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Government committed to ensuring highly competitive, world class, diversified economy – says Finance Minister
-congratulates Commission on 30 th AGM
Georgetown, Ministry of Finance, May 12, 2022: “My assurance to you today, on behalf of His Excellency the President is that you have in this Government, a Government that believes strongly, unshakably, unflinchingly and indeed, unapologetically the role of the Private Sector in the future of Guyana, and you have in this Government a partner committed to ensuring that a rapidly growing and a highly competitive, world class, diversified economy in Guyana.”
These were the words of Senior Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh today as he delivered the feature address on behalf of President Irfaan Ali at the opening ceremony for the PSC’s Thirtieth Annual General Meeting (AGM) held at the Marriott Hotel, Kingston. The ceremony was attended by members of the business community, the Diplomatic Corps, members of the main Opposition A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC) and the Judiciary.
Minister Singh reiterated that Government sees the private sector as a highly valued and cherished partner in National development as he recognized the role of founding members of the Commission, some of whom were also present at the ceremony. The Minister also acknowledged the role of the PSC in the restoration of democracy in Guyana in 1992 and for their stance during the 2020 General Elections. On this note, Dr. Singh also expressed gratitude to the members of the Diplomatic Corps during that period of turmoil when they assisted in defending Guyana’s. democracy.
During his address to attendees, the Finance Minister reiterated the important role the private sector will play in the provision of jobs as well as in assisting in Government’s non-oil economic diversification policy (including in agriculture for food security across the Caribbean), to allow for a more resilient and stronger economy. He also disclosed that for the first time in 54 years, Guyana will once again be exporting manganese as was done in the past.
“Food security across the Caribbean presents a valuable business opportunity for Guyana…. we will see the level of emphasis being placed on non-oil extractive sectors such as gold and other minerals. I want to recognize the fact that this year, indeed this month and I believe this week Guyana will resume exports of manganese for the first time in 54 years. Right now, 16 vessels are being loaded in the North West of Guyana with Guyana’s first shipment of manganese in 54 years, and right multiple international companies are actively engaged at varying stages of development of world class large-scale gold mining operations in at least three very promising developments across Guyana,” the Senior Finance Minister said.
Meanwhile, Outgoing Chairman of the Private Sector Commission Paul Cheong said he was pleased to see that many of the measures proposed by the PSC during consultations on Budget 2022 were included in the Budget as he outlined several achievements of the PSC during his tenure as Chairman. He also welcomed the Women’s Chamber of Commerce as he noted that the PSC will be placing additional focus on the inclusion of more women in its fold.
Government makes first withdrawal from the Natural Resource Fund
Georgetown, Ministry of Finance, May 10, 2022: Senior Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh announced today that Government has made its first draw down from the Natural Resource Fund (NRF) in accordance with the Natural Resource Fund (NRF) Act 2021.
The Minister indicated that pursuant to Section 16 of the NRF Act 2021, US$200 million equivalent to G$41.7 billion has been transferred from the Natural Resource Fund to the Consolidated Fund to finance national development priorities.
This transfer was made in accordance with the strengthened legal architecture of the NRF Act 2021 and follows the publication in the Official Gazette of all petroleum revenues paid into the Natural Resource Fund during the period 1 January to 31 March 2022. The NRF Act 2021 which came into operation on the 1 January 2022, represents a significant improvement in transparency and accountability and the overall management of the natural resoures wealth of Guyana for present and future generations.
It would be recalled, that as part of the Budget 2022 process, Parliamentary approval was granted for a total of US$607.6 million to be transferred during the fiscal year 2022.
Government removes VAT on Cement
Georgetown, Ministry of Finance, April 29, 2022: Senior Minister in the Office of the President with Responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh has announced the removal of Value Added Tax (VAT) on Cement with effect from today April 29, 2022.
It would be recalled that Government had previously announced in Budget 2020, the removal of VAT on building and construction materials where VAT was imposed after 2014. At the time that this measure was implemented, Cement was not impacted because Cement had previously attracted VAT prior to 2015.
