessary strategies and reforms, capacity building, and developing, funding and implementing suitable low-carbon and adaptation investments.

Norway and Guyana will work together both on climate change issues in general and on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in particular, and invite other countries to join their efforts, the document added.

President advances “avoided deforestation” at WEF

President Bharrat Jagdeo was one of the main speakers in several climate change sessions at January’s World Economic Forum (WEF) in Switzerland where he addressed Heads of Government, Ministers, business leaders and non-governmental organisations.

The President reiterated the call made by other leaders at the session for interventions to address deforestation since this posed a formidable challenge to developing countries while developed countries contribute over 80 percent of global emissions.

The session provided the platform for leaders to promote global awareness of the increasing urgency to ensure that avoiding tropical deforestation is included in a global deal to combat climate change.

The President has been strongly lobbying for developed nations to compensate countries which have preserved their rainforests since it was acknowledged that the destruction of the earth’s forests, which now accounts for at least 18 percent of all human carbon emissions, resulted from the clearing and burning of trees.

Uranium firm announces promising find

The Canadian uranium exploration company, U3O8 Corp., has announced promising signs from its continuing search for the ore in Guyana.

In a statement on January 22, it said the initial uranium resource estimate in the Kurupung area is 5.8 million pounds.

Richard Spencer, President and CEO of U3O8 Corp. said the initial resource estimate done by an independent consulting firm is “an important milestone, and marks the first of our basement-hosted uranium targets to advance to resource definition”.

“Mineralisation at Aricheng South and Aricheng North remains open for expansion and further drilling has the potential to considerably increase this initial resource figure. Our focus is now to determine whether other mineralised structures in the Kurupung Batholith can contribute to a significantly larger uranium resource”, he said.

U3O8 Corp said its exploration drilling has defined a number of uranium-bearing structures in the basement that could increase this initial resource.

Accori North C is the next structure with the potential to add a maximum number of pounds to the company’s uranium resource for the lowest drill metreage, it reported.

The company said its primary business objective is to explore, develop and acquire uranium projects in the Americas.

U308 Corp., based in Toronto, has exclusive uranium exploration rights in an area covering approximately 1.3 million hectares straddling the edge of the Roraima Basin in the Essequibo region of Guyana.

Forest Bill 2007 unanimously passed in the National Assembly

The Forest Bill 2007 was unanimously passed in the National Assembly on January 22 after being scrutinised and refined by a “Special Select Committee”.

The Bill sought to consolidate and amend the law relating to forest. It also replaced the currently outdated Forests Act which came into existence some 54 years ago.

The Bill is the product of over 10 years of public consultation with all stakeholder groups including Amerindian NGO's, the Forest Products Association, Guyana Manufacturing Association (now Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association), civil society groups, and even international bodies such as the World Bank.

This new legislation takes into consideration the key national and global roles of Guyana's forest resources in climate change mitigation activities and provision of environmental services. It also factors in the necessity for forest utilisation to be done in accordance with the internationally accepted standards of sustainable forest management, adapted to suit the local situation.

NBS ups loan ceiling, lowers interest rates

The New Building Society marked another landmark on January 22 by announcing a new ceiling on housing loans and lower interest rates and earning praise from President Bharrat Jagdeo for its sterling contributions to the sector.

Board Chairman, Dr. Nanda Kissore Gopaul, said the loan ceiling for middle income homes is up to $12 million from a maximum of $8 million with an interest rate down from 7.5 to 6.95 percent.

The interest rate for the lower income maximum loan of $3 million is down to 4.95 from 5.5 percent, he announced.

The changes are retroactive to January 1 this year and the announcement came at the ceremonial turning of the sod for the NBS new state-of-the-art four-storey headquarters at the Avenue of the Republic and North Road in Georgetown.

Gopaul said NBS is financially sound and CEO Ahmad Khan declared, “We are very strong”, pledging the society’s commitment to continue providing affordable housing loans.

President Jagdeo said the government really appreciates the work being done by the NBS, but cautioned “you also have to constantly look at the wider economy and the larger world because you are part of that.”

The NBS new base to be completed in about 60 weeks will be part of the recent boom in ultra-modern buildings springing up around Georgetown to house banks and other business enterprises.

The President noted that housing is a priority for his government and commended the new NBS leadership for moving away from the conservatism of the past to help people all over the country to build homes.

