Guyana Diary

June 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 June 2008 - Issue No. 53 - Back to Embassy page

Previous Guyana Diaries are available here.

Guyana signs UNASUR treaty

President Bharrat Jagdeo along with the 11 other South American leaders on May 24 signed on to the constituent treaty of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).

Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet was chosen as the first rotating President of the Union.

The draft of the treaty was finalised at meetings of the UNASUR Council of Delegates in Cartagena (Colombia), Rio de Janeiro and Caracas earlier this year. It defines the organisation’s administrative bodies as the Council of Heads of State and Government (the highest organ) to convene annually; the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs to meet twice a year; the Council of Delegates, (representatives of ambassadorial rank, to meet more frequently throughout the year); a rotating presidency; and a general secretariat manned by international civil servants drawn from the member nations, and headed by a Secretary-General elected for not more than two biennial terms. The official working languages of the body will be Dutch, English, Portuguese and Spanish.

The constituent treaty, which will come into force after it is ratified by nine states, emphasises the general objective of UNASUR as “building, in a participative and consensual manner, an integration and union process among its peoples in the cultural, social, economic and political dimensions, prioritising political dialogue, social policies, education, energy, infrastructure, financing and the environment, among others, with a view of eliminating socio-economic inequality, to achieving social inclusion and citizen participation, to strengthening democracy, and reducing the asymmetries in the background of strengthening the sovereignty of States.”

The Summit of the Heads of State of South American countries was the brainchild of Brazil and was first held in Brasilia in August, 2000. At that forum, the major issues discussed included the Initiative for the Integration of South American Infrastructure (IIRSA) where it was felt that the weak infrastructural links between South American countries hindered the advancement of the initiative to create the “common South American space” and the promotion of sustainable economic growth in the region as envisaged by the Leaders.

Progress has been made since then with the formation and implementation of the IIRSA. A list of priority projects was also agreed to under the initiative, and these include the Lethem/Georgetown road project.

Guyana celebrates 42nd Independence anniversary

On the evening of May 25, the traditional “flag raising ceremony’ was held at the National Park in Georgetown to commemorate the 42nd anniversary of Guyana’s independence.

The event organised by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport was a spectacular show which brought together thousands of Guyanese from all walks of life – all in one accord, sharing a common sense of pride and unity. They were joined by members of the diplomatic corps and Guyanese and tourists as well.

The traditional hoisting of Guyana’s Golden Arrowhead, eagerly awaited and watched by thousands at the park, was preceded by a rich programme of cultural items which featured Guyanese talent at its best.

The cultural performances were followed by an address by President Bharrat Jagdeo, after which the crowd was treated with a display by the Guyana Defence Force soldiers and their military band.

This segment was followed by scintillating dance performances, as hundreds of school children, in a kaleidoscope of colours, danced and performed acrobatic feats, to the delight of the cheering audience.

As the midnight hour closed in, with the presidential party standing before the guard of honour and at the base of the flag staff, the flag was unfurled and hoisted as cannon boomed.

Then with a sense of pride, all assembled, recited the national pledge, after which “Guyana the Free” was sung by all – led by the Guyana Police Force/Joint Service Choir. Finally, the National Anthem was performed.

A spectacular display of fireworks, organised by the Guyana Defence Force, formed the final segment of the night’s programme.

Guyana urges special fund to aid agriculture

In the light of the current global food crisis, Guyana renewed its call for the establishment of a special fund to provide support for access to appropriate technology, new varieties, and training for small-scale agricultural producers, at the regional high level meeting on food security organised by the Latin American and Caribbean Economic System (SELA) in Caracas on May 30.

The call was made by Ambassador Odeen Ishmael who also urged the international financial institutions to provide concessionary term credit for small agricultural producers to assist them in overcoming the high cost of restarting after losses due to floods, pests or other natural phenomena.

The meeting was attended by representatives of the 26-member SELA, as well as international and regional organisations. Among its recommendations is the promotion of the establishment “in any regional financial institution, of a special fund to assist countries with their food emergency programmes.”

