Guyana Diary

July 2008

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 July 2008 - Issue No. 54 - Back to Embassy page

Previous Guyana Diaries are available here.

Impact of global food prices continues to engage Parliament

The impact of the global food price increases once again engaged the attention of the National Assembly, with Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud on June 26 moving the motion for Parliament to recognise the impact of the phenomenon on the cost of living in Guyana and for the assembly to follow the implementation of government interventions.

The increase of food prices has long been an issue on the international agenda. Persaud said government, since 2007, began observing some indications of the phenomenon and began contemplating measures. He highlighted the many interventions undertaken by government that have gained acceptance and success in response to the rising food prices phenomenon.

He added that government’s interventions have been gaining international recognition and these bodies have been trying to determine how they can adopt and fashion a global response.

People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Member of Parliament Winston Murray, in responding, said his party acknowledged the international impact of the food prices but, however, disagreed with the timeliness of government’s interventions on the issue.

He said the motion should have included a clause calling for debate and approval in the National Assembly for a national agricultural development plan.

Minister Persaud noted, however, that the objective of the motion was to recognise the source of the food prices problem, that efforts are being made and that its success would be determined by the involvement of all stakeholders.

Murray also criticised the administration’s efforts to improve drainage and irrigation (D&I) infrastructure to facilitate farmers. He said not enough was done on maintenance, particularly in the Mahaica-Mahaicony Abary/Agricultural Development Authority.

Minister Persaud acknowledged that the neglect of D&I infrastructure in the past led to the neglect of the land by farmers but noted that government was vigorously pursuing restoration and was also exploring the development of new areas.

He disclosed that by the end of this year, close to 18,000 acres of new land would be available for farmers across the country.

Private sector head says Guyana’s future brighter now

Speakers at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) on June 26 were upbeat about the country’s economic prospects, particularly against the backdrop of several global trends which, they said, the country is well placed to exploit.

In an address at the AGM, Chairman of the PSC, Mr. Michael Correia, said that with economic growth in excess of 5 percent per year since 2006, an increase in Government revenues by 28 percent, and a reduction in the foreign debt, he was convinced that Guyana’s future is brighter now than it was a decade ago.

In his address at the meeting at the Hotel Tower in Georgetown, Correia noted that Guyana’s economy had remained stagnant from 1997 until 2006, but had made the significant turn around in the second half of that year.

He said that the Guyana Business Outlook Survey for 2008, prepared by Ram & McRae, revealed that only 16 percent of the 74 companies surveyed projected reduced profitability in 2008.

He said that this was an improvement from 29 percent in 2007 and 28 percent in 2006.

The Ram & Mc Rae Survey also projected that the turn-over of 73 percent of the companies surveyed will increase in 2008, up from 68 percent in 2007 and 64 percent in 2006.

“Guyana’s corporate sector appears to have generally performed well in 2007, and from all indications, 2008 promises to be another good year for business,” he said.

He noted, too, that the final settlement of the Guyana, Suriname border controversy, also in 2007, brings with it the prospects of future oil exploration, and that the Takutu Bridge crossing to Brazil is expected to be operational by mid-2008, and the Berbice Bridge by the end of 2008.

“These important national infrastructure projects,” he said, “will facilitate increased trade and commerce.”

WTO-proposed cut of MFN rate could harm rice industry

Minister of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation, Dr. Henry Jeffrey, has expressed concern that the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) recently proposed cut of the Most Favoured Nations (MFN) rate for rice would result in Guyana and Suriname having less of a preference to sell rice in the European market, and this would pose a difficulty to the rice industry.

Explaining that Guyana and Suriname were the only rice-producing countries during the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries’ negotiations for the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), Minister Jeffrey related that Guyana has been writing to a number of countries expressing concern over the issue, and mobilising support so that a strong case could be made at the WTO level.

The Minister pointed out that if this proposal is implemented, rice producing countries can be in “some serious trouble down the road” given that the countries are currently attempting to restructure their rice industries.

“We are running a programme that has been partly financed by the Europeans and therefore it’s a bit problematic for us,” Jeffrey stated. “We’ve been trying to work with all our partners.” He explained that he discussed the issue with the Indian and Brazilian Ministers of Trade, and asked for it to be raised at the G4 meeting.

Jeffrey also attended a meeting of the ACP in Ethiopia where he raised the matter and it became part of the ACP resolution to the WTO on tropical and preference-related products.

Minister Jeffrey noted that representatives at the regional negotiating machinery level have been working with their counterparts in Geneva and Brussels to try to determine the Europeans’ position on the matter.

Former President Arthur Chung dies at 90

Arthur Raymond Chung, the first President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, died at his home in Bel Air Springs, Greater Georgetown, on June 22. He was 90.

