Georgetown, Ministry of Finance, August 10, 2021: Senior Finance Minister Dr. Ashni K. Singh today led the roll out of the ‘Because We Care’ cash grant at Queen’s College (QC) on Camp Street. Prior to handing over the first grants to parents, the Minister expressed his joy at being able to participate in the disbursement of the cash grant at his Alma Mater.
“Let me first of all say what a great pleasure and tremendous and emotional experience it is for me to be able to be here today with you. As you know we have been holding events such as this throughout the length and breadth of Guyana. I spent seven of my best years right here at Camp and Thomas Lands. I believe and I consider myself immensely privileged to have had what I still consider to be perhaps the finest education I could have had almost anywhere in the world- right here at Camp and Thomas Lands,” the Minister said
Addressing students, parents and teachers, the Finance Minister underscored Government’s commitment to achieving universal primary and secondary education as well as raising the quality of education countrywide. He emphasized Government’s plan to ensure every student exits high school with a well-rounded, quality education and equipped to participate meaningfully in the Guyanese economy.
“This event represents a tangible demonstration of President Irfaan Ali’s Government (our Government, your Government’s) firm commitment to ensuring that we create the conditions that are necessary for today’s generation of young Guyanese to acquire the education that they need in order to play the most fulfilling and most meaningful, possible roles that they can play in the Guyana of tomorrow,” Minister Singh added.
The Minister further urged parents, teachers and others eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines to ensure that they get vaccinated to protect themselves as well as prepare themselves for the possible reopening of schools in September. Additionally, he took the opportunity to commend teachers and parents countrywide for the efforts they made in adapting to remote delivery and absorption of educational content during the challenging period of COVID-19.
Minister Singh noted that the cash grant disbursement would go a long way in meeting the critical needs of students to purchase stationery, uniforms and other school supplies, adding that the total countrywide disbursement will place in excess of $ 3.3 Billion into the hands of parents of these children.
WB team here for strategic dialogue with Government on partnership going forward
Georgetown, Ministry of Finance, August 3, 2021: A High-level World Bank (WB) team led by its Vice President responsible for the Latin American and Caribbean Region, Carlos Felipe Jaramillo is here on a two-day visit and today met with Senior Minister in the Office of the President with Responsibility for Finance Dr. Ashni Singh in the Finance Ministry’s Boardroom. The visit aims to reaffirm the World Bank’s commitment to Guyana and to assess areas for further opportunities for expanded partnership in pursuit of the country’s national development goals. The team will also have discussions with Government on a number of projects. The visit serves also as an opportunity for dialogue between the Bank and the Government of Guyana on the Government’s economic objectives and priorities and how the World Bank can support these through its assistance and lending programmes.
During the meeting, Minister Singh acknowledged the Bank’s support over the years, adding that he looked forward to further assist in strengthening the partnership between Guyana and the Bank.
Following the meeting with the Finance Minister, the World Bank team, along with officials from the Ministry of Finance inspected various developmental and completed project sites which form part of the World Bank’s project portfolio in Guyana.
The site visits included pump stations at Enmore, Lusignan and Liliendaal that fall under the Flood Risk Management project for Guyana. The objective of that project is to reduce the risk of flooding in the low-lying areas of the East Demerara. Civil works are underway to improve drainage, update critical sections of the East Demerara Water Conservancy dams and channels, and improve hydro- meteorological monitoring.
Additionally, the team visited the Westminster Secondary School, West Bank Demerara which falls under the Secondary Education Improvement Project. The school caters for 1000 students residing in the Region 3 area and offers amenities in TVET, Home Economics, Allied Arts, Science and Information Technology Laboratories and a library, in addition to classrooms and a dance studio. A multi-purpose hall is provided for indoor sports, large gatherings as well as seating for the canteen facilities. The facility also caters for persons with special needs with wheelchair access to all areas on both floors.
The World Bank has been supporting various projects in Guyana over the years through a number of loans and grants including a US$20M loan for the Guyana Petroleum Governance and Management Project to support the enhancement of legal and institutional frameworks and the strengthening of the capacity of key institutions to manage the Oil and Gas sector in Guyana. Additionally, the Bank loaned US$6M to Guyana under the Guyana Payments System Project to improve Guyana’s national payments system, while another US$13.3M was loaned for the Guyana Education Sector Improvement Project to improve student learning outcomes through reform of curriculum and teaching practices, US 37. 9M under the Flood Risk Management Project and US$12.5M towards the COVID-19 Emergency Response Project.
