Month: March 2019

18 Mar
By: Tanika Jones 0

Minister Jordan’s Speech at the High Level Workshop on Achieving Performance Targets

Guyana’s Voluntary National Review
To Be Presented At The
2019 High Level Political Forum
March18, 2019– Arthur Chung Convention Centre

Keynote Address
by
Hon. Winston Jordan, Minister of Finance

Honourable Colleagues – Vice-Presidents, Ministers of Government, Permanent Secretaries and senior officials and functionaries of Government, members of the media.

Good morning!

Your presence here this morning is evidence of your interest in today’s engagement. Notwithstanding, I would contextualise this session because, all of us in this room need to appreciate the seriousness of what we are attempting to achieve. Whilst today’s event focuses on our preparedness to undertake a Voluntary National Review, or VNR, of the progress we have made towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, I wish to reflect on our own national development goals.

As you know, this administration recognized the need for a clear vision and a national development plan to be in place.  A vision was articulated by HE President David Granger, for the development of a green economy and, to that end, consultations were held over the last 12 months, across the ten administrative regions of our country, to solicit feedback on the framework of the Green State Development Strategy – Vision 2040. The Strategy is nearing completion, after undergoing substantial analytical work and wide multi-stakeholder consultations, which included drawing from the work of seven thematic groups, compromising a blend of government, private sector and civil society persons. Vision 2040 sets the national priorities and development objectives for us, as a nation, for the next twenty years. Having signed on to United Nation’s Agenda 2030, or the Sustainable Development Goals, as we know it, since 2015, it was no surprise that we have aligned or localised the SDGs within Vision 2040. This means that the implementation of Vision 2040, through your national and sectoral programmes and projects, would be geared towards achieving national priorities, which include the nationally-prioritised targets within the SDGs.

The chosen theme for the July 2019 High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development and this round of VNRs is “Empowering People and Ensuring Inclusiveness and Equality”, which brings Goal 4, Ensure Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education and Promote Lifelong Learning For All4 sharply into focus. Here at home, this means that the primary school child in Whitewater Primary, in Region 1, should be afforded the same essential inputs towards quality of education as the child from a primary school on the coast.  Here, I am speaking of, for example access to workbooks, text books and trained teachers must be the same for the Whitewater Primary students, if we are to truly remove inequalities and improve the quality of education services that our national education system delivers to children. Only then will be assured of a cadre of lifelong learners capable of being transformed into engineers, scientists, data analysts, doctors, agronomists and entrepreneurs-just to name a few specialist skills– and, in the process, positively transform our national development.

Indeed, it was a young, but well-known Malala Yousafzai, who stated “All the SDGs come down to education…” While that may be debatable, all will agree with the iconic Nelson Mandela’s “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

And change our world for the better we must.

Importantly, given the interconnectedness of the goals within any development framework, a multi-agency collaboration is required for the achievement of the SDGs. While we invest in the inputs of schools – dormitories, blackboards, white boards, books and trained teachers – we must ensure, equally, that our children are receiving the nutrition and health care they need to thrive; that the infrastructure to ensure they can access both schools and health facilities is available; that economic activities do not threaten sustainable communities and family structures; and that necessary laws are in place and enforced to ensure their safety and security.  In short, a holistic approach is mandatory, if we are to achieve our national and international commitments.

Over the course of my over four decades of working life, most of which have been in government, I have observed that the approaches adopted to achieve the national development priorities of our country have, in many instances, suffered from several gaps of evidence-based decision-making. Proposals are made for capital investments without thought about cost of maintenance; projects are proposed for implementation without the benefit of feasibility studies; people are trained for job readiness and then money is requested to train more without understanding if those trained previously were actually in jobs. Should we undertake reforms without diagnosing what is causing the problems? I should think not!! But, to diagnose, we must gather data and analyse what information is presented. And the analysis that is required must be based on facts and evidence, not mere conjecture, opinions, feelings and beliefs. And facts are supported by evidence, which is often based on data. Having diagnosed the problem and identified the intervention, what is the plan to MEASURE whether or not it has had the intended output or outcome or impact?

At the national level, we have long adopted programme budgeting techniques, and over the last eight years, we have focused on strengthening our ability to measure performance.  This has resulted in the government training over 1000 officials in Central Government in basic monitoring and evaluation (M&E), to ensure that capacity is built across sectors and administrative regions. Ultimately, if we are not measuring, then we are unable to factually determine what is being achieved and what is not.

We strive within the public sector to deliver services more effectively and timely: in education, we strive to produce quality students who are lifelong learners who are able to contribute creatively and innovatively to the national development agenda; in health, we work to ensure that diseases are prevented and/or controlled; in infrastructure, we aim to design buildings, roads and bridges that will last for decades;, and, in our legal and judicial systems, we establish laws and regulations that we anticipate, when enforced, will contribute to a well-governed society. But, how do we measure whether we are achieving these noble intentions? How do we hold ourselves accountable for the developmental commitments that we make nationally, regionally and globally?

The answer is: We measure them!

At the national level, we identify the goals and objectives and indicators just as we do at the global level. In the former case, they are the national programme performance indicators and, in the latter case, they are the sustainable development goals and the relevant indicators, consistent with our national development priorities.

