Guyana Diary

May 2010

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

On the Internet:

Posted May 2010 - Issue No. 76 - Back to Embassy page

Previous Guyana Diaries are available here.

IMF consultation report on Guyana

On March 17, 2010, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the Article IV consultation with Guyana.

In its report, it stated, inter alia:

Guyana has weathered the impact of the global crisis well by regional and global standards. Newly released GDP series (re-based to 2006 prices) suggest that economic activity expanded by 3.3 percent in 2009, compared to 2 percent in 2008, largely on the back of a recovery in agriculture in the second half of the year along with continued strong gold production and robust activity in the non-tradable sector. This mitigated the adverse impact of global and weather shocks on output in early 2009. End-year inflation fell to 3.6 percent from 6.4 percent as of end-2008, reflecting the softening in world commodity prices.

In 2009, the external current account deficit narrowed, and the international reserve position strengthened significantly. The current account deficit declined by 5 percent of GDP (to 8.5 percent of GDP), largely led by a reduction in imports, particularly of fuel. This, together with strong official inflows (including concessional loans and grants, and the Fund’s Special Drawing Rights allocation) and steady short-term capital inflows by commercial banks—attracted to higher domestic interest rates—helped offset a decline in Foreign Direct Investment and raised Guyana’s gross international reserves to US$623 million by end-year (over 5 months of imports).

The nominal exchange rate remained stable, and the real effective exchange rate is assessed to be broadly in equilibrium. The impact of the crisis on the financial sector has been limited so far, although expansion in private sector credit has moderated to about 6 percent in 2009 (down from nearly 22 percent in 2008), reflecting both a deceleration in private sector credit demand, as well as tighter lending standards by the banking sector.

Macroeconomic policies have remained prudent. Monetary policy tightened somewhat in 2009, supporting the decline in inflation and external stability. The fiscal deficit for the non-financial public sector declined to 3.3 percent of GDP (equivalent to 5.3 percent of old GDP) from 4.7 percent of GDP in 2008, on the back of higher-than-expected revenues that supported the full execution of priority spending, including on infrastructure. Guyana’s public debt has fallen from 93.1 percent of GDP as of end-2006 to 56.8 percent of GDP in 2009, assisted by debt relief operations and fiscal consolidation efforts.

Structural reform has continued to focus on further reducing vulnerabilities and entrenching long term growth. On the financial sector, the authorities have consolidated insurance and bank supervision at the central bank, incorporated risk-based supervision, issued new guidelines on risk management and enacted the Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism legislation and the Money Transfer Agencies Act. In the fiscal area, a modern chart of accounts for capital expenditure has been introduced into the integrated financial management system, enhancing the accounting and transparency of public investment. Efforts to further strengthen the Guyana Revenue Authority also continued, including consolidating the new functional organisation, completing the rolling out of the integrated tax information system, and improvements in the filing, refund, arrears collection and audit functions.

Reforms to support growth centred on modernising the sugar sector, and on implementing the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), which could help Guyana benefit from external resources in exchange for the preservation of its rainforests in the world’s carbon credit markets—including through a model agreement signed with Norway, whose resources will allow, among others, the development of non-traditional economic sectors and the conversion of Guyana’s energy sector.

Guyana’s outlook remains positive in the near and medium term, although some important challenges remain. Growth is expected to benefit from the global recovery, the modernisation of the sugar sector and the start up of investment projects, which could spur average growth to 4-5 percent in the medium term.

The current account would widen somewhat in 2010 with the uptick in domestic demand and the increase in fuel prices, but would narrow gradually over time. Nonetheless, challenges remain, particularly if the upturn in world economic activity were slower than envisaged; or if oil prices were to rise more sharply than projected. Slower progress than expected with the modernisation of the sugar sector could also complicate this outlook, particularly in light of the recent phasing out of the preferential sugar prices by the EU, which will increasingly expose Guyana to world-price volatility. Upside potential is related to the full implementation of the LCDS, the eventual exploitation of Guyana’s oil reserves and the sound completion of key large public-private investment projects over the next few years.

Dr. Norman Girvan appointed as UN Good Officer

Developments in Guyana’s foreign relations continue to move in a positive direction as the Office of the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon on April 22 announced the appointment of Professor Norman Girvan as his personal representative and Good Officer to assist Guyana and Venezuela in the border issue.

Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Ministry stated that this appointment is a critical part of the search to find a practical settlement of the issue that emerged from the Venezuelan position that the Arbitral Award of October 3, 1899, which definitively established the territorial boundary between Guyana and Venezuela, is null and void.

