Guyana Diary

June 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 June 2009 - Issue No. 65 - Back to Embassy page

Previous Guyana Diaries are available here.

Greater national unity, cooperation will propel progress

Despite the great strides that Guyana has made since its independence on May 26, 1966, much more can be made with greater unity, cooperation and a supportive political environment. This was the message of President Bharrat Jagdeo at the flag-raising ceremony at the National Park, Georgetown, on Independence Eve.

“We have come a far way since Independence because of the efforts of our people; but much more progress can be made if we have a supportive political environment. Our people's desire for a better life imposes on us the obligation to pursue greater national unity and cooperation,” the President said.

“We therefore must seek to implement a framework for improved cooperation between our political parties, particularly the major parties, the PPP (People’s Progressive Party) and the PNCR (People’s National Congress Reform) and to foster engagements that go beyond Parliamentary exchanges and that are more reflective of the enormity of the challenges facing Guyana. While we may not find common ground on every issue and while differences will persist, the need for joint action in response to these challenges must surmount our differences,” the President said.

A huge crowd gathered at the National Park on the evening of May 25 to watch the cultural and military displays organised by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, to listen to the President’s address, enjoy the dazzling fireworks extravaganza, and to finally, witness the hoisting of the Golden Arrowhead at midnight.

IMF commends Guyana on maintaining macroeconomic stability

The Guyana government’s prudent management of the local economy has again been recognised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

According to a report from the concluded consultation with Guyana, the institution has commended Government for implementing several policy initiatives that saw the economy maintaining macroeconomic stability, achieving real growth rates and containing inflation, in spite of the global turmoil.

The consultation is part of the institution’s yearly bilateral discussions with countries to provide an assessment of policy initiatives and reports on a country’s economic progress.

Earlier this month, the World Economic Outlook, which presents the IMF’s analysis and projections of economic development, projected Guyana’s economy would grow by 2.604 percent in 2009 and by 3.448 percent in 2010.

The report stated that despite external shocks and social pressures, macroeconomic stability was preserved in 2008, which the Fund attributed to the administration for actively implementing prudent fiscal and monetary policies.

It is in this regard that the directors commended the government’s commitment to further entrench macroeconomic stability, strengthen the financial system and implement structural reforms.

According to the report, the direct spillovers from the global financial crisis on the banking system have been limited so far. It noted that the banks remain well capitalised and profitable, and the financial system is sound.

Government has been making ample progress in tightening financial legislations with the passage of several significant pieces of legislation. This heightened financial supervision and oversight to limit potential contagion was supported by the institution.

The report stated that the progress being made on the financial sector reforms and on legislation to prevent money laundering and financing of terrorism was welcomed, as Government seeks to strengthen the financial sector.

Policy moves by government in 2008 were lauded, including that of temporarily reducing the excise taxes on petroleum products as that limited the pass-through of higher international fuel prices to consumers and effectively diffused social pressures while helping to contain inflation.

They applauded the authorities for reinstating the excise taxes in recent months in light of the abatement in international oil prices, to protect the fiscal position.

The administration’s commitment to sustain the fiscal consolidation was commended by the Directors, the report stated. They agreed that a more gradual deficit reduction than previously envisaged is justified in the context of the global slowdown.

Directors hailed the progress made in the area of fiscal reforms, including the successful implementation of the Value Added Tax (VAT). However, they cautioned against a further expansion of the list of zero-rated VAT items. Despite that, they noted that the VAT is now well established.

The government also came in for high praises for ensuring a reduction in inflation rate, as the institution supported the administration’s continued vigilance and the readiness to adjust monetary policy to keep inflation low.

In addition, it was noted that exchange rates have been broadly aligned with fundamentals which have served Guyana well, as a stable exchange rate is critical to maintaining macroeconomic stability.

The report contended that government’s plan to reduce the external current account deficit gradually over the medium-term through the growth of non-traditional exports and the development of petroleum and hydropower resources were commended.

World Bank lauds Guyana’s macroeconomic performance

World Bank executives have commended Guyana for its macroeconomic performance over the past decade and recognised the progress made in improving fiscal discipline.

