Month: September 2019

25 Sep
By: Tanika Jones 2

Minister of Finance’ Remarks at the Unveiling of NIS Commemorative Stamp for 50th Anniversary

Mr. Chairman

Board of Directors of the National Insurance Scheme

Management and Staff of the National Insurance Scheme

Representatives of the Media

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

 

Good evening!

I am very pleased to join you for the unveiling of this Commemorative Stamp. This commemorative stamp is a postage stamp, which is being issued to honor the 50th Anniversary of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS). Fifty years of service to the Guyanese citizens is indeed a significant milestone that is worth observing and remembering in a symbolic way. And what better reminder than this stamp! Congratulations are extended to the Board of Directors, Management and Staff of the National Insurance Scheme.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, your golden anniversary is worth celebrating. as the organization, over the years, has metamorphosed from the provision of basic benefits at a central location in Georgetown, to an expanded coverage for employed and self-employed contributors at locations across Guyana. Modern technology has also transformed the way you have been doing business, as compliance and reporting can be done via the internet and within a much shorter timeframe.

Mr. Chairman, last year, during my address to the staff on the Scheme’s 49th Anniversary, I briefly traced the origin of the NIS. As I recalled, the idea of establishing the National Insurance Scheme was conceived by the late Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, who, at that time, was Prime Minister of Guyana and Founder-Leader of the People’s National Congress. He would later go on to become the first Executive President of the country. Back in 1969, that political party held a majority government and the Peoples Progressive Party was in opposition. Mr. Chairman, I recall this tiny, but important, bit of our history because the establishment of the National Insurance Scheme was done against the backdrop of strong opposition by the PPP.

Today, I shudder to think how the absence of a National Insurance Scheme would have impacted the standard of living of our retirees and senior citizens, who are now recipients of old age pensions and other benefits; and the employed and self- employed individuals who are still in the work force but who access various benefits of the Scheme, such as sickness, maternity and spectacles. The National Insurance Scheme, having evolved and in spite of its challenges, is a living testimony of the foresight and wisdom of the PNC and the ability of the Government that it led to make wise policy decisions that are beneficial to Guyanese citizens. It is apposite to note that 50 years later, the PNC is the major partner in the Coalition Government that is transforming the country, from coastland to hinterland, improving equity in the allocation and distribution of the country’s resources, and calmly guiding the shape of state in this tense period leading up to the General and Regional Elections. We shall overcome.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, our Government is acutely aware that access to social security is pivotal to the economic and social well-being of Guyanese; it is a fundamental human right enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The establishment of the National Insurance Scheme a mere three years after Guyana gained political independence from the Britain, in May 1966, was a landmark achievement. I want to assure you that our Government will continue to make every effort to keep the National Insurance Scheme relevant and viable, so that Guyanese can continue to enjoy bigger and better benefits.

As the Minister of Finance, with responsibility for general oversight and policy guidance to the National Insurance Scheme, I am aware of some of the challenges that the organization faces, in its efforts to maintain financial sustainability. Some of these challenges are similar to those faced by other National Insurance Schemes in the region. This fact was well documented in a 2016 IMF study that was conducted on Social Security Schemes in the Caribbean. Among the findings were that an aging population, slow economic growth and high unemployment were major contributors to the high actuarial deficit that social security schemes in the Caribbean faced. The report recommended a range of reform measures to urgently reverse the trend.

But let me hasten to say that I am not suggesting that all the reform measures proposed by the IMF are suitable for our country. Clearly, some of them can have a negative impact on the economic and financial position of eligible contributors and beneficiaries. Be that as it may, I enjoin the Board of Directors and Management to urgently review the Scheme’s sustainability plan and come up with country-specific solutions to address these challenges. I can assure you of our Government’s continued support, so tangibly exemplified by the issuance of debentures to offset the loss that emanated from the reckless CLICO investment.

Your 50th anniversary comes at an historic period in Guyana. The arrival of the Floating Production Storage and Offloading Facility (FPSO), of which I had the pleasure of visiting in the company of the First Lady, has brought us closer to that reality. We are all anxiously awaiting the arrival of first oil. The developments in the oil sector have made Guyana prominent on the world map, and the recent discoveries of Exxon+14 and Tullow+2, just a few days ago, has catapulted our country among the world’s top oil producing nations per capita.

