Category: Media

27 Nov
By: Tanika Jones 0

Budget 2019 Speech

Introduction

Mr. Speaker, I rise to move the motion for the approval of the Estimates of the Public Sector and the Budget for the Financial Year 2019, and in doing so, I wish to indicate that Cabinet has recommended that the National Assembly proceed upon this motion, pursuant to Article 171 Paragraph 2 of the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana.

Mr. Speaker, it is my distinct honour to be able to deliver Budget 2019, the fifth and penultimate budget of this Administration’s first term in Government. Today presents us with yet another opportunity to highlight our successes and achievements as a Government – a Government that is dedicated to the overall improvement in the quality of life of our people, as represented by a budget that guarantees equality and inclusivity in resource allocation for all Guyanese. Also, Mr. Speaker, this budget is the third to be presented to this House before the start of the Financial Year. The benefits of these early presentations have been evident in the ability of managers to execute their projects and programmes over the twelve month planning horizon, instead of the truncated year that had become the norm in the not too distant past.

Download The Entire Document Below.

Budget 2019 Speech

 

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21 Nov
09 Nov
03 Nov
By: Tanika Jones 0

IsDB concludes Mission to Guyana

The Ministry of Finance has just completed the successful hosting of a Programming Mission by the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) to Guyana that will soon realise deeper ties between the two countries as they seek to identify projects to accelerate Guyana’s development.

The Mission which concluded on Friday, November 2, 2018 saw three intense days of meetings between a team of officials from the IsDB led by Dr. Sobir Komilov – Regional Manager for Latin America and the Caribbean; and included Mr. Saifulla Abid –Senior Country Manager for Guyana IsDB; Mr. Hamady Soma Ba – Relationship Manager from the International Islamic Trade Financing Department (ITFC) and Mr. Ahmed A Khalid – Regional Head (Asia) of the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (IFC) and representatives from the Public and Private Sectors.

The Mission aimed at developing a pipeline of potential projects for the medium term 2019 – 2021 that would inform the work programme of the IsDB; discussions were focused therefore, on identifying projects and programmes that seem most likely to have the greatest development impact in Guyana.

It was coordinated by the Ministries of Finance and Business under the guidance of the Hon. Winston Jordan, Minister of Finance and Governor for Guyana at the IsDB. Discussions were held with the Ministries of Public Health, Education, Agriculture, Public Infrastructure, Communities, Social Protection, GoInvest, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce, and several Commercial Banks.

The challenges and opportunities to advance Guyana’s development agenda were explored and priorities for action identified. Health Care, Waste water treatment, renewable energy, TVET, housing and infrastructure were among the areas identified for initial consideration in 2019.

To close the mission, an aide memoir was signed between the Government of Guyana and the IsDB Group with both sides agreeing to continue collaborating on the development of the country.

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19 Oct
By: Tanika Jones 0

Address by Hon. Winston Jordan Minister of Finance at Green Guyana Expo & International Small Business Summit

Green Guyana Expo
& International Small Business Summit

(Theme: Sustainable Economic Growth through Small Business Innovation, Entrepreneurship and transformative Government Policies)

Address by Hon. Winston Jordan Minister of Finance

 

Mr. Chairman
Hon Vice Presidents Ramjattan and Allicock
Other Ministers of the Government and Members of Parliament
Members of the Head Table
Excellencies of the Diplomatic Corp
Representatives of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen
Boys and Girls:

I am honoured to have been invited to address you at the opening of this inaugural Green Guyana Expo and International Small Business Summit – the first of its kind to be held in Guyana. At the outset, let me congratulate the organisers of this event, especially the indefatigable Eric Philips, who has been relentless in his pursuit to ensure the realization of this event. As he would have indicated, it was in January of this year when he led a three-person team to my office to sell the Green Expo and Summit. I readily came on board – of course, at a cost.

I would also like to extend greetings and a warm welcome to everyone, in particular, our visitors from other climes. Your presence here today is a reflection of your desire to be an active participant in the agenda of this Expo and Summit. I enjoin you to use the opportunity of your presence in Guyana to see some of our sites and to share in the convivial atmosphere for which we are famous. Special recognition goes out, too, the many school children who are in attendance. I want to commend the organisers for inviting them to this Opening Ceremony. Youths are our present and our future. Exposure such as this can only redound to their and our benefit.