Government’s removal of VAT on Cement reflects recognition of the importance of Cement as a key input for the construction of residential dwellings as well as commercial buildings, and in line with Government’s vision for providing relief to citizens as well as to support the housing drive. This measure is expected to provide substantial support to the local economy.
Government would have previously also removed VAT from water, electricity, basic food items and household necessities.
Government’s expectation is that the removal of VAT from Cement will be passed on to final consumers through appropriate adjustments in the final price charged.
Finance Minister encourages businesses to deploy more digital solutions during Canada-Guyana Chamber of Commerce’s inaugural AGM
-Outlines some of Government’s plans to promote E-commerce
Georgetown, Ministry of Finance, April 26, 2022: Senior Minister in the Office of the President with Responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, today, while applauding some businesses for already moving ahead with improving their E-Commerce services before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, further encouraged private sector entities to deploy solutions to allow for faster and easier service and E- Commerce business transactions. At the same time, the Minister outlined Government’s plans, some of which are already being enacted, in terms of response and solutions to the inefficiencies in the system. Dr. Singh was speaking at the inaugural Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Guyana/Canada Chamber of Commerce which was held today at the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry’s (GBTI’s) Recreational Centre, Bel Air Park.
Emphasizing that the Chamber has an extremely important role to play in the economic and commercial landscape of Guyana, the Finance Minister reminded that there are already many Canadian companies with very well-established presence in Guyana as well as many Guyanese companies doing business with Canada and some located there. He reminded further that this point was reinforced most recently during the visit to Guyana by Canada’s Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, Mary Ng during which a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between Guyana and the Canadian Commercial Cooperation that will facilitate discussions and exchange of information related to the procurement of Canadian goods and services. Dr. Singh pointed out that under this framework, it is expected that even greater opportunities for economic and commercial transactions will be realized. On this note, he congratulated the Chamber for all of their achievements since their formation in December 2020.
Minister Singh then outlined some of Government’s plans in E-commerce as he referenced President Ali’s consultative meeting recently at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre which focused on an Information Communications Technology (ICT) Masterplan for Guyana. He alluded to Government’s vision in the deployment of digital solution not only from the point of view of improving the public infrastructural space and not only from the standpoint of the deployment of digital solutions from an electronic Government perspective in terms of E-Government but also the use of digital solutions for the purposes of private sector commercial activity. Those, he stated, are all elements of any modern ICT Masterplan.
“One of the very first things that President Ali did when he assumed office was to bring into operation the new Telecommunications Act and that Act laid the foundation for the liberalization of the telecommunications sector and saw immediately thereafter, significantly ramped up interest by companies operating in the ICT space in introducing services which previously were largely in the domain of the legacy monopoly provided,” Dr. Singh reminded.
‘We’ve seen already, perhaps most prominently, the laying of redundant fibre optic cable and extension of fibre optic connectivity to places that were never served before,” the Minister added.
The Finance Minister pointed out that Government plans to ramp up and improve significantly, through E-commerce, the services provided by the public sector to allow for a service that would be as citizen-friendly as possible. He alluded to two of Government’s major plans of introducing a Single- Window process foe trade transactions as well as a Single window process for construction permits. The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) has already commenced an aspect of the first process through the introduction of the Single Window Automated Processing System (SWAPS) and 2022 should see full implementation of the system. He urged the Private Sector to also take advantage of the ICT legislation and other legal provisions in order to further improve its services to the public as he commended those businesses which have already moved ahead in this direction.
The Canada-Guyana Chamber of Commerce has over the last year established a physical presence through the enrollment of over 50 business members and has organized numerous virtual and in person events to address pertinent issues of interest to members. It has also facilitated various investment opportunities and relationships between enterprises in both Guyana and Canada. The Chamber has signaled its intention to continue to strive towards improving bilateral economic relations in 2022.