Further, the Bank also provided a US$7M Grant to this country towards the Guyana Education Sector Programme Project for the improvement and learning conditions at the nursery level in select areas, the increase use of technology-assisted learning at the primary level in select areas and to improve functionality of the education management information system nationally.
The visiting World Bank team also includes incoming Country Director for the Caribbean, Lilia Burunciuc and Outgoing Country Director for the Caribbean, Tahseen Sayed.
Says PPP/C Government will continue to promote Guyana as premier destination for BPO operations during current term in office
Georgetown, Ministry of Finance, July 27, 2021: During a tour of the Emerge Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) facility located at Camp and Robb Streets, Lacytown, Georgetown today, Senior Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh, who was accompanied by Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Office for Investment, Peter Ramsaroop, lauded the efforts of the business’s proprietors Adrian Collins and Carole Fletcher for their hard work and vision which have allowed for the current employment of approximately 700 in the BPO industry, including 500 in Guyana. During the visit, the Minister met with Director of Operations Dalgeish Joseph and Director of Client Services, Aisha D’Abreu. He encouraged the businesspersons to ensure the expansion of operations to other Regions reiterating that the BPO sector has the potential to create jobs, generate income, spur economic activity and improve lives.
Minister Singh alluded to the People’s Progressive Party /Civic Government’s (PPP/C’s) effort prior to demitting office in 2015, promoting Guyana as a destination for BPO business which had proven to be a success. He noted that this effort will continue once more by Government during its current term. The Senior Finance Minister further commended the businesspersons for their investment in Guyana as he once more alluded to the fact that the current Irfaan-Ali led Government strongly supports any effort by businesses which aligns with its vision of diversification of the economy, part of which includes promoting Guyana as a premier destination for BPO business. This, he noted, will also contribute to ensuring the country maintains a stable macro-economic environment.
“In the pre-2015 period, we had already recognized the vast potential for BPO service, and we had invested a lot of policy effort into the sector,” Minister Singh said explaining that Emerge BPO is yet another example of what can be achieved by persons willing to invest in Guyana.
The Minister had echoed similar sentiments during his visits and tours of Express International Incorporated located in Georgetown and Qualfon at Providence on the East Bank of Demerara, both being BPO facilities.
He had referenced the fact that many businesses internationally are recognizing Guyana as a prime destination for BPO services especially with its English-speaking population, its educated workforce and its close proximity to the United States of America and Canada.
“As a Government, we would like to see the BPO sector continue to grow as it will allow for the creation of jobs and the generation of income,” the Finance Minister posited.
Emerge BPO commenced operations in 2008 and provides a variety of outsourcing services to clients with agents operating from Guyana, North America and Honduras.
Lauds CEO on job-creation initiative, investment in Guyana, plans for expansion
Alludes to PPP/C Government’s intention to continue promoting Guyana as a premier destination for BPO operations
Georgetown, Ministry of Finance, July 20, 2021: During a tour of Express International Incorporated on Hadfield Street today, Senior Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh, who was accompanied by Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Office for Investment, Peter Ramsaroop, lauded the efforts of the business’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mr. Ken Deocharran at pursuing his vision which has since materialized into a successful Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) facility in Guyana employing 285 Guyanese and heading towards expansion soon. The Senior Finance Minister commended the businessman for his investment in Guyana and alluded to the fact that the current Irfaan-Ali led Government strongly supports any effort by businesses which also aligns with its vision of diversification of the economy in the form of expansion of new sectors such as the services and tourism industries. This, he noted, will also contribute to ensuring the country maintains a stable macro-economic environment.
“In the pre-2015 period, we had already recognized the vast potential for BPO service, and we had invested a lot of policy effort into the sector,” Minister Singh said explaining that Express International Inc. is one example of what can be achieved by persons in the Guyanese Diaspora willing to invest in the country.
“This is an example of a Guyanese in the diaspora who saw an opportunity in Guyana and an example of what can be achieved in the BPO sector,” the Minister reiterated as he also noted that the business includes a Guyanese management team of highly professional persons and based on his assessment following the tour, boasts an impressive operation. Additionally, the Minister referenced the fact that many businesses internationally are recognizing Guyana as a prime destination for BPO services especially with its English-speaking population, its educated workforce and its close proximity to the United States of America and Canada.