These developments will have implications for the performance of the National Insurance Scheme. Oil production will propel significant economic growth in Guyana. Preliminary estimates for real growth in 2020 and 2021 are 33.5 percent and 22.9 percent, respectively. These lofty growth rates would leave behind the single digit rates achieved in the post-Independence period. There is no doubt that these impressive growth rates will translate into more contributions remitted to the NIS.

Oil production will also create employment opportunities at all levels of the supply chain. It is for you, Board of Directors, Management and Staff, to the seize the moment (carpe diem) to expand the Scheme’s revenue base and enhance your financial position. You must continue to build capacity and put the necessary institutional measures in place to ensure that all employers, employees and self-employed individuals are registered with the Scheme and their contributions remitted in a timely manner.

You have come a far way; you reached another milepost. There is more work to be done.

Thank you!

And now it is my distinct pleasure to unveil this commemorative stamp.

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13 Sep
By: Tanika Jones 1

Green Paper

This Green Paper is being issued by Government to present preliminary proposals to stimulate discussion.1 It details specific issues, and then points out possible courses of action in terms of policy and legislation.

Download The Green Paper: Managing Future Petroleum Revenues and Establishment of a Fiscal Rule and Sovereign Wealth Fund

 

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07 Sep
By: Tanika Jones 134

Commissioning of Lube Bond and Office Facility – Address delivered by Hon. Winston Jordan Minister of Finance

Chairman and other Members of the Board of Directors
CEO, Management and Staff of GUYOIL
Representatives of the Media
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

Good afternoon!

First, let me thank Ras Camo for that lovely Guyanese patriotic song, “Oh Beautiful Guyana”. That song keeps reminding us of what a blessed place Guyana is, especially in light of the devastation wreaked on The Bahamas by Hurricane Dorian. I distinctly recall many Guyanese who left these shores in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s in search of a better life. Many of our teachers, who were educated at Cyril Potter College of Education and Lilian Dewar College and who were the beneficiaries of free education, left these shores for The Bahamas. Many of them probably lost everything as a result of Hurricane Dorian, which packed winds in excess of 200 mph. I take this opportunity to commiserate with the people of The Bahamas in this time of grave suffering. I understand that they intend to rebuild stronger and better. However, these powerful hurricanes are becoming more frequent. A Category 5 hurricane is classified as one packing winds upwards of 155 mph. However, with Dorian, the Scale may have to be extended to Category 10. The point is that we will have to think well beyond just put in place more resilient infrastructure. It is time these islands consider their long term future and examine how, in the context of the CARICOM family, they can take advantage of the bounties Guyana has to offer. Just some food for thought.

The second comment I would like to make, before touching on my Address, is that, at nearly $300 million, the planners of this modern edifice should have considered moving the entire staff from their Headquarters in Camp Street. This would provide synergies, economies of scale and general cost savings. In addition, the City is beyond congested; the future is the East Bank. Already, a number of businesses have established in the Providence area. Many housing schemes are springing up in several villages. And, with a road connecting the East Coast of Demerara with the East Bank of Demerara at Ogle and Timehri, new lands will be opened for business, farming and housing. So, the place to be is the East Bank; it provides easier passage to higher ground on the Linden Highway, should the low-lying coast be visited by a watery catastrophe.

Nevertheless, I am delighted to join you today for the commissioning of this modern Lube Bond and Office Facility. At the outset, please allow me, Mr. Chairman, to add my own special welcome to each of you and to thank you for your presence.

Mr. Chairman, the construction of this facility is, indeed, a positive development, as it is yet another indication of the great strides that the economy is making. Any economist would tell you that a good barometer of how well an economy is doing is the growth in construction. In fact, it is rumored that, in an attempt to understand how the economy was progressing, a former Governor of the Bank of Guyana would mount the last flight of stairs to the Roof Garden of the Bank, where he would enjoy a panoramic view of cranes, derricks and smoke-emitting chimneys.