Senior Finance Minister hosts roundtable with IDB-Invest, private sector at ACCC to discuss investment opportunities
Georgetown, Ministry of Finance, April 4, 2022: Senior Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh and officials from the Ministry of Finance today met with Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of IDB (Inter-American Development Bank) Invest James Scriven and team to examine the wide range of private sector opportunities in Guyana that the Bank can support. Later in the day, the Finance Minister hosted a Roundtable meeting with Representatives of the Private Sector and Mr. Scriven and team to discuss Guyana’s Development Agenda. IDB Invest is the private sector arm of the IDB. Its aim is to advance economic development and improve lives by encouraging growth of the private sector. Minister Singh was joined by Minister of Public Works, Bishop Juan Edghill and Minister of Housing and Water, Collin Croal while the Private sector team was led by Chairman of the Private Sector Commission, Paul Cheong.
The Government of Guyana has been working aggressively (since its assumption to office in August (2020) to create the conditions for private sector-led growth with Government policies designed to create jobs and allow for income-generation. The meeting focused on the wide range of private sector opportunities for possible investment by the Bank such as an expansion of trade financing with Commercial Banks and providing support to micro enterprises. Additionally, discussions centred on various sectors poised for rapid expansion including oil and gas, agriculture and agro processing, tourism and Information Communications Technology (ICT) such as the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector. It also allowed for an examination of available financing instruments, various mechanisms and modalities of accessing this financing and examples of how these mechanisms have worked in other countries. IDB- Invest offers an array of investment opportunities and provides its clients with customized financing solutions and expert advice, tailored to their specific industry and market.
The IDB-Invest was formerly known as the Inter-American Investment Corporation (IIC). The entity partners with the private sector in Latin America and the Caribbean to finance projects to advance clean energy, modernize agriculture, strengthen transportation systems and expand access to financing. Financial solutions offered by IDB Invest include trade and supply chain finance, blended finance, guarantees, equity and loans.
On Monday last, during the 2022 annual meeting of the Boards of Governors of the IDB and IDB Invest, held virtually, Minister Singh lauded the commitment of the IDB Group to the continued support to the Caribbean sub-region. The Minister was speaking on behalf of the Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, the smallest member countries of the IDB Group.
Last week, the Senior Finance Minister hosted a similar roundtable discussion between the World Bank and the private sector led by Country Director for the Caribbean Lilia Burunciuc and new Resident Representative of the Bank Dilletta Doretti. That meeting served as an opportunity for dialogue on the Government’s economic objectives and priorities and potential opportunities for World Bank support through its assistance and lending programmes.
Senior Finance Minister holds discussions with World Bank Country Director for the Caribbean, Lilia Burunciuc, new Resident Representative Diletta Doretti and team
-discussions centre on reinforcing relations with the financial institution
Georgetown, Ministry of Finance, March 30, 2022: Senior Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh and officials from the Ministry of Finance today met with a high-level World Bank team led by Country Director for the Caribbean, Lilia Burunciuc, and new Resident Representative of the Bank, Dilletta Doretti. The meeting served as an opportunity for dialogue on the Government’s economic objectives and priorities and potential opportunities for World Bank support through its assistance and lending programmes. Key priorities discussed included Guyana’s Low Carbon Development agenda, human capital development and opportunities for partnership between the Government and the financial institution in other areas in line with its expanding and evolving capacity.
Elaborating on the various ongoing developmental projects and on Government’s policies, Dr Singh placed emphasis on diversified economic growth, highlighting the desire for an increase in the private sector footprint of the IFC (International Finance Corporation). He alluded to a number of developmental projects in the agriculture sector which hold potential such as the corn and soya bean agriculture initiative. The Senior Finance Minister further welcomed the Bank’s continued investment in human capital development as well as Guyana’s Low Carbon Development agenda.
For her part, World Bank Country Director for the Caribbean Lilia Burunciuc re-affirmed the Bank’s commitment to working closely with Guyana in promoting economic and social development while the new Resident Representative Diletta Doretti noted that Government has a clear strategy and expressed enthusiasm at being able to support the administration’s development priorities on behalf of the World Bank.
In August 2021, the Vice President responsible for the Latin American and Caribbean Region of the World Bank, Carlos Felipe Jaramillo and team made a two-day visit to the country where they met with Government and visited a number of project sites. During that visit, the Bank re-affirmed its commitment to Guyana and assessed areas for further opportunities for expanded partnership in pursuit of the country’s national development goals.