“As a Government, we would like to see the BPO sector continue to grow as it will allow for the creation of jobs and the generation of income,” the Finance Minister posited
On its website Express International Inc. has referenced its President and CEO Mr. Ken Deocharran, 37, as a freeporter and Guyana native who started his trucking and courier service business in 2006 and who has since built a $15 million company with roughly 120 trucks delivering goods throughout the tristate area and in Chattanooga, Tennessee in the United States.
It also enlists itself as specializing in expedited high-value shipping services, providing these services to global and domestic clients through distinguishable, time-sensitive service, specialized equipment, and professionally trained staff.
Georgetown, Ministry of Finance, July 17, 2021: As Government continues to address a number of pertinent issues affecting citizens, the National Insurance Scheme’s (NIS) countrywide outreach launched by Senior Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh today at the Giftland Mall, resulted in scores of citizens coming out to visit the site and have their issues addressed. The outreach saw the Minister, NIS Board Chairman Ramesh Persaud and General Manager, Holly Greaves along with Board Directors and other NIS staff meeting with citizens and listening to the issues they would have had with regard to claims and other matters.
“We started at 10, we’ve already seen 85 persons out of which 60 thereabout, we’ve already resolved their matter to their satisfaction ….there are probably about 25 or thereabout that will require further investigation, further inquiry, further checking of records, further work but I’m very pleased that we got the response that we got ….lots of people came,” the Senior Finance Minister reported to the media at about 13:30 hrs with the day’s session planned to continue until 16:00 hrs.
The Minister lauded the efforts of the new Board and its management for working assiduously to resolve the large number of issues and pending claims since the Board’s appointment in November, 2020.
“I’m very happy to say that the board and management have done a lot of work …have achieved quite a lot and to give you some examples …when the new Board was appointed in November last year, we had a stock of about 14,000 pending claims. They are now down to about 3,000 or thereabout so they’ve managed to clear out a number of pending claims,” Minister Singh said. Additionally, the Minister noted that NIS has also been able to successfully resolve the challenges with regard to their Life Certificates.
“When we came into Government there was an ongoing challenge with Life Certificates that had been submitted and that were not processed in a timely manner… on average in each pension cycle you’d have probably about 3000 that were not being processed in a timely manner which would result in a pensioner being paid their pension late or would result in a pensioner dropping off the pensioner’s roll. We’ve now reduced that to zero,“ he posited .
Minister Singh further noted that NIS has been able to use technology to aid in resolving some of their challenges such as allowing pensioners to send their Life Certificates via Whatsapp.
The Senior Finance Minister emphasized further that the Outreach would be continuing countrywide as the Irfaan Ali-led Government was adamant that NIS needs to resolve all of the issues in the shortest possible time.
“The President has mandated me as the Minister responsible for the NIS -we have undertaken at the Cabinet level -a nationwide series of outreaches so that we are able to take the services of NIS to the Citizens….some citizens are not even able to get to a regional office. We want them to be able to come to a convenient location to register their complaint or their problem that they have and to be able to process those. These complaints are very diverse in nature. Some people are having challenges with their incomplete contribution records, “Minister Singh concluded.
The matters being dealt with at the Outreaches include Compliance certificates, Contribution statements, Registration & replacement of NIS cards, Signing and submission of Life Certificates, Submission of Claims and Benefit and Pension queries.
The Senior Finance Minister along with the NIS team are slated to continue the Outreach tomorrow at the car park in Parika, Region Three while additional Outreach locations and dates are to be announced later.
Georgetown, Ministry of Finance, July 14, 2021: Senior Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh has announced that he will be embarking on a series of countrywide outreaches to meet with residents on the ground and listen to their concerns in relation to any issues they may wish to address with the National Insurance Scheme (NIS). A team from the Ministry of Finance and the NIS will also be at hand during the outreaches to provide services. The first outreach meeting is slated to be held at the Giftland Mall, Turkeyen, Georgetown between 10 am and 8 pm on Saturday, July 17, 2021.
The matters to be dealt with at the Outreaches include Compliance certificates, Contribution statements, Registration & replacement of NIS cards, Signing and submission of Life Certificates, Submission of Claims and Benefit and Pension queries.