In light of this, the Bank’s Board of Directors has approved the new Country Assistance Strategy for Guyana for the period 2009 and 2012 in support of the country’s development agenda in the areas of improving education and social safety nets and strengthening its ability to mitigate the effects of natural disasters and climate change.

The Bank’s Country Director for the Caribbean, Yvonne Tsikata, said: “Guyana has made significant progress in laying the foundations for macroeconomic stability and higher pro-poor growth. The Country Assistance Strategy continues this partnership and supports the country in areas where the Bank's support could strategically complement other donors’ areas of engagement.”

The institution’s lending programme, its technical assistance, as well as its analytical work all support the government’s objective of accelerating and sustaining growth, and were developed with its full cooperation.

The Bank said it benefited from consultations with civil society, the private sector and other development partners.

The two main strategic areas of support identified in the Country Assistance Strategy are (1) strengthening environmental resilience and (2) sustainability and improving education quality and social safety nets.

Under the first area, the Bank will support the government’s efforts and leadership in this quarter by helping to establish pilot forest areas that are protected and sustainably managed by local communities, as well as help strengthen its ability to reduce exposure to natural disasters and global climate risk.

The Bank will also help Guyana improve the quality of education through reform of teacher training and better service delivery, and help strengthen the capacity of Government to deliver an enhanced social protection programme.

Over 200 Region Five residents to become new home-owners

Over 200 house lots were distributed on May 28 by the Ministry of Housing and Water to residents of Region Five. Residential lots were allocated at Block D1 Bath, and 20 commercial lots at Hope, Experiment, Waterloo and Block 1 Bath.

The Ministry has already surpassed its target set in the 2009 budget to distribute 4500 house lots and land titles.

To date, about 4500 transactions have been processed in Regions Three, Four, Five, Six and Ten, and similar exercises are expected to be conducted in other regions over the next few months, including Regions One, Two and Nine.

Government will invest $6 billion in the development of new and existing housing schemes, and put $2 billion in a revolving fund to assist those who have been provided house lots but lack financing.

Minister of Housing and Water, Irfaan Ali, pointed out that access to finance, especially low income financing and concessionary financing, has always posed difficulties and challenges in developing countries, and this commitment is also responsive to the needs of the people and to the development of the housing sector.

Pegasus Hotel announces US$3M upgrade

A massive US$3 million upgrade has been announced for the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, which is, for the first time, under Guyanese ownership.

The Pegasus Enhancement Plan, announced on May 28, is to further enhance the level of hospitality and comfort to that offered by a true five-star hotel.

Chairman and Director, Mr. Robert Badal, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of Guyana Stockfeeds Incorporated and owner of Popeye’s fast food outlet, said this development marked a moment in history for the city, the hotel, its staff and patrons.

Commissioned in 1969, the hotel has had several foreign owners. It was built by British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) and has operated under several brands, including Trust House Forte, Le Meridien and recently, Lehwood Netherlands Holdings.

“This is the first time, in its 40 years of history, that it has had Guyanese ownership. It is with tremendous pride and commensurate humility that I offer this hospitality to all my fellow Guyanese, as well as our other honoured guests,” Badal said, adding: “Over the years, the Pegasus has been Guyana’s flagship hotel.”

Climate change presents threats, but offers opportunities

President Bharrat Jagdeo has warned that climate change does not only threaten economic and financial systems, but also the very existence of life on the planet, and Guyana is not immune to its effects. The President was addressing a large crowd gathered at the National Park in Georgetown to celebrate the start of Guyana’s 43rd independence anniversary on the evening of May 25.

“Unseasonal weather patterns and rising sea levels have necessitated increased expenditure to address the consequences of flooding and the overtopping of our river and sea defences.”

However, climate change has also provided the opportunity for Guyana to re-tool its economy onto a low-carbon development strategy that will set an example to the world that economic development and climate change mitigation are compatible goals.

“While climate change presents inescapable threats, it also offers opportunities for Guyana to develop and market a whole range of environmental services, including services linked to tourism, research and development of our eco-system, and a centre for the study of our biodiversity,” the President explained.

“The people of Guyana can literally lead the world in forging a new low deforestation, low carbon economy where our national development and combating climate change become compatible objectives.”

To this end, public consultations on the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) will begin shortly.