The meeting also recommended that SELA should help in establishing a regional cooperation programme on food security in Latin America and the Caribbean, and lend its support to existing sub-regional cooperation programmes on food security, such as that of Caricom.

Ishmael, in his address to the meeting, referred to specific actions taken by the Guyana government to alleviate the problems in the cost of living caused by the escalating food prices.

He also explained that in the endeavour to boost agricultural production, “the Guyana government is offering other Caribbean countries which have a serious shortage of suitable land, the opportunity to invest in agricultural production in Guyana in order to expand the region’s food supply and increase their agricultural exports.”

Guyana has made best interventions on food prices

Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) representative assigned to Caricom, Dr. Vincent Little, said Guyana’s interventions to address the rise in food prices have been the best in the region.

He made the pronouncement during a presentation on May 19 on “Perspectives on the Regional Food Situation and the Jagdeo Initiative” at Tower Hotel, Georgetown.

The occasion was the IICA’s annual accountability seminar where Little pointed out that the region’s food crisis is due to a number of complex simultaneous challenges, such as globalisation and trade liberalisation, climate change and escalating oil and energy prices.

These occurrences raised concerns on the food and nutrition situation of the region’s poor and inflation and have already caused social unrest in some countries, he said.

The IICA expert disclosed that the problem is not temporary and is likely to result in a trade off between food and energy security.

Little lauded the most recent measures implemented by the Guyana government to alleviate the position, including a 5 percent increase in pay for Government workers, retroactive to last January; an additional $4,000 tax free allowance for those earning below $50,000 monthly; the selling of 200,000 packets of flour weighing one kilogramme each at a reduced price; and the distribution of $20 million worth of seeds, fertilisers and pesticides to increase food production.

Guyana committed to leadership role in food crisis

Guyana, with President Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo as the Caricom Head of Government responsible for agriculture, is committed to taking a leadership role in the regional response to the food crisis.

And according to Agriculture Minister Robert, there is a role for each country and every single citizen of the Caricom region in Guyana’s “Grow More Food” campaign, which was launched not only to ensure an adequate supply for its own people but to be able to assist in meeting the food needs of the entire region.

Persaud gave the assurance to a gathering of Caricom Ministers of Agriculture and heads of related agencies in the region, that Guyana’s economy is primarily agriculture-based and there is an abundance of arable land and vast reserves of water resources.

He was speaking at the start of the 27th Special Meeting on Agriculture, of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), on May 22 at he Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel in Georgetown.

Persaud said Guyana has offered its rich agricultural assets to Caricom in the pursuit of food production, including agro-processing.

He observed that investment, in particular by the private sector, has, in recent years, been sadly lacking, with many countries in the region preferring to focus on services.

He said, with agriculture becoming a more profitable enterprise through the changing global reality, Guyana hopes to attract serious investors who will enable the country to achieve its vision for agriculture in the Caribbean.

Persaud said rising food prices result in higher cost of living but, simultaneously, an opportunity is being provided for farmers to increase their income.

He noted, for example, that it is the first time that Guyanese rice farmers are receiving such competitive prices for their produce.

Persaud alluded to the improvement of fortunes for farmers of non-traditional crops and livestock as a result of improved prices and said countries can also gain more export earnings.

Once the situation is properly harnessed, it can serve as an incentive for getting people back on the land, he explained.

Strategy to increase rice yield, earnings

Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) will, this season, be testing two new lines of seed paddy that are expected to yield 50 bags per acre. The experiment will be carried out on 10 one-acre plots across the country.

Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud made the announcement in Region Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam), where he explained that the pilot project is part of the GRDB strategic plan geared to produce new, improved, high yielding varieties.

Government, through the GRDB, has invested approximately US$1 million annually in rice research since 1995, resulting in yields increasing from 3.0 metric tonnes per hectare in 1990 to 4.8 currently. But because of improvement in the technology transfer programme and other programmes in Essequibo, farmers there are achieving up to 6.0 metric tonnes per hectare.

Persaud acknowledged that, while there have been some minor improvements in the global rice trade, the world output of the grain is expected to hit a record high this year, with world production of paddy projected to increase by 2.3 percent.