If people are constructing, they are showing faith in the future. They would have made their own assessment and come to the conclusion that it is worthwhile putting down a permanent structure. All over the country, things are happening, something is being constructed. As a result, at the half year, the construction sector had grown by 8.2 percent, following 8.1 percent growth at the similar period last year. And, buoyed by this growth, we have projected the sector to grow by 11 percent by the end of the year. Overall, we project the economy to grow by 4.5 percent in real terms, the fifth consecutive year of growth under the Coalition Government; it would represent another year of solid, broad based growth, and give credence to the NASDAQ prediction of Guyana having one of the fastest growing economies in the world. This performance would nail the lies of the haters, the naysayers, the detractors and the fault-finders who see nothing but gloom in a country bristling with promise and progress, and making its way to prosperity. On the other hand, it would be sweet music to the ears of investors, both foreign and local, who have been exuding confidence in the long term prospects for the economy, ever since Exxon 13 + Tullow 1 have de-risked the Guyana petroleum basin.

I understand that this building is 100 percent solar powered, in keeping with the company’s strategic objective of “energy conservation in alignment with Guyana’s green initiative.” Solar power ranks highly amongst the cleanest and most green energy sources, since no pollution is created in the process of generating electricity. Evidence has also shown that although renewable energy requires upfront capital, it is one of the lowest cost energy options available, the most compelling reason for its utilization globally.

I have no doubt that this investment, while supporting the country’s long term development strategy, will reduce the company’s expenditure, improve its profitability, and put it in a better position to make larger dividends and other transfers to the Treasury. Unlike many of the commercial corporations that still shelter under the public umbrella, Guyoil has been a net contributor to the Treasury. However, while this position is not threatened with reversal anytime soon, GUYOIL has faced some challenges, in recent times, that have had an effect on sales volume, sales receipts and the bottom line. I know that the Board and Management will be working assiduously to reposition and realign the corporation as quickly as possible.

Be that as it may, I would like to applaud the Board of Directors and Management of GUYOIL for taking the initiative to go green. Transforming Guyana into a green economy requires the support of all stakeholders, particularly key stakeholders like GUYOIL.

The commissioning of this facility is also taking place at a time when the Government, in pursuit of its green agenda, is putting together an energy plan with an appropriate energy mix, utilizing solar, wind and hydropower, among other clean energy sources. Guyana is largely endowed with all of these resources and the discovery of oil and gas, in impressive amounts, has enhanced the country’s natural resource mix. This Government is aware that low cost, reliable and affordable energy supply is critical to economic growth and development, and has started to invest in renewable energy projects. I should like to use this opportunity to highlight the efforts of my Administration to diminish our dependence on fossil fuels.

The main electric utility, Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL), is preparing for utility scale solar PV farms for the national grid. With funding available under the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF), Guyana is pursuing 30 MW solar PV farms for the Demerara-Berbice Interconnected System and 5 MW (combined) for the Essequibo Coast and Leguan Systems. In addition, the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) is supporting the Government of Guyana and the private sector to advance solar PV initiatives under a pipeline of projects.

Our Government installed the first Solar PV Farm in Mabaruma, Region 1 with an installed capacity of 400kW. However, because of damage caused by lightning during installation, the completion has been delayed.

Through support from the Government of Japan and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), we will benefit from a Renewable Energy and Energy Efficient Power System Project. This project comprises 2 components: (i) Technical Loss Reduction for the GPL Power System; and (ii) Installation of a 400kWp solar PV system with storage, along with a Building Energy Management System at the Caricom Secretariat building.

During 2020-21, we will install 3 utility scale solar PV Farms in Bartica (1.5MW); Lethem (1MW); and Mahdia (0.65MW). In addition, Guyana’s proposal for 3 additional utility scale solar PV Farms for Port Kaituma (0.65MW); Kwakwani (1MW); and Matthew’s Ridge (0.4MW), under the International Renewable Energy Agency/Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (IRENA/ADFD), was approved in January 2019.

With grant funding from the United Arab Emirates Caribbean Renewable Energy Fund (UAE-CREF), GPL will benefit from the installation of 600 kW Solar PV Farm at Wakenaam, with battery storage to supply the island with about 80% of its energy needs.
Also, the Government has embarked on a Green Public Sector Programme, in keeping with a Presidential charge for the public sector to lead the way in transitioning towards greater renewable energy use. During 2015-2019, rooftop solar PV systems were installed at 291 Government buildings resulting in a total combined installed capacity of over 5 MW.

