Prados del Este, Caracas 1050, Venezuela
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Posted June 2010 - Issue No. 77 - Back to Embassy page
Previous Guyana Diaries are available here.
As the Guyana government goes through the process of implementing a number of major programmes it will be honing in on bettering the quality of public services provided to Guyanese and maximising the value obtained for public money spent, while ensuring greater financial and performance accountability.
President Bharrat Jagdeo told a huge, enthusiastic crowd gathered at the National Park, Thomas Lands on the evening of May 25 for the 44th independence anniversary ceremony, of this focus and others such as strengthening mechanisms in the public sector to monitor and quantify results from government programmes, eradicate waste and inefficiency, and ensure effective implementation of all aspects of its activity.
He said that shortly the government will be initiating a $500 million programme in partnership with a private bank to provide loans for single parents to commence small businesses.
This year over 3,000 youths will undergo training under the national youth empowerment and entrepreneurial skills training programmes and over $1.1 billion will be expended to ensure one uniform for every child.
Jagdeo stated that he is proud that as a country Guyana is getting the “big choices right” as he enumerated some of these as: delivering one of the most inclusive constitutions in the world; establishment of several rights commissions; expanded mandate of the Public Accounts Committee; creation of an independent audit office; and introduction of parliamentary participation in the appointment of judicial, police, teaching and public service commissions.
“Today our gross domestic product is several times larger than it was 20 years ago, inflation is under control, our currency is stable, our external reserves are at their highest level ever, our indebtedness is at a stable level and our fiscal deficit is declining.”
The successes of the Guyana economy are due to deliberate long-term choices by the government to solidify the fundamentals of the economy, he said, and these have been the successes that form the groundwork for supporting the creation of a socially just and prosperous country.
Having gotten the fundamentals right, he noted that Guyana is now in a position to move to implement a second generation of reform to advance the creation of a better country.
Jagdeo said that Guyana is also taking its place on the world stage and making its voice heard explaining that “we are the co-authors of the world’s largest national scale forest payments; because of the work we have done here, others in the world are looking to us”.
Noting that he will be in Norway to participate in a very important meeting on tropical deforestation, where world leaders will seal an agreement to commit almost US$5 billion over the next three years to fight deforestation and degradation. Guyana, he said was involved from the beginning in this partnership.
“This year, Guyana will receive between US$30 million and US$42 million for the climate services provided by our forest, putting us on a long-term trajectory to sell these services for far greater prices once the international climate system is put in place. This is the second largest arrangement of its type in the world, and the world’s largest national scale forest payments scheme.”
The Guyana government on June 2 condemned Israel for its May 31 commando raid on an international flotilla to Gaza that led to the killing of ten persons and injuries to dozens of others.
In a statement to the National Assembly, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett said that the government joins the rest of the international community in “unequivocally condemning the recent act launched by the Israeli military on a flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.”
She said the government is saddened by the loss of life and injuries sustained which resulted “from another reprehensible act committed by the Israeli military.”
The minister expressed sympathy to the relatives and families of the deceased and injured. She also called for a lifting of the blockade on Gaza
“This criminal act committed in international waters is extremely unhelpful and sets back the cause of the Palestinian people in their just struggle for a full realisation of their inalienable rights including their right to a homeland and it complicates efforts being made to revive peace talks in the Middle East,” she said.
The Foreign Affairs Minister said that Guyana supports fully the United Nations Secretary General and the Security Council in their calls for a full investigation into this latest action by the Israeli military and for those responsible for this violent act to be brought to justice.
President Bharrat Jagdeo on May 24 elaborated on seven priority areas in Guyana that are part of the revised Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) document for 2010 and 2011.
President Jagdeo was at a the time speaking at the Umana Yana in Georgetown in the presence of representatives of the multi-stakeholder steering committee, members of the Cabinet, the diplomatic corps and civil society who had gathered for a briefing on the country’s revolutionary strategy.
The event was highlighted by members of the multi-stakeholder steering committee declaring their unequivocal support for the strategy, and highlighting the importance of citizens’ participation to the process.
First on the list is the supply of equity to the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project which President Jagdeo said will represent value for money as it will include competitiveness.
He used the occasion to set the record straight on the cost of the project which he said will total $450 million. Of this sum, $45 million will fund the transmission lines and $165 million for interest during the construction.
After 20 years, the project which is fully financed by the private sector, will be handed over to the government, and President Jagdeo said it will significantly reduce the cost of electricity.
The second priority area highlighted is the acceleration of Amerindian land titling, demarcation and extension process which Government expects to complete by 2015 with a US$6 million allocation.