Assessment of performance is not possible without DATA. We would be doing lip service to these commitments, if we did not take the necessary actions to ensure that we are collecting and analyzing the necessary data. Too much is at stake if there is no measurement.  The survival of our country and the development of our planet are at stake. Thus, to wander in a fog of ignorance is simply not an option.

As Minister of Finance, I have made it one of my core priorities,the improvement of national data systems.  This is an important development, especially at this time, as we enter the ‘silly season’, more familiarly known as the Elections period, when all kinds of questionable data and ‘facts’ and unsupported statements are spewed by politicians. Supporting the Bureau of Statistics in finally having its own headquarters to house its core divisions, and improving staff capacity, even as we seek international support to strengthen data collection systems, have been among our successes. Even as I speak, personnel the Caribbean Technical Assistance Center (CARTAC)are Guyana supporting our efforts to rebase the gross domestic product (GDP), in light of our evolving production profile. Data gathering across all segments of the private sector producing goods or services is critical to the success and accuracy of this exercise. Several of the indicators within the national and SDG framework are expressed as a percentage of GDP or per capita GDP. If our GDP is understated, then our ratios would be incorrect and give a misleading picture of the national position. Information from our national census, MICs report, labour force surveys, and the upcoming agriculture census,  to name a few, all provide key demographic data and other details that permit assessments of levels of inequality, poverty reduction, and other key socio economic indicators.

Just as we reported on the progress made on our commitments to the MDGs, so too we will do for those relevant targets of the SDGs. This time, however, we must aim to be more fulsome in our work and recognize that the national performance is what will drive sustainable development in our country. So I would expect that the level of energy and dedication that we put in completing this progress report would be multiplied across each of our ten regions, to ensure that sustainable development is indeed taking place in all across the country.

Once the data has been analysed, it is the practical work on the ground to change lives across every sector working collaboratively that will ensure sustainability of our development gains.  The very near future brings a new source of revenue, but it is a finite source. It behooves us, therefore, to ensure that we diversify the non-petroleum sectors of our country could.

Committing to a Voluntary National Review is committing to more than just gathering data.It is the analysis of the data and the policy and programmatic discussions that must occur because it is from those that will emerge improved strategic approaches to achieve the timelines that we have agreed. Introspective conversations and constructive criticism must be incorporated; these must be based on evidence about whether we are truly achieving our development objectives.

Ladies and gentlemen, for those of you who are managers of departments, programme and agency indicators are extremely important. Indicators allow you to measure your progress towards achieving a particular target or goal. They allow you to determine value for the money spent. They allow you to determine where your weaknesses are and where additional or dedicated support is required. This is not just to help you to perform better, but to ensure and validate that your agency is delivering its mandated services, to its target population, in the most effective manner. For instance, the data that is reported on maternal mortality is absolutely critical to ensuring that we address the needs of mothers, so that, one day, no mother will ever be lost during child-birth. The data on this indicator, when disaggregated, will allow us to deliver targeted interventions to the most distressed regions, and will also allow us to remedy deficiencies in our systems and institutions. Maintaining strong data systems will enable us to measure our progress towards the achievement of planned results and reporting on them, at the national and international level.

The Ministry of Finance will continue to spearhead the coordination of national performance assessments, as we did for the MDGs, in the past and for the SDGs, going forward. We will continue to provide training and capacity building to ensure a ‘whole of government’ capability is developed. We have consistently, over the years, highlighted the need for costed sectoral plans and data development systems. Since 2016, we have encouraged Budget Agencies to begin incorporating the SDGS within their sectoral strategic plans and programmes. We have emphasised the multi-sectoral nature of the development and the SDGs, and the need for collaboration across agencies and sectors. In the Budget Circular for 2017, the monitoring of the SDGs was further

institutionalised by its inclusion in the text of the Budget Circular. Further, the budget process requires that all Budget Agencies account for the relevant SDGs in their presentations at the Budget Hearings. In 2018, the Ministry of Finance advanced the process through the conduct of a mapping exercise to help agencies identify which specific targets within each SDG could be their responsibility. This was done to accelerate the localisation of the SDGs.

We had requested Budget Agencies to submit, by the end of January 2019, the indicators that they are utilising to measure their progress towards meeting the SDG target. This did not happen in a timely manner and, in some cases, not at all; hence the need for this workshop, today, which follows several outreach sessions last week to support agencies in the completion of this task. Colleagues, I will be frank with you: The submissions thus far are varied in quality. Through the working sessions, today, on selected goals, we hope to advance the data collection process further, to put us in a better position to undertake our Voluntary National Review, for which the final draft has to be completed by the end of May 2019.

Colleagues, Permanent Secretaries, Programme Managers and Officers, as I conclude my address, I wish to thank you for  responding to my request to be here, and I anticipate that today’s proceedings will deliver the outputs that will enable us to not only accelerate the preparation of Guyana’s VNR, but, more importantly, the strengthening of our data systems so that our national performance commitments,  including the SDGs, are measured and we are able to hold our sectors accountable for delivering the services that we are all charged to so do.