In December 2020 last, just one month after the commencement of his duties as Senior Minister in the Office of the President with Responsibility for Finance, Dr. Singh met with the new NIS Board. At that meeting he outlined his expectations, charging the Board to ensure these were met.
He had noted then that, “Over the last several years, we have seen the progressive decline of the Scheme. The NIS faces a number of challenges at the macro level and has come under severe threat. It is therefore going to take a lot of work to return the Scheme to long term financial viability.” The Minister had also emphasized the level of importance the President Irfaan-Ali led Government was placing on the Scheme and had reminded the Board that pensioners and retirees usually look forward to their pension in a timely manner while current contributors expect to receive their benefits promptly.
Minister Singh had also cited the Government’s grave concern at the number of complaints received from contributors about delays in receiving their benefits and entitlements most often as a result of incomplete records of their contributions to the Scheme. At that meeting, he had tasked the Board with addressing this problem immediately in order to ensure that public satisfaction with the level of service provided by the NIS improves urgently.
Since then the NIS has taken a number of steps to address several matters as flagged by the Senior Minister.
In December 2020, a new NIS Board was appointed comprising Mr. Ramesh Persaud as Chairman and Board members Ms. Holly Greaves (ExOfficio), Mr. Faizal Jaffarally, Ms. Yvonne Pearson, Mr. Maurice Solomon, Mr. Satanand Gopie, Ms. Kathleen Jason, Mr. Seepaul Narine and Ms. Jillian Burton-Persaud.
The first outreach will be held at the Giftland Mall on Saturday, July 17, while the second will be at the car park at Parika in Region Three on Sunday, July 18, 2021 from 10 am to 4 pm. Additional Outreach locations and dates are expected to be announced later.
Alludes to President Irfaan Ali’s vision for diversification of the economy including through world class education and health care
Georgetown, Ministry of Finance, July 13, 2021: As Government continues to place focus on the diversification of Guyana’s economy through the strengthening of new and emerging sectors, Senior Minister in the Office of the President with Responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh today visited the Texila American University where he toured the facility and met with the University’s Dean Dr. Dheeraj Bhansal and other University representatives.
The Minister's visit was primarily to gain a better understanding of the institution's progress since its establishment in Guyana in 2011 and to discuss the University’s future plans for expansion. Upon learning about the progress at the institution and the number of persons, comprising Guyanese and other foreign nationals, who have graduated in the field of medicine thus far, Minister Singh commended the officials for this major achievement and for their investment in such a facility as he also noted that the institution boasts a modern and well-equipped campus which has produced to date, over 400 licensed medical doctors currently practicing not only in Guyana, but also worldwide.
“There was once the point when we used to send our students elsewhere to study medicine and come back to Guyana. We now have the very interesting phenomenon-the reverse phenomenon that young medical students are coming from the rest of the world to Guyana, studying to become a doctor, qualifying as doctors and going on to practice medicine, not only in Guyana but some of them have gone back to their home countries- Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Africa, and India. It is extremely pleasing for me to observe how this private sector educational institution responded to the investment environment that we had created pre-2015 years, grew over the years and is now poised for even greater growth,” Minister Singh emphasized.
During the visit, the Senior Finance Minister spoke with some of the foreign students and alluded to President Irfaan Ali's vision for diversification of the Guyanese economy and Guyana’s potential as a destination for world class education and health care. Additionally, he posited that institution’s like Texila will aid in the country’s development.
“In our first budget when we returned to office in 2020, one of the initiatives was to remove the corporation tax on education and medical facilities. That was intended to even further enhance Guyana’s attractiveness as a destination for investment in education and healthcare and we see this not just from the point of view of widening the options that are available to Guyanese students…but we see investment in education and health care as a business. Also, from the economic standpoint, we see this as an important economic development,” Minister Singh said.
He outlined the fact that because the institution exists, it means that jobs are being created in the form of administrative staff, other support staff and also through the provision of support services.
“When international students come to Guyana not only do they come and pay their tuition fees, but they live in Guyana, they rent accommodation in Guyana, they consume goods and services, they interact with Guyanese,” he reminded.