The Amerindian community is also expected to benefit from an $8 million grant for the creation of an Amerindian fund which is to be an addition to the existing Amerindian development fund, but will enable communities to access grants for transformative projects identified as priorities by residents.
Another priority relates to the expansion of the fibre optic cable, one of which will be coming from neighbouring Brazil fully funded by the government and another from the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GT&T) company.
Money will also be directed towards micro-financing in the form of small loans or grants for small and medium enterprises and vulnerable groups for them to invest in low carbon type investments.
The establishment of an international centre for biodiversity research is also on the cards and is an area which President Jagdeo said has been discussed extensively with the University of Guyana.
Last on the list is the spending of more resources on supporting the Monitoring Reporting and Verification (MRV) system, and individual investments for the period 2012 to 2015.
Three overarching priority targets have also been set beginning with the further strategic economic infrastructure to open up non-forested lands in the intermediate savannahs for large scale agriculture; facilitating investment in high potential low carbon sectors; and a programme to determine how transportation related emissions can be reduced.
A new milling facility that will supply a wide range of animal feeds is expected to provide better quality food to animals and significantly reduce the cost of meat.
Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud was on hand on May 8 for the re-launch of the Didco Feed Mills at Friendship, East Bank Demerara. The factory was destroyed by fire in 2007.
Minister Persaud said government has a preference for competition of any sort and welcomes the investment as a win-win situation in Guyana’s free market arrangement.
He noted that the ministry continues to receive numerous complaints about animal feeds lacking the required standard and quality and also of skyrocketing prices.
The agriculture minister said government has had to finance several overseas tests because of the circulation of feeds of suspect quality.
“This is important to the livestock sector which is now geared for export and we would have to look at competitive pricing that would eventually lead to affordable livestock and increased variety of feeds,” he added.
The minister commented that the move by Didco makes “great business sense” and is a positive step in the development of the livestock and aquaculture sectors.
The ministry has established a standard for mills which is being enforced by the Guyana National Bureau of Standards and a mandatory requirement to have all chickens vaccinated.
“Some persons complained that the chickens were not attaining the required weight and had stunted growth because of different ailments that could have been prevented were they vaccinated,” Persaud said.
Managing Director of Didco Feeds, Deonarine Singh said he invested $400 million towards the reconstruction of the mill which should see prices decreasing in another six to eight weeks.
Singh said the feed mill will offer attractive prices, encourage greater competition in the marketplace and allow for a significant reduction in the price of poultry.
The Managing Director disclosed that the feeds will include all vegetarian brands with the necessary vitamins and electrolytes not only for chickens but also pigs, horses, fish and cows. He urged all hatcheries to get involved in the vaccination programme.
The focus of the Ministry of Housing is not only about creating new house lots but also upgrading existing housing schemes and providing basic infrastructure in regularised squatter settlements. This was reiterated on May 28 by Minister of Housing and Water, Irfaan Ali when he provided an update on the second batch of projects under the Low Income Settlement Programme.
Ali noted that the first project has resulted in a number of underprivileged Guyanese owning house lots including in Region Six and Tuschen, Region Three.
He stated that early this year, the ministry awarded several contracts under the Low Income Settlement Phase One Programme. These are already in the process of execution and are generally ahead of schedule.
“We have had good performances,” the minister reported. “All the projects in the communities are being monitored by local groups and the ministry’s internal supervisory team,”
He mentioned that the second batch will now focus on new areas, regularising squatter settlements and developing existing areas.
Among the new areas to be developed will be two sections in Non Pariel where 840 house lots will be made available. More than $380 million has already been spent on all-weather roads, structures and drains. In addition $28 million will be spent on the installation of a pure water distribution system in the area.
The ministry will also upgrade roads, structures and drains in Region Three targeting Westminster at a cost $250 million and to the benefit of 5,000 persons.
The minister stressed that resources will not only be spent on coastal areas but in the hinterland as well. Tabatinga, Lethem (Region Nine), has been earmarked for road and drainage works which are expected to bring investment to the community. This is one of the large housing schemes and the first settlement closest to the Takutu Bridge on the border Guyana shares with Brazil.
The Ministry of Agriculture launched its US$643,000 hinterland rice and beans project in the Rupununi District (Region Nine) last year to ensure that food security is maintained in hinterland communities as well as to provide employment for some persons. The project is progressing satisfactorily and, to date, 82 acres of rice and beans have been planted.
A bond built at a cost of G$11.8 million has also been completed and will be used for storing equipment, machinery and chemicals.