 

I wish you productive discussions today.  Please recall that it is the progress that we are able to measure on the ground that will be captured in any report. The task of national development is before all of us.  May we all rise to the occasion of delivering the Good Life to all the people of this beautiful Land of ours.

 

Thank you!

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15 Mar
By: Tanika Jones 0

Minister Jordan delivers remarks at signing of MOU between Guyana and Barbados Stock Exchanges

Address by Hon Winston Jordan
Minister of Finance

Mr. Chairman
Hon Minister of Business Mr. Dominic Gaskin
Mr. Nikhil Ramkarran          Chairman of GASCI
Mr. George Edwards            General Manger of GASCI
Mr. Marlon Yarde              Managing Director, Barbados Stock Exchange
Representatives of the Media
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

Good afternoon

Let me begin by saying that I am very happy to be here today to witness the signing of this Memorandum of Cooperation between the Barbados Stock Exchange and Guyana Association of Securities and Intermediaries Inc. (GASCI). Facilitating the growth of securitized financing in Guyana as well as strengthening the banking system has featured prominently in our economic development. There is general recognition of their central role in ensuring adequate financing for growing enterprises and in promoting domestic investment and wealth creation.

I still recall our early attempts to establish a stock exchange in Guyana, in the 1980s. As things stand, we were the last of the territories in the CARICOM grouping to set up a stock exchange. I believe that it was not until June 30, 2003 that trading began on the Guyana Stock Exchange. In spite of the passage of time, the arrangement is still primitive, by Caribbean standards, with trading being done weekly, via word of mouth on the trading floor, supported by an electronic limit order book.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the swift advancement in technology and globalization has impacted the manner in which stock markets, globally, conduct business. Cross- border listing, which has proven to have many advantages, has now become a common practice in many stock markets. In the case of the Guyana Stock Exchange, Trinidad Cement Limited became the first to do so, in January 2007. And so, today, I am happy to witness an attempt at the integration and expansion of Guyana’s stock exchange, and I want to congratulate GASCI for taking this step.

As a Government, we have been placing much emphasis on financial sector reform and development, and we have been addressing the issue in a holistic manner, to ensure that a diverse financial system is established – one that includes a capital market and a banking sector that is efficient, stable and equipped to respond to shocks. It is in this context that we have recently enacted legislation and amended existing laws to strengthen the Bank of Guyana, as the regulatory authority for the commercial banks and the non- bank financial institutions. In the same vein, while measures in support of the development of the local stock market are already in place – for example, the exemption of dividends from withholding tax – the Government has received support from the Commonwealth Secretariat to re-write the Securities Industry Act of 1998. This Act governs the operations of Guyana Securities Council, which regulates the Capital Market in Guyana. The draft bill and accompanying regulations have been with the Attorney General Chambers for final review, for some time now, and we expect that these can be finalized and presented to the National Assembly for passage, before the end of 2019.

The idea of re-writing the existing laws stemmed from the need to ensure that the capital market operates in a fair and efficient manner, with minimum systemic risks and a high level of protection for investors. The new law is consistent with international best practices, including the principles adopted by the International Organization of Securities Commissions and the CARICOM Model Securities Legislation. It provides a modern and robust framework for the development and operation of the Securities sector, and puts greater emphasis on oversight and supervision, reduction of systemic risks and financial stability.

I must add, ladies and gentlemen that, as part of the overhaul and strengthening of the financial architecture, the World Bank is currently providing financial and technical assistance to the Government of Guyana to implement a modern and electronic Payment System. Two key deliverables of this Project are a Real-Time Gross Settlement System, and a Central Securities Depository for electronic record keeping and electronic settlement of securities. These features will reduce transaction time; reduce the risks involved in the trading of securities; and make trading more convenient for all market participants. An electronic payment mechanism will be new to Guyana, but I have noticed that the Barbados Stock Exchange has been operating under a fully electronic trading regime since 2001. This, to my mind, provides an opportunity for Guyana to learn from Barbados’ experience.

Ladies and gentlemen, the impressive developments in the petroleum sector and the expectation of first oil in early 2020 – there is talk that this timetable could be advanced to the last quarter of 2019 – set the tone for an economic transformation in Guyana. The transformation process, however, requires significant inputs from the local private sector. The Government is developing an appropriate local content mechanism; however, in order for local industries to equally participate in the provision of goods and services at all levels of the oil and gas value chain, access to affordable and adequate financing must be readily available. An efficient stock market can play a critical role in this process, by providing financing that serves as a complement to the more traditional forms such as commercial bank lending.

Another area that it is crucial to the development of our stock market is financial literacy; indeed, financial literacy is important to the proper functioning and intermediation of the financial system. There is no doubt that financially-literate businesses will choose to lower the cost of borrowing by issuing shares, and investors with a high level of financial literacy will diversify their investment portfolio by purchasing shares in profitable businesses. I therefore, urge GASCI to narrow the financial literacy deficit in Guyana, by undertaking a financial literacy programme to ensure that Guyanese in the near and far reaches of the country are made aware of the benefits of participating in the local stock market.