Arthur Chung was sworn in as President on March 17, 1970, at Parliament Buildings in Georgetown. He was a ceremonial President, with executive powers in the hands of then Prime Minister Forbes Burnham.

He held this position until October 6, 1980, when a new constitution made way for Mr. Burnham to become Executive President.

President Chung delivered his inaugural address from the balcony of Parliament Buildings soon after his swearing-in, as hundreds of Guyanese crowding the street outside cheered wildly.

In his address, he called on Guyanese to stop quarrelling among themselves, and to get on with the task of developing the resources of the country to the advantage of everyone.

“Our survival as a nation will depend on how well we work together,” he told the cheering crowd.

The state funeral of the late President was held on June 30 and burial took place at the Place of the Seven Ponds in the Botanic Gardens, Georgetown.

No evidence of malnutrition

Medical personnel on a three-week humanitarian mission from the US expressed amazement that in spite of the many hardships posed by skyrocketing global energy and food prices, they found no evidence of malnutrition among the locals in the communities they visited.

They said that even with the price of food being a “big issue” in nearly every country of the region, the nutritional status in Guyana could be rated as high when compared to that of citizens in some parts of the world which they labelled as “seriously compromised.”

Based on his observation in Linden and Ituni where the 44-member team was engaged in providing free medical care to residents there, team-leader Colonel Martin Ridge told the media: “Nutrition seems to be good here in Guyana, and people seem to be taking care of themselves.”

Noting that the team had seen no evidence of malnutrition, he said that the nature of the services being provided on this occasion were the essentials such as general medicine, basic dentistry, optometry (including cataracts and conjunctivitis or red eye), and surgery. And, for the first time since the US military has been conducting medical outreaches in Guyana, the services of veterinary doctors have also been included in their programme.

Mahaicony Diagnostic and Treatment Centre opens

Another modern health institution opened its doors to the public, offering a range of services as the administration continues to make strides in improving the level of health care in the country.

Residents of Region 5 (Mahaica/Berbice) from June 23 began to benefit from services at the Mahaicony Diagnostic and Treatment Centre.

A 28-member Cuban medical team to man the centre arrived in Guyana on June 19 and were on the next day introduced to their new area of work.

The batch comprises doctors, nurses and technicians who will be supported by Guyanese medical personnel.

The Mahaicony centre is part of a health package signed by Presidents Bharrat Jagdeo and Fidel Castro in February 2006 that caters for the construction of five modern health institutions: the East Bank Demerara Regional Hospital at Diamond, the Leonora, Suddie, and Mahaicony Diagnostic and Treatment Centres and the Ophthalmology Centre at Port Mourant. The agreement also caters for the provision of Cuban medical personnel to man the centres and scholarships for Guyanese to study in Cuba.

Like the other centres, Mahaicony comprises an Intensive Care Unit, X-ray unit, laboratory and pharmacy. While the others have one theatre each, Mahaicony has two, one for general surgeries and the other for maternal cases. There is also a very modern dental unit.

150 more Guyanese granted Cuban scholarships

One hundred and fifty more Guyanese have been awarded scholarships to study in Cuba this year.

The awardees will undergo studies in different disciplines in Cuba and this latest group will be the last to be granted special scholarships through an agreement between President Bharrat Jagdeo and then President Fidel Castro.

The arrangement facilitated 1,000 young scholars; 117 awards were made in 2002, 93 in 2003, 52 in 2004 and 56 in 2005. In 2006, 351 scholarships were granted, while there were 147 last year.

The 2008 batch comprises 22 for agricultural sciences, 24 for engineering, 100 for Medical Science, and the remainder for computer science and other disciplines).

The engineering and agricultural sciences students should arrive in Cuba by the last week in September and would be followed by those in the medical science field.

The government announced that efforts would be made to prepare a successor programme but, instead of focusing on human resource development, particularly in the area of sciences, the emphasis would most likely be on the further engineering and agricultural sciences and, perhaps later, technology.

DDL announces US$23M expansion as profits increase

Chairman of Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL), Mr. Yesu Persaud on June 19 announced that the company has embarked on a US$23 million capital expansion programme.

He said it includes the construction of a bottling plant, a multi-column still and a bio-methanisation plant.

Persaud told the media that the projects will have a satisfactory payback and allow for the renewal of plant and equipment and position the entity to take advantage of the opportunities that are presenting themselves on the international market.

DDL Vice-President, International Marketing, Mr. Komal Samaroo said three of DDL’s aged premium rums, the 12, 15 and 21 year olds have won gold medals in their respective categories at the prestigious International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC).

He said the flagship product, El Dorado 15 Year Old, won the “Best Rum” trophy.