The Ministry stated that Government welcomes the appointment, “which would now enable Guyana and Venezuela to resuscitate discussions under the Good Offices of the United Nations.”

A series of coordinated efforts facilitated the appointment, which was stepped up in 2009 when the foreign ministers of Guyana and Venezuela agreed to jointly meet with the Secretary General on this matter during the official visit of Guyana’s foreign minister to Caracas on July 11, 2009.

Ministers Rodrigues-Birkett and Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela met with the Secretary General in New York in October 2009, to seek the resuscitation of the Good Offices process through the appointment of a personal representative. The position was vacant because of the death, in January 2007 of Oliver Jackman who served in that capacity from October 1999 to January 2007.

The announcement of the appointment of Professor Girvan is an outcome of that meeting, and effectively brings to the mediation table the expertise of an internationally renowned Caribbean economist, academic and international civil servant, who also possesses valuable experience as a former Secretary General of the Association of Caribbean States.

Way cleared for increased Guyana-Brazil trade

The governments of Guyana and Brazil concluded a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in the area of phytosanitary security for agricultural produce on April 26 at the Caricom / Brazil Summit in Brasilia.

The MOU is crafted to promote bilateral communication and co-operation in the phytosanitary area, especially as it refers to products of vegetable origin and seeks to protect human, animal and plant health.

Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud who was part of the Guyana delegation headed by President Bharrat Jagdeo, highlighted the existing partial scope agreement allowing for trade between the two countries. He further indicated that for trade to occur, it was necessary for a number of arrangements to be in place, including those in sanitary and phytosanitary areas.

Guyana will now be able to increase and expedite formal agricultural trade with Brazil with regards to the country’s long-term plans for development of the Rupununi in Region 9 as a major area for food production with rice, soya and corn being primary products for trade.

Additionally, other products like rice, sugar, fruits and vegetables will also be traded between the two countries. The MOU will also allow this company to commence operations. The Ministry of Agriculture has already identified the area and concluded an interim investment with the company.

New Essequibo stelling to open this month

The new ferry stelling at Good Hope, on Essequibo Coast, built under the government’s Community Services Enhancement Programme (CSEP), is to become operational this month. All modifications to the building have been completed and only furnishing remains to be done.

The works on the pier entailed constructing and installing of a steel stage to allow for easy offloading from the section designed to facilitate side docking. Assistance was also sought from the management of Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB) to adjust the buoyancy of the floating pontoon, following a test run with a laden lorry that weighed 18 tonnes, four tonnes below the maximum weight permitted,

The G$547 million Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) funded project, which is slated to reduce travelling from East Bank Essequibo to Essequibo Coast by at least 90 minutes, was specifically to afford mooring by new, roll-on roll-off ferry vessels being built in China.

The Good Hope wharf, which extends 400 feet into Essequibo River, consists of a reinforced concrete frame supported on land by 50 timber piles.

It was constructed by BK International Inc for ferry boats which ply the Parika/Adventure route and transport produce and goods, as well.

Interventions to save crops and livestock

Many parts of Guyana have been experiencing 50 to 60 per cent below the long term average rainfall, due to the El Nino phenomenon which has resulted in the need to conserve valuable water resources for irrigation of agriculture crops and livestock and domestic usage.

The Ministry of Agriculture said that the affected areas represent a major segment of the agriculture sector, including rice and other crops. It indicated that farmers, most operating at subsistence and small scale levels, have benefited in all ten administrative regions. The beneficiaries comprise some 4,000 farmers who were provided livestock supplies and planting materials while 566 acres in the backlands were cleared and ploughed.

The Ministry said, through the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA), 20,000 acres of agricultural lands were irrigated when four tubes were installed to tap water from Lima Sands in Region Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam).

In Region Three (West Demerara/Essequibo Islands), a number of irrigation canals were excavated to meet the needs of farmers, and water was pumped from Bonasika Creek into Boeraserie Conservancy. A regulator was also installed at Two Mouth, Boeraserie Conservancy and a pump was put there to make water flow from a higher level downstream. In addition, thirty-three holding ponds were excavated in Leguan to provide water for cattle.

In Region Four (Demerara/Mahaica), water was pumped from the Mahaica River into the East Demerara Water Conservancy to sustain the integrity of the dams and provide water to the sugar estates in order to ensure sustainability of the crop.

In Region Five (Mahaica/Berbice), $15 million was expended on the digging of an irrigation canal which would aid in sourcing fresh water from upstream of the Mahaica River, and a four miles long canal was excavated to make water available for cattle.

For Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne), a number of irrigation pumps were placed in key places, such as Sandaka, Manarabisi and Black Bush Polder, while two are used to re-circulate and supplement for the same purpose, by pumping upstream of the Corentyne River.