The Bank has been supporting several projects 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 increased 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 today also included Judith Green, Regional Manager, Caribbean region (IFC) and Javier Suarez, Program leader for the Caribbean. The Minister also took the opportunity to welcome the new Resident Representative to Guyana and wished her a successful tenure.
Senior Finance Minister lauds IDB Group’s commitment to continued support to small Caribbean States
-during annual meeting of the Board of Governors of the IDB and IDB Invest
Georgetown, Ministry of Finance, March 28, 2022: During the 2022 annual meeting of the Boards of Governors of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and IDB Invest today, held virtually, Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, lauded the commitment of the IDB Group to the continued support to the Caribbean sub region. The Minister was speaking on behalf of the Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, the smallest member countries of the IDB Group.
“The Bank’s instruments to support our countries in achieving our development agendas are crucial and must remain agile to respond to mounting needs in this volatile environment.
Therefore, the Caribbean welcomes the proposal to adjust the instruments on offer. We particularly wish to highlight the important role of PBLs (Performance-based loans) in supporting integral reforms at this critical juncture and support the call for PBL caps to be made more flexible. We also welcome the proposal to exclude green PBLs from counting against the PBL cap,” Dr. Singh said, adding that ‘guarantees will be key in mobilizing private resources to contribute to confronting emerging development challenges and delivering on the 2030 agenda’.
“Therefore, we recommend that emphasis be placed on incentivizing the use of guarantee instruments. We also take this opportunity to express support for the strategic climate change and sustainability facility that will provide new concessional resources for climate action in the Caribbean”, the Minister said.
The Senior Finance Minister reminded that the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in one of the worst recessions in the Latin America and Caribbean Region in a century, causing a 7 percent decline in regional GDP in 2020 – the largest regional contraction in the world as he lamented that for some of the countries in the Caribbean, the contraction was much sharper, especially in the tourism- dependent economies of the Sub-Region.
“Recovery from the pandemic presents an opportunity to transform the development model of the Region while enhancing climate resilience, strengthening the capacity of public institutions, and supporting private institutions in making meaningful contributions towards attaining the 2030 agenda for sustainable development,” Dr. Singh assured.
The Finance Minister further explained that even though LAC’s economy is estimated to have grown by 6.8 percent in 2021, this growth has not been balanced.
“The largest expansion is estimated in Central America at 7.7 percent, followed by the Andean Sub-Region at 6.3 percent, and the Southern Cone at 6.2 percent. On the other hand, the Caribbean is expected to have a milder recovery at 1.9 percent, reflecting the acute vulnerabilities we face in the Sub-Region, even as we are all committed to working towards achieving a more robust recovery”, he said.
“This, coupled with increasing maturing debt, implies amplified gross financing needs. For the Caribbean, the threat of a protracted financial crisis lingers as tourism remains subdued and climatic events increase in frequency and intensity. Consequently, our governments are faced with difficult decisions on prioritizing interventions to stimulate a recovery, support reforms to unlock economic potential, catalytic projects to enhance development prospects, and initiatives to build resilience against the increasing threats of climate change,” the Senior Finance Minister explained further.
He emphasized that against this background, it is crucial for the IDB Group to maintain its Small and Vulnerable and Small and Island Country targets to ensure that support is granted to the countries which require the most assistance in grappling with the economic crisis.
“Therefore, we applaud the language incorporated into the resolution on the proposed new value proposition, which signals a commitment from the IDB Group for continued support to our Sub- Region.” he told the forum.
Dr. Singh concluded by encouraging the IDB Group’s Management to fulfill their pledge to develop a sub-regional strategy for the Caribbean with emphasis on health, education, infrastructure, private sector development, the digital economy, climate change, the blue economy, and the orange economy.
He also encouraged the Bank to move with alacrity in delivering support at the scale needed, on both the public and private sector sides of the Group’s operations, to facilitate a sustainable recovery in the Caribbean and to help the Sub-Region embark on a path towards lasting economic growth and prosperity.
The Minister then reiterated the strong appreciation of the Caribbean for the support provided by the IDB to the sub-region over the years as well the importance of the Group to the development
of Latin America and the Caribbean, in particular. He added that the Bank remains the premier strategic partner of choice in member countries.