Samaroo explained that IWSC is the premier international rum competition that is staged annually in London, England, and attracts all the major brands worldwide. He explained that the El Dorado 15 Year Old has the distinction of winning the gold medal for best rum at the IWSC for 10 years now.

In a summary of the five-year financial review, General Manager, Mr. Loris Nathoo said turnover increased by 30 per cent in the last five years, from $9.1 billion to $11.8 billion.

He said that represents 5.5 per cent more year on year for the last five years.

Nathoo reported that profit before interest and tax surpassed $2 billion in 2007, 61 per cent better than the 2002 performance.

Amerindian communities benefit from German Bank funds

Several Amerindian communities are benefiting from funds made available through the German Bank for Reconstruction and Development (KfW) Small Grants component of the Guyana Protected Areas System (GPAS), being implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with support from GFA Consultancy Group of Germany.

These communities are now better equipped to enhance their livelihoods and economic standing and foster development of their various localities.

The village of Moco Moco in Region 9 (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo) now has communal ownership of a tractor, a five-tonne hydraulic dump trailer, a disc plough, a disc harrow and a threshing machine handed over by EPA as part of a G$16 million farming project aimed at developing savannah agriculture, increase crop production and reduce poverty in the village.

The village, which is contiguous to the proposed Kanuku Mountains Protected Area is expected to utilise the equipment for the cultivation of approximately 36.45 hectares of farmland in the savannah with crops such as rice, peanuts, sorrel, cassava and peas and will build on the experiences of a 2001 pilot project which explored farming in the savannahs.

In addition to the socio-economic benefits of increased food supply and income for the community, the project is expected to reduce the frequency of clearing forested areas to cultivate farms thus contributing to the conservation of the Kanuku Mountains as part of the proposed national system of protected areas.

Almond Beach Community in Region One, a part of the proposed Shell Beach Protected Area, also benefited from the project in the form of a tractor and trailer to improve the transportation and marketing of water coconuts at Almond Beach, thereby increasing the income for community members through the sale of a greater number of water coconuts.

Currently, the community collects water coconuts from a 11-kilometre stretch of coconut plantations and transports them to the Waini River where they are exported to Trinidad for bottling.

The project costs G$5 million and will provide alternative income to illegal harvesting of marine turtles.

Other sub-projects successfully completed under the project include: (1) marketing of the North West Organics (NWO) products; (2) construction of the crabwood oil factory in Waini; (3)provision of boat, engine and ranger equipment for the Kaieteur National Park; (4) development of craft skills in Chenapou Village; (5) fencing of farmlands in Maruranau Village and; (6) delineation of the proposed Kanuku Mountains Protected Area.

KfW has been providing grants over the last two years for communities living in and around protected areas or areas proposed for protection.

Secondary education access to further improve

Several new secondary schools are being constructed around the country as the administration moves closer to achieving its goal of universal secondary education for all Guyana’s children.

The Bartica Secondary will be completed soon and the Mahaica Secondary school is moving apace. About 1000 students from Mahaica to Cove and John will be accommodated at the $512 million state-of-the-art school.

“This is all in the Basic Education Access and Management Support (BEAMS) project to ensure that we receive universal secondary education within the next 5 years,” Minister of Education Shaik Baksh said.

He noted that this school among others are incorporated into the education strategic plan, to make certain that every child coming out of the primary school has access to a sound secondary education.

The school complex will include departments for administration, library, computer lab, multi-purpose laboratory, food and nutrition, clothing and textile, home management, technical drawing, agricultural science, electrical workshop and classrooms.

The complex will consist of five buildings totalling approximately 46,000 square feet and built of reinforced concrete.

Several other schools have been built and rehabilitated under the BEAMS project. The Aurora Secondary on the Essequibo Coast and the Diamond Secondary on the East Bank of Demerara have been completed.

Secondary schools that have been rehabilitated include the Bladen Hall Multilateral, North Ruimveldt Multilateral, Lodge Community High, Charlestown and Tutorial High.

Amerindian project exports organic pineapples to Europe

An organic pineapple processing facility in the small Amerindian community of Mainstay/Whyaka, aback of Anna Regina, continues to be a main source of employment for many families in the area.

Known as the Mainstay Organic Pineapple Processing Facility, the G$30 million plant which was commissioned in 2002, processes organically-grown pineapples into chunks and slices which are exported to France.

Operated by some 20 employees, the facility provides secure markets for the farmers of the Mainstay/Whyaka community that comprises of mainly Arawak Amerindians, and has helped to significantly lift their standard of living. About 400 persons reside in the area.

Since its establishment six years ago, the facility, sited within walking distance from the Lake Mainstay Resort, has gradually expanded to almost doubling the acreage of pineapple cultivation.