As CARICOM Member States, while this initiative will deepen the integration process, it will also provide other benefits for both countries. There is no doubt, ladies and gentlemen, that it will provide an expanded pool of finance for investors, and will provide the opportunity to benefit from, and be a part of, successful businesses in both jurisdictions. The issuer’s recognition can also be strengthened and the image of the company’s product enhanced in both jurisdictions.

As we seek to integrate our capital markets, we must be cognizant of the serious threat that financial crime poses to the system. As a region, we have been placing much emphasis on measures to combat all forms of illicit activities, because some of our member states are still affected by the impact of derisking and blacklisting. I, therefore urge GASCI to ensure that adequate due diligence is conducted on all market participants, so as to safeguard the integrity of the local stock exchange. I also urge the Guyana Securities Council to undertake enhanced surveillance and intensify its efforts to put mitigation measures in place.

Let me once again congratulate GASCI, for taking this bold step, which I am sure, will create a long- term relationship, and provide new prospects for business and investment opportunities in both jurisdictions.

I thank you.

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15 Mar
By: Tanika Jones 1

Minister of Finance Remarks at opening of DDL’s new warehouse

Featured Address delivered by Hon Winston Jordan
Minister of Finance
March 15, 2019

Hon Carl Greenidge, Acting Prime Minister, Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs
Hon Dominic Gaskin, Minister of Business
Members of the Diplomatic Corp
Executive Chairman and Members of the Board of Directors of DDL
Management and staff of DDL
Members of the Media
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

I am extremely pleased to be able to deliver the feature address at the opening of this new, state-of-the-art warehouse. As you know, I am doing so in the absence of HE President David Granger, who was originally invited, but who is unavoidably absent. He has asked me to deputise for him, which I consider an honour in so doing.

Please allow me to extend congratulations to the Board of Directors, Management and staff of DDL for being the visionary that is required to propel growth in Guyana. I, especially, want to recognize Mr. Komal Samaroo, one of the country’s leading businessmen, a man with a vision, following resolutely in the footsteps of his mentor, the legendary Dr Yesu Persaud, whose name is synonymous with DDL.

Komal and I go way back to our school days at Cummings Lodge Government Secondary School, a little known Junior High School nestled in the Cummings Lodge/Industry area – a stone’s throw from the University of Guyana – but which has produced the likes of myself and Komal. Both of us, indeed the thousands who have entered into, and passed through, the doors of that school, learnt the values of excellence, discipline, hard work and sacrifice. I can these values on display in today’s achievement that is being celebrated.

I believe it was last year, at the Pegasus Hotel, when I was invited by the Private Sector to one of their activities. Prior speakers were all lamenting the state of the economy, how bad things were, etc. That is, until they called upon Komal to speak. Modestly, he claimed to be not much of a speaker. But when he spoke, and what he spoke not only evoked rapt attention, but also prolonged applause. What he spoke should be guiding lessons to the private sector: where there is a will, there is an opportunity; where there is a challenge, there is a profit. If we see the glass as only being half empty, others will exploit the other full half.

Mr. Chairman, it goes without saying that our economy cannot realize its full potential without the presence of domestic companies like yours, because domestic private companies are a major driver of job creation and economic growth in any economy. I am sure that this warehouse will provide a more spacious and conducive environment for you to conduct business, as your company expands and continues to enhance the image of its products on the domestic and international markets.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, this investment is evidence of the improvement in the investment climate in Guyana. This is one of several large investments that are taking place in the country, and it is an indicator of how confident private businesses are about the state of our economy. Last year, at the time of reporting, in November, our growth rate was pegged at 3.4 percent, leading the region’s premier development bank, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to recognize Guyana as having one of the fastest growing economies. Our latest estimate of 2018’s real growth in the economy, with the benefit of near final numbers, is between 3.6 percent and 3.9 percent. The final figure will be known when the End of Year Outcome Report is completed by mid-April. Importantly, since this Government has acceded to Office, we have managed to keep the economy growing in an increasingly hostile international (de-risking, AML/CFT) and domestic (political instability, challenges experienced by the traditional growth sectors) environment. That growth has been achieved in the context of low inflation, and a manageable fiscal deficit and debt/GDP ratio.

Guyana is increasingly being seen as the “go to” destination. My recent experience at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) Convention, the largest mining convention in the world, attests to this growing recognition. There, at the Guyana Day, over 270 investors were attendance – several of whom had to be accommodated in an overflow room – expressing a deep interest in Guyana and its investment climate. Many of them were well-known names in the industry. Guyanese Ministers (2 were in attendance) and technical officials were sought after.

But let me hasten to say that this government will continue to put in place, enhanced measures to ensure adequate public infrastructure, favorable macroeconomic conditions, strengthen institutions and reduce bureaucratic red tape because we understand that these are critical conditions for a positive and dynamic business and investment climate, and we are making every effort to attract investors for investment in the different sectors of the economy. Only this morning, I was reading a report done by the IDB, which mentioned that high taxes ranks among the top detriments to private sector growth in Guyana. I am pleased to indicate that in its nearly four years, this Government has implemented a slew of tax reforms that have been comprehensive in scope and unparalleled in the history of this country for a Government at a similar stage of its political life.