The Guyana Rice Development Board is currently taking supplies of fertilizers, insecticide and weedicide to the area that will assist in the growing of rice and complement the combine, tractor, chipper and plough that are assisting farmers with the project.
The Ministry of Agriculture has also assisted in the construction of a small drying floor attached to the bond to assist farmers.
Fifty acres of red beans will also be sown upon completion of the rainy season while works are in progress for another 75 acres of rice to be cultivated.
The multi-stakeholder steering committee for Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) is at present reviewing a draft paper that was presented in March this year outlining how the opt-in procedure for Amerindian villages might work.
Following the completion of the work of the steering committee, the paper will be circulated for public discussion and finalisation among Amerindian villages and for those that chose to opt in.
Speaking at the launch of the revised LCDS draft document on May 24, President Jagdeo said “there is absolutely no pressure to opt in and villages may do so at any time during the period 2010 to 2015.”
Those that choose to participate will have their fair share of the interim Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD +) revenue through a benefit share mechanism that will be negotiated between the government and the National Toshaos Council (NTC) in consultation with indigenous leaders and villagers.
Speaking with Toshaos from the various sub districts in the Rupununi in April, Jagdeo said each community is likely to receive in excess $7 million for the promotion of food security and profit making ventures.
However, he noted that this fund will be separate from the money that may arise from villages that opt in when and if they make such a decision.
The revised LCDS draft document highlighted that even if no village chose to participate in 2010 and 2011, at least US$4 million per year will be made available for local development from revenue received from state forest estates. Villages will be expected to propose and craft a budget for the most feasible projects in their communities.
The LCDS revised document stated that based on the suggestions received during the 2009, consultations grants are likely to be made available for enhancing food security; agriculture development; solar panels for local electricity generation; the creation of a digital communications network to enhance communication among forest communities, Georgetown and regional centres; community based eco-tourism ventures; and the purchase of computers and educational programmes for families and students.
A sum of US$6 million will be allocated for the acceleration of Amerindian land titling, demarcation and extension. The programme will address those villages with current outstanding requests and communicating the process of demarcation, and titling to those villages that have not yet decided to begin the process.
This endeavour is expected to be completed by 2015 and was one of the main areas identified from the 2009 LCDS consultation.
The revised document noted that since the 1990s the share of Guyana’s territory owned by Amerindians has increased from approximately six percent to 14 percent. A total of 96 villages are titled and 11 remaining. Of the 96 villages, 70 have been demarcated with 26 in progress or awaiting demarcation. Eight have been extended and 27 extension requests are currently being processed.
The tourism sector has over the years received significant attention as the government recognises its huge potential for development. This has led to tourism products being further exploited and promoted, with Guyana being touted as the hottest tourism destination of choice in South America.
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) will be in Guyana this month to tour and film another documentary. This time the documentary will feature the country’s most spectacular Kaieteur Falls.
Several reputable tour companies have also expressed interest in Guyana, as they are looking for the unique tourism adventure that the country offers and as the government continues to promote and market Guyana on the international front, tour operators and agents from Suriname and the Reel Adventure team are due in Guyana in June to also promote and highlight the country’s potential.
Guyana has an abundance of eco-tourism potential including sport fishing and as such several initiatives have been undertaken to promote and develop this sector prompting the visit of the Reel Adventure film crew.
The latter part of 2009 also saw a United States television crew for Birding and Reel Adventures visiting Guyana to film a documentary on birding and sport fishing.
Upon completion of the tour, host of Reel Adventures, Robert Arrington said that he was so impressed with Guyana’s resources and potential that he would be investing in the new and emerging sport fishing industry.
There is now a more international destination awareness of Guyana and its potential through niche markets such as birding, trade shows, and cruise ships visits.
The National Task Force for Combating Trafficking in Persons (TIP) has presented a national report on this issue in keeping with the necessary measures taken by the Guyana government to address the scourge.
Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee at a media briefing on May 18 explained that the report is not in response to the United States 2009 State Department TIP Report which placed Guyana on Tier Two level, but the Task Force had agreed to publish a national report on the issue since it has the institutional memory and knowledge of the extent to which TIP exists in the national jurisdiction.
According to Rohee, the team found it necessary to produce its own report so that “we have our own views out there rather than having our views subdued in a State Department Report.”
The 2009 Report of the Task Force addressed five main areas which include; Institutional and Legislative Framework; Prevention; Protection and Victim Assistance; Prosecution; and an Assessment of the US State Department Report on Guyana.