Works were executed, as well, in Region 10 (Upper Demerara/Berbice) and at some hinterland locations. For example, in Region One (Barima/Waini), the Ministry assisted with the provision of tanks and water pumps and transporting water to affected residents. Planting and feeding materials, agro-chemicals and supplements were given to farmers. They also received breeding animals and equipment (cassava mills and presses) to sustain livelihoods in the communities.

In Region Seven (Cuyuni/Mazaruni), holistic training was conducted for farmers in apiculture and hives were given to them. Knapsack sprayers, bumba pumps, agro-chemicals, mist blowers, ant bait and water pumps were handed out, and a pasture for goats is to be developed.

Region Eight (Potaro/Siparuni) also obtained bumba pumps, agro-chemicals, mist blowers, an bait and an electric generator, and a drip irrigation farm will be established.

In Region Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo), significant quantities of supplies were distributed, including knap snack sprayers and agro-chemicals, bumba pumps, storage tanks and critical planting materials which are needed for the revitalisation of farmlands.

$300M to maintain Linden-Lethem road

Some $300 million will be spent this year on repairing and maintaining the road from Wismar in Linden to Lethem in the Rupununi. The money is to be used for rehabilitating bridges and culverts, improving the road surface in specific areas and clearing the shoulders to enhance sight distance along the 350 miles-long route.

The increased and intensified programme is a result of the greater volume of traffic on the roadway since the opening of the Takutu River Bridge, at the border with Brazil. Traffic signs in Portuguese and English have already been placed all along the way, indicating blind corners, narrow bridges, right or left directions, speed limits and distances.

But the major part of the maintenance and upgrading works, that begun in March, is the strengthening of the weight bearing capacity of the 52 wooden bridges and 121 culverts. The Ministry of Works is planning to change some of the wooden bridges and culverts into concrete structures within the framework of budgetary allocations.

The replacing of the 168 feet long wooden bridge at Pirara, also in Rupununi, with a concrete structure is also one project definitely on stream. That overpass is 30 feet above ground and a design for the replacement has been crafted for construction to start later this year.

More rice being exported to Venezuela

A purchase order for another shipment of rice Guyana to Venezuela was signed by the governments of Guyana and Venezuela on April 22. The agreement signed in Venezuela by the Guyana Rice Development Board’s General Manager, Jagnarine Singh, and Venezuelan government officials is aimed at expanding and diversifying local markets while providing more opportunities for farmers.

The rice purchase agreement stemmed from a historic trade deal between Venezuela and Guyana for the procurement of rice, and has created a market of 10,000 tonnes of paddy and 40,000 tonnes of white rice to be exported to the neighbouring country.

The trade agreement, which was reached in October last, saw its first shipment of 5,000 tonnes of paddy being sent off to Venezuela in December of last year. The deal is worth G$3.7 billion. Venezuela is paying US$330 and US$500 per metric tonne for paddy and white rice respectively.

Exportation is of great importance to the agriculture sector since it is the Ministry’s approach to diversify markets, allowing farmers to benefit from better prices and timely payment. With the government’s continued support, rice production and export have increased significantly. This has resulted from both expansion of the areas cultivated and increases in yield

“Champion of the Earth” Award for President Jagdeo

President Bharrat Jagdeo, has been awarded the 2010 Champions of the Earth Award by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). President Jagdeo received the prestigious award for his outstanding international leadership on combating climate change and his pioneering model on low carbon economic development.

The award was presented to the president at the 4th Annual Business for Environment (B4E) Global Summit and UNEP Champions of the Earth gala awards event in Seoul, South Korea yesterday.

In presenting the prestigious award, UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Environmental Programme Executive Director Achim Steiner, stated that, “President Jagdeo is a powerful advocate of the need to conserve and more intelligently manage the planet’s natural and nature-based assets. He has recognised more than most the multiple green economy benefits of forests in terms of combating climate change, (and) also in terms of development, employment, improved water supplies, and the conservation of biodiversity.”

According to the UNEP, the award is given to “people and organisations truly distinguished when it comes to making a real difference in protecting the planet earth”. UNEP’s Champions of the Earth Awards honours the “best and brightest as they strive to take action for our planet through their visionary thinking, unwavering dedication and committed action towards the sustainable use of the planet’s resources for global green growth.”

President Jagdeo has stated that his US$40,000 prize money will be donated to Amerindian communities in Guyana.

Guyana met all REDD+ targets in 2009

The first Annual Progress Report on REDD+ enablers under the Guyana-Norway forest protection agreement was recently released and the Norwegian Ministry of the Environment has since invited tenders for the verification of these enabling activities.