Second phase of $350M youth training project begins

The National Training Project for Youth Empowerment, undertaken by the Board of Industrial Training, started a heavy duty equipment operator course at Linden in January.

The country-wide training project targets 5,250 early school leavers and out-of-school young people between the ages of 16 and 25, who are not equipped with academic qualifications to gain entry to technical institutes or other post secondary institutions and are likely to experience difficulties in obtaining gainful employment.

It is intended to provide a wide range of skills for vocations in carpentry, welding, plumbing, surveying, refrigeration and air-conditioning, leather-craft and clerical works.

The government has allocated $350 million for the project – now in its second phase – for which $104 million will be spent for the duration through mid-2009.

Life skills education is also emphasised to ensure that the trainees are competent in basic literacy and numeracy as well as social development.

Trainees are provided stipends to assist with travelling expenses and they are also given basic tools and safety wear, as required.

President declares notions in Heritage Foundation ranking anecdotal

President Bharrat Jagdeo has pointed out that Heritage Foundation, which prepared the Index of Economic Freedom Report has not been in Guyana to do a proper assessment.

Consequently, the notions in the compilation are anecdotal, he told a press conference at State House in Georgetown on January 19.

The President said Guyana had a 30,000 strong public sector at one time but the number has since been reduced to 10,000.

“I do not understand how they say it is bloated and, when you look at this country, we have the size of the United Kingdom,” he compared.

Mr. Jagdeo said people are living everywhere and “when you look at our management structures, I guess we are understaffed.”

Apart from claims of an oversized government, Heritage Foundation ranked Guyana low on economic freedom and claims there are significant restrictions on foreign investment.

But the President, refuting those charges said: “I feel that we have one of the freest economies in this part of the world.”

He remarked: “I always find that these bodies promote western interest and they are very susceptible to influence. If an American investor has difficulties in Guyana, regardless of whether the difficulties are caused by that company itself, they tend to score you down on that.”

He said Guyana does not have exchange control, like many of the countries in the Caribbean. He also sserted that no sector is barred from foreign investment or restricted from repatriating capital nor is there an alien land holding law preventing people from owning some in this country.

The Index of Economic Freedom World Ranking, a global compendium, is produced by the Wall Street Journal and Heritage Foundation, covering 183 countries across 10 specified freedoms such as business, trade, investment, property rights, corruption and labour.

$8M grant agreement for forest conservation

Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) and Conservation International (CI) Guyana signed an $8 million grant agreement on January 20, paving the way for the establishment of the Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Secretariat in Georgetown.

Its work will supplement Government’s policies and strategy initiatives to bolster Guyana’s role as a climate leader, mainly in the areas of high forest cover and low deforestation rates.

The new facility will include:

- enhancing capacity at the national, regional and community levels to conduct continuous forest carbon stock assessment in Guyana;

- creating a formal structure and framework, through the development of methodology to conduct national assessment and monitoring of forest carbon stock that are appropriate, applicable, feasible and relevant in the local context; and

- enabling the generation of a continuous updated information base on forest carbon financing mechanism, performance based payments and positive incentives.

Massive investment projects ongoing in Berbice

Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne) has been witnessing an increase in economic activities and this is expected to intensify with the opening of the Berbice River Bridge. Already the Guyana Office for Investment (Go-Invest) has been facilitating a number of local and foreign investors with agreements to invest in the region in various projects and industries. Go-Invest facilitates investors and potential investors with special concessions, including the waiver of excise and value added tax and customs duty, to help them get their projects or ideas operational, and provides information on the local business environment.

Businesses expanding in the region include sawmills, a rice milling complex, seafood plants, and a medical services project, among others.

The construction of a multimillion dollar modern hospital complex at Belvedere is one of the many projects that were facilitated by GO-Invest. One of the investors, Dr Ryan Anamayah, said that the idea was conceptualised as there is need for such an institution in the region. The complex will complement the stock of health facilities in the region and will also provide new services to residents. The centre will include 50 beds and will have two fully equipped theatres, labs, a pharmacy and an X-ray-ray unit.

Dr Anamayah said that the complex will begin with all modern facilities such as obstetrics, orthopedics and pediatrics; and as it develops, more money will be invested to provide additional and special services, such as dermatology.

The institution will provide services that are not offered at public hospitals in the Region, including diagnostics and imaging diagnostics. There are also plans to have a full time ultra-sound machine and a computerised tomography (CT) scanner in operation.