Mr. Chairman, this Expo and Summit brings together business experts from Guyana and around the world to educate and inspire local businesses to adopt new strategies and good practices that are necessary to build business resilience and competitiveness. I also expect that this summit will discuss extensively, emerging trends and practices in the green business realm. Let me also state that the convening of this Expo and Summit is another testimony of the Government charting the path to help small businesses to grow and compete successfully.

The theme for this Expo and Summit is “Sustainable Economic Growth through Small Business Innovation, Entrepreneurship and transformative Government Policies”. At this juncture of our development, when Guyana awaits the arrival of first oil, in early 2020, this theme is most apt. This event is being held at a time when the Government is developing, altering and/ or otherwise shifting national policies and investments to reflect a Green Development Agenda. Indeed, since the presentation of our first Budget, in 2015, under the theme, “A Fresh Approach to the Good Life in a Green Economy,” our Government has been pursuing, systematically, a model of development that will be characterized as green, climate-resilient and sustainable. This novel approach will see the use of funds derived from the exploitation of our oil and gas resources to finance the Green Economy. We aim to avoid the pitfalls of many developing countries, including some of our neighbours, who are experiencing serious macroeconomic imbalances and structural disruptions to their economies because of the volatility of oil prices.
In June 2012, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development was convened, and dealt extensively with the benefits of a “Green Economy”. Since then, a number of governments have adopted, as a matter of priority, economic diversification and expansion that is guided by a green agenda. It is believed that this initiative produces more inclusive economic growth and prepares countries to better address external challenges, such as economic volatility and climate change. And so, it is in this context, that the Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana remains resolute in the formulation of the Green State Development Strategy, which will guide long-term planning – to position the country to better address challenges such as economic volatility and climate change – and to make the country better aligned with inclusive growth, sustainable development and poverty reduction. I am very pleased with the overwhelming response to this activity, and look forward to speedy conclusion of the document and early implementation of the projects and programmes.
This Expo and Summit will, no doubt, create opportunities for networking and facilitate trade. I am acutely aware that once accompanied by the right policies, trade can be a principal driver to the transition to a green economy. As identified in the United Nations Green Economy Guidebook, agriculture, fisheries, forestry, tourism, manufacturing and renewable energy are six key sectors that stand to benefit substantially from trade opportunities associated with the increase demand for environmentally-friendly goods and services. Guyana is well endowed with all of these resources; together with the right trade and investment policies, the country can reap substantial benefits from increased production and exports. The resulting improvement in the country’s gross domestic product, balance of payments and national income would be most welcomed.
Mr. Chairman, I want to posit that the achievement of green growth is inseparable from developments in the private sector, particularly small and medium enterprises. In my address to the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association’s Annual Dinner and Awards Ceremony, in June last year, I made reference to the need for the private sector to hasten the transition to a Green Economy by introducing fundamental changes to the way they conducted business. His call was made in recognition of the fact that, without a decisive contribution of the business community, the transformation of our economy would be made more difficult.
Let me emphasize, that small and medium scale businesses should not be intimidated by the presence of the large, well-established and recognized firms, which would have already established their environmental footprints. Small and medium scaled businesses have a vital role to play in the transformation process as there is now a growing demand for green products and services. And there is no shortage of ideas and opportunities for start-ups to be successful and sustainable. The key is to first find a green market niche that is consistent with market demand and the Government’s priorities and develop it. Here, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to introduce to drinking straws made of bamboo, one of the many products, including chairs and beds, of Indonesia with which I became familiar during my recent attendance at the IMF/World Bank annual Meetings, in Bali. Bamboo is very well known in Guyana, as it grows extensively in the wild. Just think of the possibilities of bamboo products replacing, for example, the non-biodegradable plastic straws, chairs and tables. Having banned the use of certain plastic products in 2016, our Government is committed to ban even more by 2020. Small and medium businesses have an opportunity to, in local parlance, “cash in” on the void that will be created.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, our Government is cognizant of the growing demand for, and the challenges associated with, financing for small and medium scaled businesses in Guyana. The cost of finance remains high and, in spite of the presence and growing influence of a credit bureau, the preference for collateral at formal financial institutions remains strong and is very often not accessible. High non-performing loans and the need for banking institutions to improve their balance sheets and capital adequacy ratio also contribute to stultification of the growth of small and medium businesses. The Government has been playing its part, investing over $1 billion dollars in grant or near grant funding in programmes such as SLED, LEN, HEYS and the Small Business Fund. We have commissioned a study, supported by the Caribbean Development Bank, to examine the feasibility and the need for the re-establishment of a development banking facility or institution to help these businesses in targeted sectors and activities. The preliminary report of the Consultant undertaking the study has benefitted from multi-stakeholder views, resulting a request to the financing institution for a broadening of the terms of reference. Small and medium businesses will benefit further from measures to be enunciated in the 2019 Budget. As our Government continues to develop the national green finance roadmap, we expect the local financial institutions to adopt a less passive approach to financing these businesses. In this regard, during the recently-held Consultations on the 2019 Budget, I asked the Representatives of the Guyana Bankers’ Association to develop new and innovative products to drive our Green Agenda.
Mr. Chairman, investment in urban and rural infrastructure is necessary to stimulate economic activities and provide easier access to markets by small and medium businesses. While the government will continue to play a key role in the provision of infrastructure, the transformational change will require large-scale private sector involvement. And so, given the restricted fiscal space, on the one hand, and the widening infrastructure deficit, on the other, a Public Private Partnership (P3) Framework has been established as a delivery model to overcome some of the challenges that hinder the execution of development projects in Guyana. The framework prioritizes core projects for collaboration between the Government and the private sector.
Mr. Chairman, to reinforce its commitment to a green trajectory, Guyana has applied and successfully gained membership to the Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE). PAGE is an organization that was launched in 2013 to provide assistance to countries in their transition to a green economy and the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The staff at the Ministry of Finance is working collaboratively with PAGE to reframe macroeconomic policies, practices and models that are consistent with the country’s green agenda.
Let me close by, once again, recognizing the diligence, dedication and hard work of the organizers of this event. To all those present, I leave you with this quote from George Bernard Shaw: “The love of economy is the root of all virtue”.

Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for the courtesy of your attention.

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08 Oct
By: Tanika Jones 0

Minister of Finance Responds to Stabroek News Editorial

Dear Editor,

The mask is finally off, SN “Cohesion” 2018-10-07. It would appear that your editorial board is not pleased with any initiative of the government.

This editorial trotted out a tired and lazy narrative of a “bumbling” “incompetent” government that “rules over us”. Of course, this comes from a newspaper that is owned by a wealthy family that over the years has served as the megaphone for the private sector, several of whose members became obscenely rich through corrupt schemes, massive tax evasion and other nefarious activities under the former PPP/C regime. It appears that SN didn’t actually want a change of government; rather, it wanted the PPP/C government to change its ways. Unfortunately for SN, the Coalition government is a reality, over three years old. We were elected to serve the people of this country. We have been doing so; we will continue to do so, regardless of criticisms and detractors, without fear or favour, affection or ill will.

A lot of aspersions were cast on a number of my colleagues. I believe they are capable of defending themselves. As to your criticism of my so called “less than exemplary performance in charge of the Ministry of Finance portfolio,” you must have forgotten, conveniently, the deformed and broken economy that our government inherited in 2015. Lest we forget, too, that economy thrived on rampant drug trafficking, money laundering, and a banking sector in which a few institutions recklessly lent funds for private white elephant projects.

The hangover from that lending binge has resulted in an average non-performing loan ratio of 13.2%; in the particular case of one bank, one out of every three loans are now categorized as non-performing. This was a significant factor in the immediate slowing of the economy, post-2015. Just look at the half finished, empty buildings dotting the landscape and one would understand that the construction boom, hailed by the PPP/C and their admirers, was nothing but a bubble waiting to burst. More directly, the Treasury has been forced to bear the cost of a large number of reckless investments, including Skeldon, Clico, and the Marriott Hotel. It didn’t stop there: the government has had to dole out billions to settle lawsuits as well as meet the cost to retrieve the outstanding US$5M for the sale of the government shares in GT&T.

Despite that and significant challenges in the sugar sector, that we as a country are now finally grappling with, our government has provided a bailout for Guysuco- a whopping $37 billion to date.This sum excludes the $5.7 billion severance payment for workers; the transfer to central government of expenditure previously borne by Guysuco, including D&I and community centres; and debt repayments on loans contracted for the ill-fated Sugar Modernisation Project. But not once have I seen an editorial questioning the management of Guysuco about its stewardship of taxpayers monies.