Infrastructure is often cited, too, as another obstacle that stymies competitiveness in Guyana. Komal mentioned, in passing, the proposed by-pass road to be built between Ogle and Diamond. I am pleased to indicate that the Government has taken a decision to undertake a phase II, which will see a study being done to extend this road all the way to the Cheddi Jagan International Airport. The current bilateral donor of phase I is being approached to finance this second stage. The Kuwaiti Arab Fund for Economic Development (KAFED) has been approached to finance the Parika/Goshen Road. This road will eventually be extended to Monkey Jump and all the way to Bartica, thereby providing an alternative route to that important, new town. Already, KAFED recently approved a US$1.65 million grant to finance a study for the road widening between Belfield and Rosignol. And, if we need reminding, Government has already secured financing to finance the first leg of the Linden/Lethem Road, in particular, from Linden to Mabura and a bridge across the Essequibo River at Kurupakari. These are just some of the exciting infrastructural developments that are in the formative or gestation stage.

I was very pleased to have read in the Chairman’s Annual Report for 2018, that the company had recorded its highest revenue ever, in 2018, and that local and international revenue continued to show encouraging growth. Your achievement is not singular, in this regard: your main local competitor has also recorded tremendous sales and after-tax profits. I was also happy to learn that DDL’s after tax profits were 26 percent higher than the previous year. Congratulations for your astute management of this dynamic company. Your shareholders should be pleased with the growing value of their shares and the receipt of higher dividends. But, Mr. Chairman, you will agree with me that the reduction in the corporation tax rate, from 30 percent to 27.5 percent; the reduction in the VAT rate and the other fiscal measures in support of the private sector impacted on the company’s profitability.  And this is great news, because it is being peddled by the purveyors of doom and gloom in our country that the tax burden has become excessive and business activities are declining. Once again, I want to congratulate DDL on this sterling performance and assure you that this Government will continue to do what is necessary to promote the expansion and sustainability of local private businesses in Guyana.

I am optimistic that the Chairman’s annual report for 2019 will also highlight super profits, in light of the reduction in the corporate, capital gains and property tax rates for private sector businesses that the government has granted in the 2019 budget, as well as the new wear and tear allowance for Service and Warehouse buildings. I would also like to proudly state that as the Minister of Finance, the tax burden for both businesses and individuals has reduced under my watch. More importantly, in the 2019 Budget, our Government has fulfilled a promise that was made in its manifesto, that is, to reduce the manufacturing tax rate to 25 percent during its first term in office. And, today, I announce to you that during our second term in office, you can expect the corporate tax rate for manufacturing entities to be reduced to at least 20 percent, consistent with our recognition that manufacturing and industry has to drive the oil and gas economy. This is just one of the many positive reforms that can be expected during our second term in government.

DDL has a great privilege, you are operating the last of many distilleries that were present in Guyana during the days of king sugar. And so, at this juncture when the government was forced to make a realistic decision about some of the sugar estates in Guyana, I am happy to see that one of our traditional sugar estates has been transformed into a very profitable private sector business. This will serve as evidence that the decision to privatize some of the sugar estates, in our effort to restructure the industry, should not be perceived as a doomsday outcome – especially peddled by the very people who bankrupted the industry with a costly, ill-advised and inefficient US$200 million Skeldon Modernisation Project, for which our taxpayers are being forced to repay – but it can be properly administered and bring significant benefits to our country and people.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, this is not to say that the Government is unmindful of the immediate impact of this decision on the livelihood of displaced workers. We understand, and we are working assiduously to find appropriate solutions to the problems. In this regard, the Government has already secured a $30 billion loan to invest into the sugar industry, while we have met all payment of severance to the sugar workers. Many of them have invested in small businesses, including the planting of fruits and vegetables, which can fuel DDL’s tropical juices factory.

It was just a few months ago that I visited the Diamond facility to get a firsthand look at the investment and expansion that the company is undertaking. I was impressed by the level of expansion taking place at the facility – all $10 billion of it – and the value added products that DDL is producing and contemplates to produce. During that visit, I encouraged DDL to expand its juice manufacturing business by utilizing more of the traditional types of fruits. I am confident, that given the track record of this company, more farmers will soon find markets for their fruits.

Mr. Chairman, this Government is putting the necessary infrastructure in place to facilitate sustainable growth and development that will be guided by the Green State Development Strategy. This Strategy is in keeping with HE President Granger’s vision of a green Guyana. DDL has established a CO2 Plant, to utilize waste products from the distillery into other aspects of business. I am happy to see that this company is positioning itself to align with the government’s green agenda, and we applaud you because, going forward the process will require the full support of the private sector, specifically in terms of the manner in which they do business, and the use and adaptation of green technologies. Let me also add that in an effort to ease the country’s fiscal constraints on investment and efficiency, a Public- Private Partnership Framework was established as a delivery model to overcome some of the challenges that hinder the execution of development projects. The framework prioritizes core projects for collaboration between the Government and the local and external private sector, and we expect local businesses and investors in the Diaspora will respond to this opportunity to actively participate in the development process. While not collaborating in the physical infrastructure, DDL has been making efforts to partner with the Government in the manufacture of milk and dairy products. Both of these command a sizeable component of our import bill for consumption goods.