“The strategy sets out our vision for sustaining our economic progress in light of the new challenges and opportunities presented by climate change. It draws on our Guyanese insights into how existing development objectives can be accelerated to continue our work to create a socially just and prosperous Guyana, but in a way that simultaneously helps the world devise solutions for stopping tropical deforestation, which is the cause of 17 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions,” President Jagdeo said.

Region 9 Amerindian conference at Lethem

The first-ever Region 9 Amerindian Leaders Conference held at Lethem on May 22-23 was a watershed moment for the leaders of that community, who spent the two days brainstorming as they sought to address and come up with answers to key issues relating to the development of the region.

Held at the St. Ignatius Benab, the two-day caucus which began on May 22, had as its theme: “Focus on Positive and Sustainable Development”. It brought together more than 100 persons, including key government functionaries, Amerindian Toshaos and councillors, as well as representatives of civil society organisations.

Coming out of the conference, the people of all five sub-districts of Rupununi can now look forward to having maintenance works done on the roadways within their communities, in preparation for the upcoming rainy season. The sub-districts are: Central Rupununi; South Central Rupununi; Deep South Rupununi; North Rupununi; and South Pakaraimas Rupununi.

Highlights of the conference included the swearing-in of 56 Toshaos and senior councillors with responsibility for the various communities and satellite communities. They were elected earlier this month.

The main objectives of the conference were:

* To provide elected leaders with basic instruments for meaningful village management, and adequate scope to utilise available skills to achieve positive results

* To empower leaders to face challenges and create productive and safe communities

* To allow partnership to prevail among communities, other friendly partners and the State for the good of all citizens.

Key speakers were Minister of Amerindian Affairs Ms. Pauline Sukhai, and Minister of Local Government Kellawan Lall

Successful “Destination Amazonia Year” activities

Director of Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA), Mr. Indranauth Haralsingh has announced that Guyana has, so far, successfully executed all its planned activities for “Destination Amazonia Year 2009”.

“Destination Amazonia Year” seeks to propel the Amazon region, teeming with immense value, richness and uniqueness in the world, into a more recognised tourism destination.

Guyana, with its large ecological and adventure tourism potential, stands to benefit significantly from the programme, as home to thousands of rare and unique species of flora and fauna and a diverse ecosystem, branding itself “Guyana – the Amazon Adventure”.

The initiative by Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organisation (ACTO) is in collaboration with the eight member countries that are signatories to the pact, including Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.

Destination Amazonia Year 2009 was first heralded last year at the world’s largest trade show, the International Travel Bourst (ITB) in Berlin, Germany, and at the World Trade Market in London, where Guyana participated.

Haralsingh said the Amazon is a natural fit for Guyana’s tourism product and the major calendar events hosted successfully for Destination Amazonia Year are the Pakaraimas Mountain Safari, the Rupununi Rodeo and Mashramani.

Aware that Guyana markets itself as an eco-tourism place, he pointed out, however, that there is no location that is eco-certified or accredited, even though Surama recently received an international award for being such a place and a model community-based tourism village.

He added that villages will be invited to discuss the whole issue of eco- tourism and what can be done within the industry to voluntarily regulate and promote related standards.

“We want to voluntarily set up guidelines and use best practices and share this with our communities, so that we can be on the path to eco-tourism and we have to also bear in mind that it has to be sustainable; local people have to be employed and involved and future generations must benefit,” he maintained.

Another aspect of Destination Amazonia Year 2009 entails the enrolling of four GTA staffers in Spanish language classes with the Venezuelan Institute in Georgetown.

Coherent global policies must ensure global food security

Advancing Caricom’s regional agriculture and food security agenda at the 17th Session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development in New York on May 12, President Bharrat Jagdeo said the region stands ready to work with countries and institutions in an effort to address the challenge of food security through its agriculture and food security agenda.

The Guyanese leader opined that “to ensure future global food security requires a partnership that brings together the best science, adequate resources and a coherent set of international trade and other policies. Such partnerships that emphasise cross-border collaboration and coordination as Caricom countries have sought to do with its regional food security programme.”

People are aware of the problem the world will face if it does not rise to the challenge of becoming food sufficient for future generations, he said, since 85 percent of the world will face some water shortage by 2030.