Minister Rohee said the report also addresses a number of areas such as the level of awareness among citizens, the number of victims, training of law enforcement officers and the level of cooperation that exists among the agencies that deal with TIP.
“We have managed to have our first conviction under the TIP law where the female perpetrator was sentenced to three years in prison for trafficking of two females ages 12 and 16 in Bartica,” Rohee stated.
He added that although there are also other cases which are pending hearing in court, the government does not recognize TIP as a major issue in society.
President Bharrat Jagdeo in April 2009 had stated that there was no fact-based evidence to support the US State Department Report placing Guyana in the worst category of TIP. He added that Guyana was not attempting to hide what is happening but “we are concerned about the anecdotal reporting and reports that do not really reflect reasoning.”
The President also challenged the US to present the 100 documented cases that are required to put Guyana in that category so that those cases can be investigated, but these could not be obtained since the US only has two reported cases as evidence.
According to the national report, expanded prevention measures, heightened surveillance, and raids by the Guyana Police Force have yielded positive results especially as reflected by the small number of victims.
The Task Force has been set up by Cabinet to deal with TIP and in its report aims to present to citizens a factual and authentic picture of the nature and magnitude of trafficking in persons in Guyana and a straightforward documentation of Guyana’s response to this problem.
President Bharrat Jagdeo on May 24 affixed his signature to three documents containing all the reformed legislation relating to rape, sexual assault and sexual activities with children under 16 years of age.
The Sexual Offences Act was assented at a public signing ceremony at the Police Officers’ Mess, Georgetown, in the presence of a large gathering including members of the Cabinet, the diplomatic corps, civil society and children from various schools.
President Jagdeo described the Act as one which will add to the arsenal available in Guyana to fight the predators in society and noted that although he has been a preacher of tolerance this is one occasion where he will be intolerant to sexual predators.
“We are going to do justice to this bill only if we all together work to support those who have been, over the years, subjected to inhumane abuse and often without recourse to justice,” President Jagdeo said.
The reform of the Sexual Offences Act was cited as a priority, he said, when the constitution was amended and it was recognised that there were still some vulnerable groups in society in need of protection beyond what was provided.
Guyana is one of few countries in the world and the only one in the hemisphere where five constitutional Rights Commissions are established, three of which focus on children, gender and indigenous people. Several persons across the country, including those in the hinterland and far flung areas, were part of a consultation process on the Sexual Offences Bill.
President Jagdeo used the occasion to commend all who were involved in the process including Minister of Human Services and Social Security Priya Manickchand who played an instrumental role in the parliamentary debates on the Bill in the National Assembly up to the day it was passed.
He particularly commended many of the rights commission for their role which even included peaceful picketing exercises outside of the Office of the President but expressed the hope that the same energy would be demonstrated against the sexual predators in society and that the rights organisation will “turn their eyes to the people who violate women and children.”
The first bilateral meeting between Guyana and France on May 13 at the Guyana International Conference Centre, Liliendaal was seen by both parties as a practical step towards strengthening ties between the two countries, particularly as it relates to forging closer links with French Guiana as part of the Guiana Shield.
Views were exchanged on key issues of mutual interest on the international agenda including the global financial and economic crisis and climate change.
Extensive discussions were also held on cooperation in several areas relating to security, the environment, agriculture, tourism, health and consular relations.
In this regard, it was agreed that a delegation from Guyana would visit French Guiana to engage in further discussions on matters pertaining to security, the environment and rice cultivation.
Both parties agreed on closer collaboration between the private sectors of Guyana and French Guiana. As such an invitation was extended for the private sector of Guyana to visit French Guiana in June.
Guyana’s delegation commended the French government for its decision to strengthen the staff of its Embassy, which is accredited to Guyana from Paramaribo, with an official from the French Agency for Development (FAD) and welcomed the renewed interest of France to extend the level of its bilateral development to aid Guyana.
An agreement was made for the establishment of a formal mechanism for regular bilateral consultations between the two countries which would afford both sides the opportunity to conduct political dialogue on various issues and promote further cooperation towards achieving greater progress in their bilateral relations.
The French side expressed its appreciation to the government of Guyana for hosting the meeting and extended an invitation for the next meeting to be held in French Guiana before the end of 2010.
Guyana’s delegation was led by Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce Manniram Prashad who was performing the duties of Minister of Foreign Affairs, while the French delegation was led by the French Ambassador to Guyana and Suriname, Richard Barbeyron.
Credits: Stabroek News, Chronicle, Mirror, Kaieteur News, GINA
Compiled and edited by Evangeline Ishmael
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