General

Senior Finance Minister tables FMAA Bill to streamline Budget process of Constitutional Agencies while preserving their independence

-to prescribe manner in which Constitutional Agencies’ budgets are approved and withdrawals made from Consolidated Fund among other adjustments

Georgetown, Ministry of Finance, December 13, 2021: -An Amendment to the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA) to ensure further streamlining of the budget process in relation to Constitutional Agencies was today tabled in the National Assembly by Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh.

The Bill seeks to amend the FMAA Act Chapter 73:02 for the purpose of ‘prescribing the manner in which budgets are approved and withdrawals are made from the Consolidated Fund in respect of Constitutional Agencies’. Additionally, the amendment aims to ensure accountability and sets out the practice and procedure to which these Constitutional Agencies must conform in the management of their subventions for the efficient discharge of their functions.

The amendments are necessary as they serve to streamline the Budget process particularly in relation to constitutional agencies while simultaneously ensuring the preservation of the independence of the agencies.

The Bill intends to include amendments such as an amendment to section 15 of the FMAA to require that an annual budget proposed to include a motion in compliance with article 218 and 222 A of the Constitution.

Meanwhile, another amendment seeks to amend section 40 e of the Audit Act to provide for the presentation of the Audit Office Budget.

In January last, Minister Singh had tabled a motion for an amendment to the Fiscal Management and Accountability (Amendment) Act 2021 seeking to amend the FMAA Chapter 73:02 to allow for the correction of a number of anomalies relating to the budget process applicable to constitutional agencies.

Arising from the 2015 amendment to the FMAA by the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC), constitutional agencies’ budgets were required to be sent to the National assembly in advance of the submission of the rest of the National Budget. This two-stage process resulted in a fragmented and inefficient process for consideration of the National Budget and denied the Parliament an opportunity to view and consider the budget in a comprehensive manner.

 

Senior Finance Minister congratulates CDB on milestone attained

-as BNTF launches 10th Cycle, US$30.5 M to be allocated across 9 Participating Countries

Georgetown, Ministry of Finance, December 13, 2021: During the opening ceremony today for the virtual launch of Basic Needs Trust Fund’s (BNTF) 10 th Cycle under the theme ‘Reducing the incidence of poverty and building resilience, through an inclusive community development approach’, Senior Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh while delivering remarks, first congratulated the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) on the milestone achieved of serving the Caribbean Region for 42 years as he alluded to some of the work the Fund, under the auspices of the Bank has done in the region. The Minister also commended the Bank for its commitment to the continuity of BNTF and for securing funds to continue the programme.

“BNTF was created with the express purpose of poverty-reduction, and it quickly became well known as the Bank’s flagship poverty reduction initiative. Over the past four decades, interventions have provided access to improved social infrastructure including markets, health posts, resource centres and schools; provided first time access to potable water; improved roads, bridges and footpaths; and provided certified skills-training aimed at enhancing employability and income generation. BNTF initiatives have impacted us all regionally, nationally and most importantly our peoples at the grass roots level,” Dr. Singh posited.

The Minister highlighted the fact that as of February 2017, through the first eight BNTF Programme cycles, over 2,750 sub-projects were implemented to directly impact the lives of more than 3 million people across the region. He noted however that there still remains a number of challenges in spite of these accomplishments.

“Our Region continues to face a vast multitude of development challenges, some longstanding and others new. These include most immediately the COVID-19 pandemic, which has compounded the pre- existing challenges such as climate change vulnerabilities, infrastructure gaps including in such catalytic areas as transport and energy infrastructure, food security issues, global competitiveness and gender equality amongst others. These are issues that pose challenges to our Governments and the Bank. Despite these hurdles, we as Participating Countries have worked diligently to maintain macroeconomic stability, jumpstart our respective economies, deliver national objectives and improve the circumstances of our people, “the Senior Finance Minister said.

Further outlining other accomplishments and challenges faced in Education, Water Access and Sanitization, Basic Community Accessing and Drainage and Human Resource Development (HRD) and Livelihoods, Dr. Singh noted that under the 10th Cycle the CDB will continue to invest and focus on these sectors across 9 Participating Countries.

Also speaking at the event President of the CDB, Dr. Hyginus ‘Gene’ Leon alluded to the CDB’s focus on ensuring that its development discussions center on how the BNTF can strengthen its programme to enhance development outcomes especially given the recent setbacks from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This pandemic has underscored our challenges yet to be resolved, can amplify the impact of shocks that are outside of our control. At the same time, it begs the question of how much more amplification can arise from future shocks if we do not address the compound layering of the impact of COVID-19 and the structural weaknesses that existed before COVID-19. I refer to the poverty, inequality, health and education, economic concentration, low access to affordable financing and inadequate infrastructure challenges of today and the future challenge arising from Climate Change,” Dr. Leon explained.

The CDB President also noted that the launch was quite timely in terms of the end of year period during which it was occurring.