This is a defining moment for Guyana, we are anxiously awaiting first oil as early as the last quarter of 2019, and we want to ensure that all Guyanese benefit from these new resources. The legislation for the establishment of a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) was assented to by President Granger on January 23, 2019. The SWF will ensure that petroleum revenues are efficiently managed and utilized. You are also aware that the government is in the process of developing a local content policy to ensure that Guyanese individuals and businesses get a fair piece of the pie. But, Mr. Chairman, this will not materialize unless our private sector gets its act together. On a recent visit to the operations of First Bauxite Corporation, at Sandhills, up the Demerara River, I was horrified that 5,000 tonnes of stone being offloaded from a barge was imported from St. Lucia. This, in a country with at least four quarries. When I enquired, I was told that Guyana does not produce stone of the quality, quantity and dimensions required. I have had the displeasure of learning of similar occurrences in respect of the airport expansion and a number of road building projects that are financed by international donors. First Bauxite Corporation expects to import another 10,000 tonnes for their operations, a drain of valuable export earnings and a loss of jobs and value added.

There is no doubt that investments like what we are witnessing today are geared towards the expectation of greater demand for the goods and services you offer. This is a positive step for Guyana and your company, and I am sure that there are other businesses that are also in the preparation mode. The government is also putting measures in place to diversify the economy and modernize the traditional sectors to ensure that we do not fall into the trap of other oil producing countries where oil becomes a curse rather than a blessing, because they became heavily dependent on petroleum and neglected the traditional sector.

In closing, let me once again congratulate the Board of Directors and management of DDL for undertaking this significant investment which will no doubt impact on the performance of our economy, and assure you that this government will continue to support private sector businesses because we are serious about developing a strong and dynamic private sector for sustained poverty reduction in Guyana. The Good Life beckons!

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15 Mar
12 Mar
By: Tanika Jones 0

Kuwait Fund approves GUYD $344 million grant for feasibility study for redesign of Belfield to Rosignol road network.

Georgetown: Residents of more than twenty-seven (27) villages along Belfield to Rosignol can look forward to improved road access and connectivity as the Ministry of Public Infrastructure (MOPI) moves to start a technical and economic feasibility study for the redesign of the road network

The Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana has received a Grant of Kuwaiti Dinars (KD) 500,000 from the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development to undertake a Technical and Economic Feasibility Study for the Redesign of the Belfield to Rosignol Road Network.   

The study which will be carried out by MOPI seeks to solve the issues of deteriorating roads, poor drainage and road safety of Belfield to Rosignol. The redesign of the network will ensure enhanced capacity of the roads, srengthen trade and economic development and facilitate new and improved interactions among farming communities. It will also reduce delays and increase user satisfaction.

The Fund, one of Guyana’s development partners, has over the years assisted Government to undertake feasibility studies and designs for the upgrade of road networks within the country. A similar project was undertaken in 2011 for the upgrade of the Better Hope to Belfield road network.

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04 Mar
By: Tanika Jones 0

Feature Address by Finance Minister Winston Jordan at PDAC 2019 in Toronto, Canada

Introduction

Ladies and Gentlemen,

What an absolute pleasure and honour it is to speak with the leaders, investors and stakeholders – the movers and the shakers, so to speak – of the world’s largest, most prestigious mining and exploration Convention!

This is my second time here following my debut last year, and it is a privilege to be given the opportunity to present my government’s aspirations for our country’s prospects in this exciting and still evolving industry.

One of the takeaways from my participation then was the sheer magnitude of opportunities that can be exploited at this event. However, there is an urgent need for governments to have a clear and present strategy to explore those opportunities albeit, with careful consideration for the preservation of the environment and cultures that are impacted by mining activities. Equally, such a strategy must include the improvement of governance of the sector through the development of a robust and competitive regulatory framework, the building of consensus when tackling associated social and environmental challenges, the employment of best practices, and the maintenance of industry standards.

This Convention provides an integral platform for stakeholders to pursue practicable solutions, and break new ground to meet the global challenges that are inimical to the growth and prosperity of the industry. In that regard, the foresight demonstrated by the organisers of this annual pilgrimage cannot go unacknowledged. So please join me in a round of applause for the men and women who continue to make this event the success that it is. (Pause for applause).  Thank you.

Now, as we discuss the future of the industry today, there are issues that we must contemplate and confront. For example, how do we narrow the opportunity gap between stakeholders while maintaining healthy competition; how can we efficiently and effectively harness what is available to us while seeking after new discoveries; how do we manage the partnerships between investors and governments, and investors and communities; how do we ensure that women are adequately represented; and how can we create a more enabling environment that can guarantee investors will be satisfactorily compensated; and perhaps most importantly, how do we achieve all that with minimum disruption to nature.

These are challenges and concerns that will continue to preoccupy our development practitioners and policy makers in the course of charting and executing our economic agenda. My government has invested considerable resources – both human and financial – to examine sustainable solutions to these concerns. So please allow me to re- introduce to you all the Jewel in the Caribbean’s Crown, the Caribbean’s El dorado, ‘set gem-like and fair, between mountains and seas’ – my land, my country, the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.