Another industry that has been growing in Berbice is seafood. At present, an overseas based Guyanese is in the process of establishing a seafood processing plant at No. 65 Village at a cost of about $150 million. The company will be exporting its product to international markets.

The project includes the establishment of an ice factory, a fleet of fishing boats, a gas station, a supermarket, a workshop and a canteen.

Meanwhile, private cane farmers at Corriverton are currently preparing land for the cultivation of 800 acres of sugar-cane to supply to the new Skeldon sugar factory.

Gov’t concerned about Israeli/Palestinian conflict

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, said the Guyana Government is deeply concerned over the unfolding of events in the Gaza strip which have resulted in the suffering and tragic loss of innocent lives on both sides.

Recently, violent conflicts intensified after the Israeli government declared war on Hamas, a militant group in Gaza with the aim of dismantling their rocket launching sites.

After one week of air strikes, Israel sent in ground forces in its bid to halt the attacks and this invasion sparked several protest actions around the world with a united call for ceasefire.

While speaking in the National Assembly on January 8, the Foreign Affairs Minister expressed the Guyana’s support for the efforts of the United Nations and other parties to bring a solution to the conflict.

“Guyana calls on the United Nations Security Council to take necessary action in keeping with its mandate for the maintenance of international peace and security towards an immediate cessation of hostility and an early return to the negotiating table,” Minister Rodrigues-Birkett said.

“Innocent Palestinians have borne a disproportionate share of loss of life, limb and property. The government of Guyana deplores the escalation of violence and calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities on all sides,” she declared.

The Guyana government is calling for urgent steps to ease the plight of the affected populations and to provide the necessary relief that is consistent with the provisions of international humanitarian law.

Labour Amendment Bill approved

The Trade Union (Amendment) Bill was passed in the National Assembly on January 8 despite moves by the combined opposition to stall its passage on constitutional grounds.

When its bid to block the second reading of the Bill failed, the opposition staged a walk-out but returned for subsequent proceedings in the House.

The Bill sought to amend the Trade Union Act 1997 Section 2 (1) of the principal Act by inserting a definition “of the most representative” in relation to workers and organisations of employers among other minor amendments.

The amendment defines “the most representative organisations”- (i) in relation to workers as the most representative organisations of workers, and (ii) in relation to employers as the most representative organisations of employers.

Minister of Labour Mansoor Nadir, in a major presentation, pointed out that consultations over the Bill began over two years ago and that while requests were made to stakeholders to make their inputs into the proposed legislation, none was received from the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC).

He asserted that the Bill was in accordance with International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions and all that it was seeking to do was ensure the democratisation of the labour movement.

He charged that the GTUC was a minority body comprising 48 bargaining units but with many “paper unions.” Providing statistics to illustrate the existing anomaly with respect to representation of workers, the minister disclosed that there were about 250,000 workers in Guyana of whom some 20 percent or 50,000 were unionised; the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) had 34,000 members, while the GTUC had about 16,000 members.

Nadir explained that this was what the Bill sought to address, dispelling the notion that it was an attempt to destroy the GTUC. “We are seeking to get the true voice of labour,” he reiterated.

Reacting to GTUC’s call for the passage of the Bill to be delayed, Nadir recalled that when the former government went through all three stages of a labour bill in one day the trade union umbrella body had no problem with that. He also recalled that it opposed the Labour Relations Bill in 1963.

Airy Hall women continue good work started by CIDA, CHF

The Airy Hall Women’s Development Group of the Essequibo Coast is enjoying much success from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) funded sheep replication project launched in 2006.

The project implemented by the Canadian Hunger Foundation (CHF), through phase two of the Building Community Capacity Project seeks to provide economic opportunities for a number of poor and unemployed persons in Region Two (Pomeroon/ Supenaam).

CIDA launched a similar project in Wakenaam, Region Three (West Demerara/ Essequibo Islands) in 2006.

The project began with 200 sheep and so far 292 households have benefited and 771 animals have been distributed. Under the programme, each beneficiary is supplied with two ewes and a ram and is obliged to return three weaned lambs to continue the replication process.

CIDA is also funding a school uniform project which started in 2001. Under the $232,000 grant initiative, five sewing machines were purchased for the production of low-cost school uniforms.

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.

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