“It is coincidental but quite fitting that this launch is taking place during the Christmas season when focus is on how best to bring hope and goodwill to a world that remains mired in significant economic, social and environmental challenges,” he emphasized.

A total of 30.5 million USD has been allocated under the 10th cycle across the 9 Participating Countries to implement sub-projects. Interventions will be tailored to empower the poor and vulnerable and strengthen institutional development by integrating SDGs and cross-cutting areas such as gender quality and environmental sustainability.

Guyana began receiving Country Project grants from CDB’s Third Programme in 1993 and has continued to benefit consistently throughout the programmes. Minister Singh concluded that BNTF in Guyana has been a success and the benefits and rewards through the many interventions in community development and the provision of basic needs to citizens, particularly in rural and hinterland areas, are undeniable. He noted too that looking forward, Guyana intends to build on the lessons learnt and successes from the previous programmes in line with national priorities.

CDB's Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF) has for over 40 years invested more than $300 million to fight poverty and improve the quality of life in the poorest communities in the Caribbean.

Finance Minister congratulates Teleperformance BPO on 5th anniversary

Over 1200 new jobs created by BPO sector since August 2020

Georgetown, Ministry of Finance, December 6, 2021: -As Government continues to recognize the tremendous potential of the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry and its important role in the economic landscape of Guyana, Senior Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni K. Singh today attended and delivered the feature address at Teleperformance’s 5th Anniversary ceremony at the Pegasus Hotel where he highlighted that the BPO industry currently employs 4,135 persons, an increase of 1,229 new jobs for Guyanese country-wide when compared to August 2020.

The Minister met with Teleperformance’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Luis Baretto and pledged the Government’s continued support to the development of the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) Industry in Guyana, recognising Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as key to building an economy for the future and also as an enabler for job- creation. The Minister was accompanied by CEO of the Guyana Office for Investment, Dr. Peter Ramsaroop.

Teleperformance’s CEO Luis Baretto during his presentation, detailed the history and the expansion plans of Teleperformance Guyana, the parent company being the global leader in the BPO industry. Teleperformance currently employs 1200 persons in Guyana (up from 846 employees in August 2020, 50 percent of whom work remotely) and plans to create an additional 1000 new jobs in 2022. Teleperformance’s recipe for success is built on high technology, including reliable and redundant Informational Technology architecture and the company’s focus is on ‘hiring the right people along with continuous training and development’.

During the ceremony, on behalf of President Ali and the Government, Dr. Singh congratulated the efforts of Teleperformance Guyana, even as the country continues to combat the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. He also welcomed the projected expansion plans of the company, including its plan to add approximately 1000 new jobs by the end of 2022, with the possibility of even more jobs as the company explores options for a second facility.

The PPP/C Government has recognised the tremendous potential of the BPO sector and its important role in the economic landscape of Guyana as well as information communications and other technology being key to building an economy for the future and assisting in the efficient delivery of public services. In addition, ICT is a primary employer including through the provision of high value BPO services for the global market place, as well as promoting digital innovation in all sectors. Minster Singh posited that since August 2020, over 1200 jobs have been created in the BPO industry in Guyana.

Dr. Singh expressed his satisfaction that Teleperformance, the global leader in the BPO industry recognised Guyana’s unique advantages and competitiveness as a destination for BPO businesses, including a highly educated workforce, strategic geographic location and the county being a native English-speaking one.

While welcoming Teleperformance’s expansion plans in Guyana and the Caribbean, Minister Singh also urged the company to expand its regional footprint to areas such as Linden, Berbice and Essequibo. Teleperformance has adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic both globally and here in Guyana, where employees who work from home account for 50 percent of total employees. This not only creates employment in hard-to-reach areas, but also facilitates employment of persons who, due to domestic circumstances, cannot attend a physical office set-up. It also lays the ground work for the development of the resource pool in new areas/ regions where new expansion is planned.

Government has expressed its intention to continue to work closely to build and support the BPO industry, creating the necessary enabling environment and improve the ease of doing business. Immediately after assuming office, the Government liberalized the telecommunications sector, leading to increased competition and resulting in some price reductions for data and calling charges. The PPP/C government has also been working diligently to expand the ICT infrastructure and plans to continue to invest in ICT education.

EU-Ministry of Finance discuss cooperation programme

Senior Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh recently met with European Union (EU) Ambassador to Guyana Dr. Fernando Ponz Cantó at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre where the two officials co-chaired an important Policy Dialogue focused on EU-Guyana Development Cooperation. The meeting was a successful step towards further cooperation achievements for the benefit of Guyana’s citizens with discussions focused on the EU’s development cooperation programme with Guyana. The EU and Guyana have an increasingly close partnership, based on common values, objectives and interests covering all matters of mutual interest.

While addressing the meeting, Minister Singh placed on record the strong appreciation of the Government for the EU’s sustained support to Guyana over the years. He also expressed optimism that the strong relationship that Guyana and the EU enjoy will continue to grow in the years ahead as Guyana traverses this new phase in its economic history.