Commenting on the growing global demand and high prices for rice, Persaud said that the local rice industry should efficiently utilise the resources of Guyana to produce and market high quality rice and by-products as a staple food for local and international markets, while providing employment and foreign exchange earnings.

He explained that in light of the recent global increases in food prices, the government’s strategic goals in critical areas of the industry have become even more important, notably in the context of maximising the advantages that are open to Guyana.

$409.3M Dawa pump station commissioned

Government on May 26 commissioned the spanking new G$409.3 million European Union funded Dawa pump station at St. Deny’s Mission in Pomeroon to boost drainage and irrigation (D&I) to farmers on the Essequibo Coast.

The rehabilitated structure would command some 50,000 acres of land and allow the cultivation of crops, mainly rice, to be pursued on a much larger and more economical scale than before. Previously, the old station provided D&I to some 35,000 acres of rice lands.

The project started in 2006 and includes the supply, installation and commissioning of four pumps, discharging at a rate of 45,000 gallons of water per minute.

West Demerara sugar estates to be revitalised

Plans are afoot to revitalise the West Demerara sugar estates in keeping with government’s ongoing investment to modernise and improve the competitiveness of the industry, and in this regard workers are being urged to embrace and support these efforts.

This point was emphasised by Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, during his address to field and office workers and representatives from the various workers’ unions at a meeting held on May 19 at the Uitvlugt Community Centre, West Coast Demerara. Workers were informed that contrary to suggestions, by some individuals and international agencies that provide support to the industry to reduce the number of sugar estates as efforts continue to sustain the sector, the government has maintained its position to continue the operation of all eight estates.

They were also informed that investments will be made to revitalise the West Demerara estates while changes will be made at the management and other levels to ensure efficient operations. The minister said the workers must remain vigilant to ensure that the systems which are being implemented are effective, the benefits of which would be seen in the long-term.

With regard to workers’ welfare, it was highlighted that the Guyana Sugar Corporation spends approximately 51 percent of its earnings on wages and salaries. Also, some of the benefits such as tax allowances that sugar workers enjoy are not given to many other public servants.

It was pointed out that although there is a long-term viability for investing in sugar, it is recognised that there will be many difficulties such as the price cuts, adjustment to the marketing arrangement with Europe and climate change.

Several developmental projects ongoing in Region Two

Several major activities are at present ongoing in Region Two, (Pomeroon/Supenaam), as the government pushes to ensure the living standards of the people in this region are enhanced tremendously.

The Amerindian community of Capoey has received from the Prime Minister’s Office 62 solar panels which are now providing the residents with electricity for the first time.

Their installation has raised the living standard of the residents tremendously, as with the availability of electricity, persons are now engaged in small businesses, some persons are now making furniture which has enhanced the potential of employment and the general productivity has improved.

The government also works towards ensuring persons in remote areas benefit from its health services and educational programmes and facilities. All nine Amerindian communities in Region Two have at their disposal health posts and schools.

The housing programme in the region has also catered for persons from Amerindian communities as several new housing schemes were constructed and many persons have left the riverine areas and moved to Charity and other housing schemes.

Village grants propelling Amerindian development

Emphasis continues to be placed on the distribution of village grants to Amerindian communities by the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs which has disbursed his year G$22.2 million to ensure the living standards of Amerindians are raised and they are integrated into society like all other Guyanese.

One hundred and thirty nine communities were identified for the grants of which 95 have already submitted their proposals. Thirty-eight communities are in the process of executing their projects. Due to the size and population of each community they will receive varying amounts.

The executed ventures are successful and fruitful for the respective communities; Kabakaburi in Region Two has established a village shop and is in the process of building a guest house.

In the area of building capacity for residents, Wiruni along the Berbice River in Region Ten has developed a skills training programme in furniture and craft-making. The community has purchased a generator at a cost of $500,000 to power the Wiruni multi-purpose building.

Toshao of Wiruni Rohan Fredrick said wood-working will be one of the activities to receive focus because the community produces its own lumber and many of the residents are skilled in craft-making.

Many electrical tools have already been bought and the craft products will be sold to provide a livelihood for the residents.