Head of the facility, Joel Fredericks, said prior to the establishing of the factory, farmers used to almost “labour in vain”, as previously the produce when taken to the market had to be sold for almost nothing.

Processing of the organically-grown pineapple chunks, which are exported to France by Amazon Caribbean Limited (AMCAR), have to meet specific conditions which must be adhered to, if it is to remain competitive.

The staff of the plant process about 2000 pineapples on a daily basis.

The factory which is equipped with a mini laboratory and is currently processing a very large batch of pineapples, also processes the organically grown “heart of palm” for AMCAR and export to France, when pineapples are out-of-crop.

Mechanisms on stream to facilitate Guyana/Brazil trade

Minster of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett has noted that with the completion of the Takutu Bridge in Region 9 (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo), arrangements are now being finalised between the respective sectors of the two countries to put the necessary mechanisms in place to allow for a two-way trade of goods and services and to fully implement the Guyana/Brazil International Road Transport Agreement.

She made this statement on June 9 during the opening of a workshop by the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce in collaboration with the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) and the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organisation (ACTO) on Guyana/Brazil Development Planning at the Guyana International Conference Centre at Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown.

Additionally, she assured that the government stands by its commitment to ensure that the Lethem to Linden road is fully upgraded as both governments have agreed that the completion of the Lethem-Georgetown road will assist in paving the way for the further expansion of trade and other linkages not only with the neighbouring state but other countries of South America.

The minister noted that in response to the current global challenges, the Guyana government has embarked on a programme to diversify the economy to become less dependent on those traditionally protected markets and modernise certain sectors to make them more competitive in the global market.

She pledged the Government’s continued support towards ACTO and GTA to translate Amazonian 2009 to a meaningful and productive initiative.

Tourism Authority continue efforts to promote Guyana

The Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) plans on ensuring that Guyana gains recognition as an emerging ecotourism destination on the world market and, in pursuit of this goal, the Authority is embarking on a number of promotional activities.

GTA’s Director, Indranauth Haralsingh, noted that the authority is implementing marketing activities that would help to brand and position Guyana.

This, he said, is needed especially since Caribbean tourism is popular. He noted it is more important for Guyana to differentiate itself from the famous sun, sand and sea brand.

The Director noted that in an effort to maximise the resources of the authority, it has collaborated with the Guyana Trade and Investment Support (GTIS) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to conduct familiarisation trips with overseas tour operators and journalists so that they can sample Guyana’s tourism product.

He said that the trips allow the tour operators to decide whether the products they see and experience are what their customers are looking for on their vacations.

There were four trips to Guyana recently and these have proven to be very successful. From these, over 30 countries have been actively selling Guyana as an emerging birding destination.

At present, the German market is of interest to GTA and a German tour operator, who will be in Guyana for a few months, is also eyeing the ecotourism potential as he hopes to promote destination Guyana to his country.

Trade shows have also been successful in highlighting Guyana’s ecotourism. The GTA has been attending the largest trade shows in Europe, North America and the Caribbean.

Recently, Guyana attended the world’s largest trade show, the International Travel Bourst (ITB) held in Berlin, Germany. Guyana plans to attend trade shows in Utah, London and Ruthland, England, this year.

Eighth Chinese medical brigade welcomed

In an effort to advance the level and quality of health care, Guyana over the past 14 years has benefited from the expertise of seven Chinese medical teams which have made significant contributions to the local health sector.

On June13 at the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre, a ceremony of farewell and welcome was held for the outgoing and newly arrived Chinese medical teams.

The eighth batch of medical personnel consists of an anaesthetist, general surgeon, pathologist, radiologist, gynaecologist and an interventional cardiologist.

The outgoing batch of Chinese medical personnel who served at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) and Linden Hospital Complex consisted of 14 doctors including an ophthalmologist, an orthopaedic surgeon, a plastic surgeon and pathologists.

During their two-year stay they collectively made a significant contribution to the country’s health sector. The team has treated more than 45,000 patients and conducted more than 4,500 surgeries in ophthalmology, orthopaedics, general surgery, gynaecology, and plastic surgery.

In particular, 7,400 cataract surgeries were done.

During the past two years there has also been the introduction of a number of new services including laparoscopy surgery and surgery for cataract.

The Chinese team has also shared their knowledge with local staff and provided training to them to conduct laparoscopy surgery.

Additionally, several donations were made to the GPHC. On October 11, 2006 the ophthalmology department received modern equipment donated by the Chinese government valued at US$85,000 which serves for laparoscopic, retinal and other surgeries.

There was also a donation made of US$305,000 to construct an apartment complex in Georgetown to accommodate future Chinese medical teams. The facility will have a recreational facility and will serve to make the team stay more comfortable. It is expected to be completed in ten months time.

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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