Texila University came to Guyana in 2011 and acquired the plot of land on which the institution was constructed in 2014 as part of the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) Government’s agenda to develop Providence and the East Bank area as a major corridor for economic development. Government had also indicated then, its recognition of Guyana as a potential destination for investment in new and emerging sectors including specialized education and specialized healthcare.
Georgetown, Ministry of Finance, July 12, 2021: Senior Minister, Office of the President with Responsibility for Finance Dr. Ashni Singh today participated in a virtual 2021 United Nations High Level Political Forum Official side event organized by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Government of Antigua and Barbuda.
The participating governments and institutions were addressed at the opening by Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs who highlighted that the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) had special vulnerabilities characterized by the fact that they are small, not diversified with related volatility, remote with the implications of huge costs of transport and vulnerable to climate shocks including rising sea levels, floods and droughts. Importantly he emphasized that in revamping development assistance there is need for more resources and the need for rich countries to ‘put their umbrella over the multilateral lending agencies’.
Professor Sachs noted that on a per capita basis the SIDS – with the exception of a couple – have contributed almost nothing to global climate change, but they are disproportionately afflicted by the consequences of global climate change that they did not cause. He described this as imposed costs of greenhouse emissions of the rest of the world on SIDS. He expressed his hope that the revamped solution would be practical, scaled and exactly directed for the countries in need and expressed anticipation for the upcoming G20 meeting in Bali 2022 for key decisions.
Following the first panel discussion on Measuring Multidimensional Vulnerability post COVID-19 and staying on track for Agenda 2030, Minister Singh led off the second panel discussion on International Financing to address Multidimensional Vulnerability in SIDS by outlining the case of Guyana being a small country below sea level. He emphasized the fact that over 80 percent of the population live on its low-lying coastal plain which is over 1 meter below sea level and where over 60 percent of productive activity occurs. He, therefore, stressed on Guyana’s extreme vulnerability to climate change.
At this point, Minister Singh referenced Professor Sachs’ earlier point that Guyana especially was disproportionately contributing to the fight against climate change through the preservation of its pristine rainforest. He then noted that in 2005 devastating floods cost 59 percent of Guyana’s GDP and indicated further that recent floods have seen entire communities under flood waters for several weeks. The Finance Minister alluded to the fact that sister countries in the Caribbean have also experienced hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanos which in some cases caused devastation equivalent to over 200 per cent of GDP being lost.
The Minister stated emphatically that Guyana is therefore strongly in favour of the arguments made regarding the limitations of per capita income as a primary determinant for eligibility. He also voiced Guyana’s support for the incorporation of vulnerability dimensions within the consideration for eligibility for development resource, further noting that while the conversation has to go beyond mere Official Development Assistance (ODA) there is need for recommitment on longstanding commitments already made including the 0.7 percent Gross National Income (GNI) for ODA as well as on climate financing – both commitments yet to be realized.
The Finance Minister further emphasized that the global community should not be distracted from delivery on scale of resources including those promised 50 years ago as well as new resources. This was especially important in small economies whose entire productive base could be wiped out by a pandemic or natural disaster and therefore would have no taxable production.
He therefore agreed that factors contributing to productive diversification needed to be examined, emphasizing that, “Even as we consider questions of mobilizing development support etc. we also to have revisit the question of the development model that is being implemented or is being considered for many of these countries because the reality is we have to find a way to diversify ourselves out of this extreme vulnerability that arises from a single productive sector generating all of our economic output and generating all of our Government revenue. That is not an easy question to answer. It’s a question that policy makers have been wrestling to answer for a long time but it’s a question that we have to redouble our efforts to find an answer.”
The Minister also emphasized that even as regional integration is pursued and despite this having much value to add, ‘we do have to take a long hard look at how we address the peculiar vulnerabilities that are faced by our countries and in particular this challenge of productive diversification’.
He then further concluded that, “It is very important that we don’t allow ourselves to be distracted with new conversations which might divert our attention from ensuring the delivery of commitments that we’ve already made, that we already embraced as a global community and that we are still struggling to deliver on.”
Despite Guyana becoming an oil producing country last year, Government, since the commencement of its new term in office on August 2, 2020 has been steadfast in its approach to ensure that the country’s economy is diversified from the reliance on any one sector and has been pushing to strengthen other productive sectors such as agriculture and tourism to add value and resilience in the case of future shocks and to avoid the Dutch Disease.