Difficult terrain and demand for community development officers in the regions have been attributed as negative factors affecting some communities handing in their projects.

Fact-finding trip by US tour operator reveals Guyana’s beauty

“Opportunities to access the forest canopy are always valuable and sought after by birders,” said Narca Moore-Craig, “and Guyana has a world-class canopy walkway at Atta Rainforest Camp.”

Ms. Moore-Craig, along with her husband and two friends, was in Guyana in March as part of a fact-finding trip for the tour operator, Naturalist Journeys.

The trip was the second to Guyana for Ms. Moore-Craig; her first visit was last November when she came as part of a Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) – United States Agency for International Development (USAID)/Guyana Trade and Investment Support (GTIS) project Birding Tourism Programme familiarisation tour, organised by Judy Karwacki of Small Planet Consulting and Tony Thorne of Wilderness Explorers.

From March 2-17, the four biologists were in Guyana to experience a variety of the country’s tourism offerings, including bird and butterfly watching, wildlife spotting and community tourism.

While in Guyana they visited Georgetown, the Iwokrama canopy walkway and field station, and Surama Village.

Ms. Moore-Craig said the purpose of her recent trip was to, “gain more experience with Guyana’s habitats and birds, and to learn about additional excursions which might be worked into trips.”

She added that Naturalist Journeys is planning on bringing a group to Guyana in the spring of 2009.

She reported that some exciting birds that they spotted included the “crimson fruitcrow”, “pompadour cotinga”, “Guianan cock-of-the-rock”, “white-winged potoo” and “raquet-tailed coquette; mammals included “tayra” and many monkeys.

The butterfly enthusiasts on the trip were excited to see the “exquisitely beautiful” Helicopis genus at the Georgetown Botanical Garden and at the Iwokrama field station.

In speaking about the Birding Tourism Programme, Moore-Craig said it, “brought Guyana to the foreground as a destination for [Naturalist Journeys]. Otherwise, we likely wouldn’t have organised a tour here until some years later.”

Moore-Craig’s recommendations for tourism in Guyana was to, “focus on the larger natural history market as well. And of course, preserving the integrity of the forest is essential to maintaining ecotourism.”

And she added encouragingly, “Guyana seems to be headed in a good direction on that score, better than many countries.”

Input such as this from tour operators and media who have visited through the GTA-USAID/GTIS programme in the past two years show that Guyana provides an excellent product-market match for several other sustainable nature and cultural tourism markets.

To this end, GTA-USAID/GTIS is expanding its focus to several niche sustainable tourism markets; namely, nature and wildlife viewing, eco-indigenous tourism, and volunteer conservation tourism. The primary draw for all of these markets is the opportunity to experience Guyana’s untouched and expansive rainforests.

To reflect the move into this new and exciting phase, GTIS has renamed the birding tourism programme to the Guyana Sustainable Tourism Initiative (GSTI). The GSTI is receiving support from GTIS, a joint project of the Government of Guyana and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). For more information, visit

Updating MPs on EPA

Minister of Foreign Trade and International Co-operation, Dr Henry Jeffrey, on May 22 updated the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Foreign Relations on the current situation with the European Union/CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

Parliamentarians on the Committee were given a background to the development of the agreement and the implementation process and the consequences if the region had opted out of the agreement.

In comments after the presentation, People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Member of Parliament Winston Murray, said his party agreed that the government did its best in the situation for the good of all the people of Guyana.

He, however, questioned the advantages and or disadvantages of duty-free, quota-free access for Guyana’s rice and sugar to the European markets and its effects on trade.

Minister Jeffrey advised that the major disadvantage is that local farmers will be competing with farmers from developed countries for market access while they will be able to provide any quantity they supply once the demand exists.

The Economic Partnership Agreement between the European Union and the CARIFORUM countries was finalised on December 16.

It caters for the liberalisation of 92 percent of bilateral trade to Europe from the region while giving Europe access to 87 percent of the region’s market.

The agreement will see the phased implementation of duty free quota, free trade in agreed goods and services between CARIFORUM and European countries over a 25 year period.

News Briefs

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

Compiled and edited by Evangeline Ishmael

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