Synopsis of Country Profile

Last year I explained Guyana in considerable detail. For those of you who were not present then, the geographic location of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, which incidentally has just celebrated its 49th Republic Anniversary, is unique.

It is found on the northeast coast of Venezuela, with Suriname on its East, Venezuela to the West, Brazil to the South and the mighty Atlantic to its North. Not to be confused with Ghana, which is situated in West Africa, Guyana has the distinct advantage of being the only English speaking country in South America, and the perfect gateway for the Caribbean and North America.

Guyana is multi ethnic and multi religious with a population of just about 750 thousand people. And it is a virtual treasure trove of natural resources – boundless arable lands that are rich in mineral deposits and pristine tropical forests that are home to many endangered species.

The economy is vulnerable to the vagaries of international market conditions for critical exports such as sugar, rice, gold and bauxite. Nevertheless, it has for the last 15 years, enjoyed steady, positive growth in the economy. In its most recent review of Caribbean Economies, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) described Guyana as having one of the fastest growing economies with growth hovering around 3.4 percent. The economy is projected to further expand by 4.6 percent, this year, before returning a stratospheric growth rate in excess of 25 percent next year.

Our fiscal position remains strong, with growing current account surpluses; the balance of payments is projected to be in surplus this year, following deficits in 2017 and 2018; and our public debt is prudently managed, with the debt to GDP ratio being 44.4 percent, well within the internationally accepted ratio of 60 percent for countries emerging from the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. The country’s international reserves have been maintained at about 3.5 months of import cover, while inflation has been suppressed at an average of 2 percent over the past four years.

Our banking system is sound; it was strengthened last year with the passage of four pieces of legislation that dealt with insolvency and deposit insurance. At a time when countries such as Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Panama, the Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago are being added, Guyana has been officially removed from the European Commission’s Money Laundering Blacklist – a fitting reward for my government’s relentless implementation of policies and measures to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, sanitise our economy of dirty money, fight tax evasion and remove the scourge of corruption that plague transactions.

Guyana is generally considered to be a politically stable democracy, and enjoys a relatively peaceful and harmonious existence among the six races that make up this cosmopolitan country. This is quite unlike the situation in several countries in Latin America and some other regions of the world. In fact, right now we are watching democracy at play – it makes for a rather interesting lesson.

In the past 4 years, Guyana has featured repeatedly in the international press for the more than 5 billion barrels of recoverable oil discovered off-shore by ExxonMobil in partnership with Hess and CNOCC. Even if you have spent the last year in the deepest mines of the Cuyuni, I am certain that you have heard stories about these vast discoveries in the land of the fabled city of gold.

And as if to demonstrate its Midas-like touch, ExxonMobil, recently, disclosed its 11th and 12th discoveries. With 17 prospects still to be drilled in the Stabroek Block, Guyana is on target to produce 1 million barrels per day. Indeed, research analysts at Wood McKenzie have predicted that Guyana can surpass oil production in Mexico and Venezuela, thereby positioning the country to become, eventually, a power house in Latin America. Exploration of our off-shore basin will continue apace this year as several licensed operators have signalled their intention to ramp up drilling given the success of ExxonMobil and its partners.

Production of oil is on target for the first quarter of 2020, but there are good indications that this timetable could be advanced to the last quarter of this year. Guyana is expected to earn significant revenue, once production begins, which will be used to create jobs in manufacturing, industry and value added agriculture, among other sectors of the economy; improve and expand the physical and social infrastructure, to, for example, facilitate and support oil and gas activity, accelerate natural resource development such as bauxite, and connect the hinterland and the coastland; and generally bring prosperity and the Good Life to the Guyanese people.

I must admit that as a government and country, we are both excited and cautious. This is a long awaited dream of our people and we are beyond grateful that it has finally happened.

While we have focused much attention on developing the legal and regulatory framework that will govern this new resource, we have also devoted significant efforts to ensure that our other productive sectors continue to grow. We are wary of the dreaded Dutch disease and the resource curse, and are actively devising policies to ensure that our other productive sectors remain competitive even as our economy embarks on structural change.

To further safeguard our impending wealth, my government has successfully developed and passed in Parliament, a Bill that sets out the regime for Guyana’s version of a sovereign wealth fund, which in our instance, is called the Natural Resource Fund (NRF). This fund is modeled after the best practices and principles of sovereign wealth funds, and its objectives include:

  1. Stabilisation of public spending;
  2. Minimising a loss in economic competitiveness;
  3. Fairly transferring natural resource wealth across generations; and
  4. Financing national development priorities.

While the Fund will initially receive petroleum revenues only, there are provisions to allow for excess mining and forestry revenues to be deposited in the Fund. Though much of the current buzz surrounding Guyana pertains to the petroleum industry, I’d like to reassure you that wealth generated from the oil discoveries will be used to create an enabling environment for the growth of our other sectors. Withdrawals from the NRF will Finance national development priorities as outlined in my Government’s new vision for Guyana–the Green State Development Strategy: Vision 2030. This strategy prioritises investments in Guyana’s human capital, infrastructure and energy as we work towards diversifying our economic base and creating an enabling environment for investors.