The report states that, to date, Guyana has met all its targets under the agreement and has reached all the benchmarks that should have been met by December 31, 2009.

Guyana and Norway had in November signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), agreeing that Oslo would pay US$30 million ($6.2 billion) this year and potentially up to a total of US$250 million ($51.7 billion) by 2015 for this country to preserve its forests. Under the partnership, Guyana will accelerate its efforts to limit forest-based greenhouse gas emissions and protect its rainforest as an asset for the world. Norway will provide financial support to Guyana at a level based on this country’s success in limiting emissions.

The Guyana-Norway Joint Concept Note (JCN) describes a set of enabling activities which have to be satisfactorily executed in order to initiate results-based financial support from Norway. This verification process will take place for the first time this year and will be conducted annually. In order to enable Norwegian financial support for 2010, the satisfactory execution of the enabling activities, as described in the JCN, has to be verified.

In the Progress Report, the Guyana government provided an update on what has been achieved up to the end of 2009, in relation to its commitment under the MOU. In addition, the report provides updates on progress in the general areas of the MOU and accompanying JCN. The activities that Guyana agreed to initiate by the end of 2009 were: preparation of an outline of Guyana’s REDD+ governance plan; commencement of work to develop a monitoring, reporting and verification system; establishment of a project management office and an Office of Climate Change; activation of the multi-stakeholder process; ensuring that an annual verification by neutral experts that the REDD+ enabling activities are completed; ensuring that an annual assessment by neutral experts of the maximum amount due to Guyana according to the REDD+ governance plan; establishment of a system for independent forest monitoring; engaging with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and European Union Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade body; and establishment of the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund.

Sexual Offence Bill approved by National Assembly

Sexual legislation reform was unanimously passed in the National Assembly on April 22, almost three years after countrywide consultations on the laws, which were previously criticised for being archaic and failing to protect victims.

The legislation offers a comprehensive overhaul of the laws and includes a string of new offences that were tabled to expand protection, particularly for young children. The reform is wide-ranging, and at the same time definitively spells out the rights of victims of sexual abuse—raising much needed awareness. It mentions, too, the establishment of a National Task Force for Prevention of Sexual Violence to address implementation.

The Sexual Offences Bill was at a Select Committee since August 2009 and was passed with added amendments – new provisions which Human Services Minister Priya Manickchand, who piloted the legislation through Parliament, called timely and critical. She said women and children in Guyana have waited long enough and charged that every Member of Parliament is obligated to get the word out that the laws have been reformed.

Opposition speakers, who vigorously endorsed the bill, hailed Manickchand for a consultative process, which they said demonstrated how a democratic society functions.

The new legislation includes many reforms. One of the more critical aspects of the bill is that it has made the criminal offence of rape gender-neutral, to include sexual assault on boys and men, bringing the offence of rape in line with reform around the world and therefore maximising protection by widening the definition. The legislation also says that a person commits the offence of rape if that person engages in sexual penetration with another person (the complainant) or causes the complainant to engage in sexual penetration with a third person. It is also rape if the complainant does not consent to the penetration, and if the accused does not reasonably believe that the complainant consents.

The law also states that a husband can be accused of sexually assaulting his wife because she is now recognised as having to consent. Previously, a husband could not be found guilty of raping his wife.

Mexico grants 18 scholarships to Guyanese

Mexican Ambassador to Guyana, Fernando Sandoval Flores on April 16 announced that 30 percent of the 50 bicentennial scholarships for professional technicians offered to the Caribbean Community (Caricom) by the Mexican Government will be awarded to Guyanese, and indicated that the same amount could be expected next year.

Flores noted that awardees will benefit from the full scholarship package that entails waivered enrolment fees, a monthly allowance of US$400, a four-month Spanish course prior to the beginning of the studies, full medical insurance coverage from the Mexican Social Security Institute, and international air transportation at the beginning and end of the scholarship.

Additionally, the Guyana Government will be providing a monthly stipend of US$75 as well as travelling expenses in the event of an emergency such as the death of a parent or guardian.

The ambassador added that students who accept the technical scholarships will travel to Mexico shortly to participate in the Spanish course. The professional technical programme on the other hand, will run for duration of three years at the National School of Professional Technical Education, an institute associated with the Ministry of Public Education in Mexico.

He said that the Mexican Government is trying its best with its available resources to offer these opportunities to Guyanese in an effort to foster closer relations with Guyana and the wider Caribbean.

The scholarships were initiated in commemoration of the 200 years of Independence and 100 years of the Mexican Revolution.

News Briefs

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

Compiled and edited by Evangeline Ishmael

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