Still, the economy grew by 4.5% in the first half of this year and is projected to grow by 3.7% for all of 2018. This compares very favourably to most countries in the Caribbean and Latin America. And this growth does not come from profligate government spending: Debt to GDP ratio, a critical indicator of an economy’s health, is well within the internationally-accepted limit for countries at our level of development, at around 50% and remains the second lowest in the Caribbean. The International Monetary Fund, in its May 9, 2018 mission statement said it “supports the authoritiesprudence towards private external borrowing” and that “the central government deficit was 4.5 percent of GDP, lower than the budgeted 5.6 percent. This better than expected outturn was largely supported by higher revenue arising from improvements in tax administration.” And for this, I must commend the sterling and relentless work of Commissioner General Godfrey Statia. Let us recall that back in 2013, only one third, or 992 out of 2,618 registered and active firms, filed tax returns and that out of 75,992 active self-employed persons, only 33,740 filed taxes, paying an annual average of $98,000 per person.

Meanwhile, in a press release on June 25 2018, Tahseen Sayed, the World Bank’s Country Director for the Caribbean said “Guyana is making important strides to promote financial resilience and improve fiscal management, and has embarked on a broad-based reform program. These reforms will be key to building a strong economy that is underpinned by a strategic management of public resources for the benefit of the Guyanese people.” The statement continued that “Significant progress has been made in implementing the 2016 Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP) recommendations, including enhancing the supervisory power of the BoG and establishing an emergency liquidity assistance framework, a national payment system and a deposit insurance scheme. The mission welcomed the establishment of a Financial Stability Unit within the BoG to assess macro-financial vulnerabilities.

So, who are we to believe? Stabroek News with its apparent axe to grind? Or the IMF, the World Bank and the other international lending institutions including the Inter-American Development Bank and the Islamic Development Bank that are increasingly viewing Guyana as a stable, well managed country with bright prospects that is ripe for sustainable development?

Also, the editorial claims, bizarrely, that public sector workers have not received a major increase in salaries since 2015. Again, a case of selected amnesia: only three months after taking office, our government increased the minimum basic salary of each public servant to $50,000. This translated to a 26.4% increase for those who earned the old minimum wage of $39,540 and 17.1% for over 4,000 public servants earning the then minimum wage of $42,703. Subsequent to this, public servants, including teachers, have seen further increases that amount to over 50% since the Coalition Government took office.

Further, our government has reduced the Value Added Tax (VAT), from 16% to 14%; reduced Personal Income Tax, from 30% to 28%; increased the tax threshold from $600,000 to $720,000 or 1/3rd of gross income (whichever is higher); made employees’ NIS contributions tax free; and reduced tolls on the Berbice Bridge. And yes, we have reduced Corporate Income Tax for manufacturing companies, from 30% to 27.5% and granted significant concessions to the gold and forestry sectors, among others.

All the while, we have kept inflation well in check:negative 3.3% in 2015, 1.4% in 2016 and 2% in 2017. Despite the desperate fearmongering of the PPP/C and fellow travellers, the Guyana dollar/US dollar rate as of May 2018 stood at G$212.48,from G$210 in May 2015. That’s a depreciation of 1.2% over 3 years. Impressive, indeed! Yet, we are conscious that more needs to be done.

As for the editorial’s claim about the “loss of all the senior officials who have resigned” from my ministry in “the last few weeks”, I refer you to a previous misguided article in which the reporter failed to seek clarity from my Ministry before publishing. In our subsequent response, we noted that “The policy of the Ministry under the stewardship of Hon. Winston Jordan is that employees who reach the age of retirement are not kept on unless they bring some special skill that is critical to the work of the Ministry, or, where suitable replacements cannot be found within the Ministry. We see this as part of giving younger civil servants the opportunities to build careers with us.” I would add that I remain extremely proud of the dedicated and highly competent team working at the Ministry of Finance. Under my leadership, this team has been able to produce, among others: two national budgets before the start of the financial year; Mid-year reports before Parliament goes into recess; two Public Debt Reports (not a requirement under any law); Public Private Partnership Framework; and more recently, a Green Paper on the Sovereign Wealth Fund. I have taken to Parliament, and had passed, more pieces of legislation than any other Minister of Finance did in their first three years.

Of course, Stabroek News itself is not immune to an exodus of skills, including competent editors and senior reporters, which is sadly apparent in the decline of its journalism over the past decade.

Rest assured that I will continue my single-minded dedication to the task at hand.

Yours sincerely,
Winston Jordan, MP
Minister of Finance

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