This means that you can be assured of an expanded pool of skilled labour which will be available to the sector and the cost of logistics will be significantly reduced as a result of investments of critical infrastructure. Upgraded roads, bridges and ports stretching across the breadth of Guyana, will increase the efficiency with which our resources can be extracted, and a clean and reliable energy source will increase the attractiveness of processing our mineral resources prior to exporting.

We are also developing other oil and gas policies to safeguard local content, protect the environment and incubate human resources. We are committed to the development of all of our resources for the realisation of the good life for all Guyanese.

Whither Mining

It would be difficult to ignore or relegate to ignominy, the proud tradition of mining which began in 1868.

According to HE David Granger, President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, in his monograph, The Green State, “Guyana has been mining and exporting bauxite for over 100 years and gold for about 150 years. Gold mining accounts for 9.6% of our GDP, 24% of exports, and 78% of national mineral production.”

But our mineral portfolio extends well beyond bauxite and gold. Of course, we are known for diamonds and several industrial minerals including silica sand, mica and manganese; base elements such as copper, lead, zinc and nickel; ferrous metals like iron and laterite; energy metals like uranium and semi precious metals like amethyst, green quartz, black pearl, agate and jasper.

The mining sector is integral to Guyana’s Foreign Direct Investment portfolio, a significant source of revenue to Government and a major pillar on which the economy stands. That mining holds an important locus to Guyana’s economy goes without saying. All stakeholders generally agree that if managed well, our abundant natural resources have the ability to change the economic fortunes of the country. It is therefore, reasonable to conclude that my government is in no hurry to replace this sector; rather we want it to thrive.

We are focused on retooling and reforming the sector. In that regard, this Convention is important to us gaining and exchanging information and knowledge in areas such as innovative techniques; methods of sustainability; and survival and productivity, especially in light of climate change. We are all cognizant of the risks that climate change pose to physical assets and infrastructure; supply chains, by the disruption to transport networks; the availability of land and water; and the health and safety of site based employees. These risks are amplified by the already challenging geographies and climates in which mining takes place.

So Guyana is moving beyond merely encouraging increased declarations by small and medium operators. Indeed, we want to encourage innovation into the sector, address the constraints to exploiting and remedy the deficiencies in the investment regime. And my government will continue to ensure that the investment climate is conducive enough to attract you, the investor, to invest and add value to our minerals beyond the mine gate.

So, what’s in it for you, the private investor? Here is a non exhaustive shopping list of reasons why investing in Guyana’s mining sector will be rewarding.

  1. Your investment is safe in Guyana and is protected under our Constitution and laws. My government believes in the sanctity of Contracts entered into with all investors.
  2. We have developed a National Mineral Sector Policy Framework and Actions – 2019 – 2029, which captures our key objectives and elaborates our strategies and approaches in reforming the sector in a holistic, integrated, responsive, and responsible manner. This framework has benefited from several rounds of stakeholder consultations within Guyana.
  3. It also addresses administrative inefficiency, enforcement, bias, corruption, compliance, competitiveness and incentives for investors and performance using modern industry methods;
  4. We have lowered the income tax threshold and introduced a progressive royalty regime for small and medium producers.
  5. In the office responsible for promoting investment – Go-Invest, you will find a friend and partner who is mandated to provide support and assistance to cut through any red tape, thereby ensuring a hassle free experience.
  6. We recognise that land is an important asset for the sector and the bureaucracy for acquiring same can be a nightmare, so we have simplified the procedures for acquiring land. The Guyana Geology and Mines Commission which is represented here today can provide ready information on lands that are available for use.
  7. The Guyana Revenue Authority which is responsible for tax administration is undergoing reform and modernisation; it is capable of advising and expediting your tax needs whatever those will be;
  8. Our Banking sector though challenged recently with correspondent banking issues that have affected the Caribbean and other Regions, is well equipped to handle all your international transactions; credit card transactions and wire transfers can be done easily and quickly;
  9. Access to credit can be arranged with any of the local commercial banks, within the guidelines and regulations governing domestic borrowing.
  10. The exchange rate is stable. There are no restrictions on repatriation of profits, dividends and other earned incomes.
  11. Guyana enjoys a high literacy rate, hovering in the 90 percentile range. There is a ready labour force with experience in mining that you can access easily. Others can be trained quickly to adapt to the technology of the. Sector. We only ask that you treat the workers fairly, ensure their safety and comply with the labour laws of the land;
  12. Because the country is small, you my friends, are assured of easy access to policy makers, technical officers and government ministers.

Conclusion

So Ladies and Gentlemen, there’s no question about the enormous premium of the mining sector to Guyana’s prosperity. It has served us well in the past, and will continue to do so into the future. Significant opportunities exist for investment in it. As a government, we recognise the challenges in realising these opportunities, but we are determined to make sure we create an enabling environment investors who will risk it. By working together, we can ensure the sector continues to flourish and make ongoing contribution to our economy.

I extend a warm invitation to our home, where you will be treated like family. Guyanese are known for their hospitality. We will support your mining, exploration and exploitation while ensuring that it’s done in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner.

The future is in our power to shape.

Together we can explore the world of possibilities in mining.

I look forward to new partnerships and re-enforcing of old friendships.

I thank you.

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