The Guyana Energy Agency is carrying out a pilot programme for stand-alone solar street lighting and, to date, 65 solar powered LED street lights have been installed. An additional 400 solar powered LED street lights is being installed in 2019.

In addition, as a member of the International Solar Alliance (ISA), we have submitted an application for support for the implementation of a solar PV programme that targets off-grid Solar PV, with storage for hinterland communities and rural electrification. The programme will provide sustainable electricity and potable water to hinterland villages.

In the area of hydropower, we completed the construction of a 20 kW hydropower power plant at Hosororo, in Region 1, in 2018, and we will start the construction of a 150 kW hydropower power plant in Kato, Region 8, in 2019. In addition to these projects, several other hydropower stations are planned for the 2021-25 period, including Moco Moco (0.7 MW); Kumu (1.5 MW); and Ikuribisi (1 MW).

We hope to add a 188 MW Natural Gas Power Plant, in the not too distant future, to complement our intricate energy mix. Although not “green”, it is a cleaner source of energy when compared to our diesel and fossil fuel power generation options. Already, our Government has commissioned studies to assess the viability of this project, including looking at options, cost, impact and key considerations of transporting and utilizing offshore natural gas for electricity generation and incentivizing the growth of our fledgling manufacturing sector.

In the area of energy efficiency, over 26,400 LED lights and 4,500 occupancy sensors were installed by the end of 2018 in public buildings, ministries and schools. With support from the Government of Japan, the Japan Caribbean Climate Change Partnership (JCCCP) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Guyana commenced the planned installation of over 11,000 energy efficient street lights, which will continue during the remainder of 2019 and 2020.

An LED Lighting Replacement Programme is being implemented for the residential and commercial customers of the 6 Hinterland utilities (Kwakwani Utilities Inc., Lethem Power Company Inc., Mabaruma Power and Light Inc., Port Kaituma Power and Light Inc., Mahdia Power and Light Inc., and Matthew’s Ridge Power and Light Inc.) The objective of the Programme is to promote energy efficiency and conservation in connected households and commercial businesses by replacing older lighting technology with LED lights. A similar programme is planned for 2020 for Linden, Bartica, Leguan and Wakenaam.

Mr. Chairman, when this Government took office, in May 2015, there were many communities in Guyana that had access to little or no electricity. Renewable energy has taken electricity to remote and other communities in Guyana, improving living conditions and changing peoples’ lives forever. Many of our Indigenous communities are able to establish commercial activities for the first time because they now have access to electricity. Children in Indigenous communities are performing better at school because they have electricity and can spend more time doing homework.

And please note, ladies and gentlemen, that Guyana will not be the only oil producing country to pursue a renewable energy path. In fact, Norway, a major oil producing country, sources most of the electricity generated in the country from renewable sources, and is considered a world leader in the use of renewable energy.

You all are aware, that the impressive developments in the petroleum industry in Guyana are attracting global attention. Foreign investors on a daily basis are coming to Guyana, as they seek to participate in the new oil discovery. As a company with many years of experience in the downstream value chain, GUYOIL must take advantage of new business opportunities that will arise, so that the company can benefit directly from the country’s oil sector.

GUYOIL must also prepare itself to move beyond its current role of stabilizer of domestic prices, towards participating in the re-distribution of the country’s oil wealth to the society, in general, when oil production starts. You must become an industry leader, going where others fear to tread, thereby helping the Government to bring equity to the Regions and communities. You will need to expand your facilities, build capacity and acquire new skills, where necessary.
Increased economic activities have precipitated a significant rise in the number of vehicles entering the country. The standard of living of Guyanese will continue to improve, as the country is poised for high and sustainable growth levels. This growth will translate into more motor vehicles being imported for private and commercial purposes, among other things. I must add, also, that, with the production of oil, the Government’s plan is to diversify the economy, to develop the indigenous and new economic sectors, in order to avoid becoming heavily dependent on the petroleum resources. These developments will have implications for the services offered by GUYOIL. Therefore, you should prepare adequately to respond to the changing needs of your customers.
Ladies and gentlemen, in closing, I congratulate all those involved in bringing this investment to fruition. I hope that this facility will enhance service delivery, thereby making GUYOIL more relevant and more profitable.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is now my pleasure to commission this Lube Bond and Office Facility.

I thank you.

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