In Pakistan: Guyana’s Finance Minister calls for concerted global action to tackle global problems
-at 48th Meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the OIC
Ministry of Finance, March 22, 2022: Speaking at the 48 th Meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Senior Minister in the Office of the President with Responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh earlier today while commending the Government and People of Pakistan on behalf of President Irfaan Ali and the Government of Guyana on the occasion of Pakistan’s 75th Independence Anniversary, reiterated to officials in attendance that concerted global action is now even more urgent to tackle the global problems being faced.
“First is the question of full and lasting recovery from COVID-19. All our countries felt the pandemic’s impact, both humanitarian and economic. Effective responses necessitated international collaboration. Likewise, sustainable recovery needs joint action. Resurgence in any country anywhere, threatens the recovery in all countries everywhere. As OIC Member States, we need to stay focused on addressing the issues that are critical for safeguarding and sustaining the recovery. These include further strengthening our healthcare systems, and improving access to vaccines and other medical supplies, even as our economies reopen,” Dr. Singh strongly urged.
The Senior Finance Minister went on to explain that climate change is another issue which must be confronted more urgently on a global scale, adding that as a low-lying coastal state, Guyana is amongst the most vulnerable, and the climate crisis threatens not only its development prospects but Guyana’s very existence.
“Guyana has outlined a Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) which places our economy on a path to accelerated sustainable development. Shared commitment and joint action are critical for limiting global warming and we urge adherence to the global agenda for combating this crisis,” Dr. Singh explained.
He also noted that as a heavily forested country, there is need for more meaningful global recognition of the contribution being made by standing forests in the fight against climate change.
Minister Singh reminded that more than 800 million people worldwide still go hungry daily and almost 700 million persons worldwide are malnourished opining that food security is therefore a global imperative.
“Within the Caribbean, Guyana is leading efforts to scale up food production and productivity rapidly, and to strengthen food systems with the aim of improving food security in our region as part of the global effort to tackle this problem,” he told officials, adding that ‘additional investment in agriculture by both the public and private sectors, and dismantling of the barriers to trade in agricultural produce, are urgently needed globally’.
Dr. Singh reminded that one specific concern of the Government of Guyana and that of all OIC Member States is any form of discrimination against individuals on the basis of their religion which is a violation of their human rights and contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“Guyana was therefore pleased to support the OIC initiative to pursue the designation of 15 March as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia which the United Nations General Assembly agreed to do by consensus. The designation of this day is an important step towards addressing this scourge. It also presents the opportunity to raise awareness on religious intolerance more broadly with a view to promoting understanding and advancing a culture of peace,” he posited.
Meanwhile, the Finance Minister alluded to Guyana’s culture of peace, pointing out that Guyana’s final observation is a reflection on the importance of working to promote peace and stability in the regions to which OIC Member States belong as well as the rest of the world.
“On this latter note, the Government of Guyana deplores the threat or use of force in international relations and the violation of territorial integrity and sovereignty of states, wherever it may occur. We therefore remain gravely concerned over recent military intervention in violation of territorial integrity and sovereignty and we reiterate our call for an immediate cessation of hostilities and a return to diplomacy. Aggression by any one state against another is a threat to the surrounding region and to countries everywhere,” Dr. Singh said.
He concluded that while examining the various resolutions at the forum, Guyana’s delegation took note of the number of conflicts that are still ongoing, and how these conflicts are impeding the advancement of human rights and hindering development. As such, he expressed Guyana’s stance on the need for political will and concrete actions to resolve these issues.
“Guyana expresses its continued unwavering solidarity with the Palestinian people in their just struggle to live in peace and dignity,” the Finance Minister indicated further at the forum relating that in Guyana, led by His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, the country has embraced a philosophy of oneness in the concept of ‘One Guyana’ aimed at reinforcing the strength Guyanese derive from diversity and promoting the unity and prosperity of all of its people. He then reaffirmed Guyana’s steadfast commitment to the values of the OIC and to contributing to the furtherance of the Organization’s objectives.
Also in attendance at the forum as part of Guyana’s delegation was Guyana’s Ambassador to Qatar Safraaz Shadood.