He explained that with less forest available for conversion to agriculture and growing desertification, there will be a reduction in available arable land for agriculture as these factors will constrain production while demand will increase from a growing world population.

Measures to reposition agriculture in the Caribbean region have since been introduced and these have resulted in the establishment of an Agricultural Modernisation Fund, improved land policy and administration, research expansion, improved drainage and irrigation infrastructure, disaster preparedness programmes and the regional coordination of marketing activities to enhance agricultural trade. These measures, he said, are positioned to revitalise Caribbean agriculture and remove key binding constraints to the development of the sector.

The President expressed the need for coherent global policies to help secure global food supplies over the long-term. He said however, this will not be achieved without the meaningful reform of multilateral institutions and the creation of a new international policy environment, since the challenge of food security is not confined to national boundaries, but is becoming increasingly global in scope.

In this context, he explained, “The countries with the available land and freshwater resources can play a special role in addressing the food security challenge at both the regional and global levels,”

President Jagdeo further emphasised that sustainable development is no longer just a slogan or a rallying cry for a campaign, but is now recognised as essential to the future well being of the world’s people, the global economy and life itself.

He added that this year will test the world’s resolve, and declared: “Will we move boldly to create a new global financial infrastructure and climate agreement to put the world onto a more sustainable track, or will we retreat in the face of the magnitude of the challenge? What is needed is political will; let’s work together to ensure that the world makes the right choice.”

Guyana seeks to extend its continental shelf

The Guyana government has provided information to the United Nations aimed at securing Guyana’s entitlement to extend its continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles, pursuant to Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The provision of the information to the UN was made without prejudice to future maritime delimitation with neighbouring states.

The information was submitted on May 12, 2009, to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLSCS) by the Permanent Mission of Guyana to the United Nations.

Guyana’s preparation of its full submission to the United Nations is at an advanced stage, and will be submitted before the end of August.

Under the provisions of Article 76 of UNCLOS, coastal states, after meeting strictly specified technical and scientific criteria, may, with the recommendation of the UNCLCOS, exercise jurisdiction over a maximum of 150 nautical miles beyond the 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone.

Agri Ministry signs contracts valued $141M

The Ministry of Agriculture on May 13 signed five contracts valued $141 million to enhance drainage capacity, rice research and cultivation techniques.

The contracts entail the supply of a hydraulic excavator, rehabilitation of structures in the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC), fabrication of a punt and pontoon for the EDWC and the allocation of a laser land leveller and tractor for the Burma Rice Station.

Associate Industries Limited (AINLIM) has been contracted to supply the long reach excavator valued some $37 million to be used in the execution of drainage works in the EDWC.

A&S General Contracting Inc. will fully rehabilitate the Lama sluices at a cost of $49.9 million, while $34.7 million has been allotted to the Guyana National Industrial Company to fabricate the pontoon which will be used in the EDWC to transport machinery and aid in clearing and excavation of drainage canals.

These projects will be executed under the conservancy adaptation project, whereas the supply of laboratory equipment for the Burma Rice Research Station is within the parameters of the Agriculture Support Services Programme.

General Equipment Guyana Limited was awarded contracts valued $8.1 million and $11 million respectively to supply the laser land leveller and tractor

Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud, speaking at the ceremony at the Ministry said the projects represent a symbolic move to transform the agriculture sector, bolster drainage and irrigation and support efforts in mitigating the effects of climate change.

171st anniversary of Indian immigration to Guyana

Guyanese celebrated the 171st anniversary of the arrival of East Indians to Guyana on May 5. At the Joe Vieira Park, West Bank Demerara, a well-attended programme hosted by the Indian Religious Cultural and Social Organisation of West Demerara marked the occasion with a display of various aspects of Indian culture on stage, including tassa drumming, and Indian traditional and popular dances. There were also floats depicting the rich cultural heritage of East Indians, with booths displaying a variety of Indian dishes and clothing, and other items along with other attractions.

Addressing the large audience, President Bharrat Jagdeo noted that the early Indian immigrants “struck out in search of a better life and it is that same pioneering spirit that today helps our country to move forward.” He said these indentured labourers persevered and finished their contracts and built a life for future generations, noting, “It is much better than theirs, so we must not take for granted their struggle.”

News Briefs

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

Compiled and edited by Evangeline Ishmael

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