Ambassador Fernando Ponz Cantó pledged the European Union's continued commitment to the EU- Guyana partnership as Guyana advances its development agenda as a new and emerging oil and gas producer. The Ambassador recalled the determination and resilience of the Guyanese people to preserve democratic norms and the rule of law. In particular, he commended the Government and the National Authorising Officer (NAO) for re-establishing this bi-lateral policy dialogue which had been absent during 2020 due to the political crisis and related events, and which is a fundamental element in the full normalization of cooperation including budget support.

Minister Singh then further reaffirmed Government's appreciation for the EU budget support Programme.

The two delegations held wide-ranging discussions that focused on the Government's ongoing investment Programme in the sea and river defense sector, including Mangroves. Both were key areas that underpin EU support over the last decades.

Additionally, Dr. Ashni Singh and the EU Ambassador held preliminary discussion on a new Technical Cooperation Facility valued at €2.73M in which Guyana will benefit from support for the implementation and development of policies to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Possible areas of support include health, livelihood development, biodiversity, forestry, governance and public financial management. The EU team also comprised Mr. Karel Lizerot, Head of Cooperation, and other members of the EU Delegation while the Ministry of Finance’s team included Mr. Tarachand Balgobin, Deputy National Authorising Officer (DNAO).

The EU Delegation in Guyana was established in December 1972 and is responsible for taking forward the EU-Guyana partnership including political, development, and socioeconomic relations, trade, and other major policy areas, based on solid human, cultural and historical links.

Senior Finance Minister hosts series of follow-up meetings with UAE on investment opportunities in various sectors

Special focus being placed on tourism, agriculture and other sectors

Georgetown, Ministry of Finance, November 2, 2021: Senior Finance Minister Dr. Ashni K. Singh today hosted a virtual follow-up meeting between Mr. Maan Halabi, Managing Director of the Al Habtoor Group LLC located in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce Oneidge Walrond along with Guyanese private sector representatives. The meeting took place in the Boardroom of the Ministry of Finance and formed part of a series of meetings hosted by Dr. Singh recently as a follow-up to meetings first held in Dubai during a visit by President Irfaan Ali and a team of Government Ministers. The Guyanese Government officials had travelled to that country to attend the Dubai 2020 Exposition.

The Al Habtoor Group is one of the UAE's most respected and successful businesses that provides engineering and construction services but also operates in the hospitality, automotive, real estate, education and publishing sectors with vast investments in tourism. During President Ali’s visit to Dubai, the Al Habtoor Group had expressed interest in expanding its global footprint in the tourism properties market. As such, Government continues to court the group into taking up available investment opportunities in the hotel and resort industry here or partnering with local private sector investors to expand the industry. Today’s meeting allowed for the discussion of investment opportunities in these areas.

Dr. Singh noted that there is a wide range of opportunities for the Group to invest in Guyana, particularly in the tourism sector. These include greenfield investments in new flagship hotel projects, partnerships with existing investors currently developing hotel projects, and establishment of large-scale nature-based tourist resorts. He further indicated that the tourism sector is poised for rapid expansion in Guyana and is therefore attractive to international investors like the Al Habtoor Group which already has a global footprint of premium flagship hotels worldwide.

“The tourism industry in Guyana even before the COVID-19 period had started to gain international acclaim recognition especially for eco-tourism. With the advent of the oil and gas sector and that attention, we also began seeing increased interest with just visitors and businesses for the oil and gas sector so one of the good problems that we have so far in Guyana is that we have the need for good quality rooms, “Minister Walrond explained to Mr. Halabi.

She further noted that within a month of Government being in office, expressions of interest were sent out for internationally-branded hotels to be built in the country since one of Guyana’s premier hotels-the Marriott- is currently fully booked out until January 2022.

Noting that there has already been sod-turning for a number of new additional hotels, with two having taken place close to the Timehri International Airport, the Tourism Minister added that Government will soon send out expressions of interest for luxury-branded eco-tourism facilities within the eco-tourism industry as it hopes to have at least 2000 hotel rooms available for visitors to the country.

Meanwhile, former President of the Guyana Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana (THAG) Mitra Ramkumar said he believes that the tourism industry in Guyana had already taken off even before the advent of oil and gas, adding that this country can learn much from the UAE on how its tourism industry can be a spin-off from the oil and gas sector especially since Guyana has pristine rainforests, a diversity of people, beauty and nature as well as vast lands for development and investment and as such, further investment can catapult its success.

It was only on Friday last that Minister Singh hosted another meeting between His Excellency Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) and his team and Guyana’s Ministers of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha, Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat and Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Oneidge Walrond, along with other private sector key stakeholders within the Agriculture and Gold and Diamond mining sectors in Guyana.

At that meeting on Friday last, the teams indicated to the DMCC that Guyana has the capacity for the large-scale production of many agricultural commodities such as soya bean, ginger, corn, rice, coconuts, eddoes, cassava and plantains which can be exported to Dubai. It was emphasized that with Dubai being a major global commodity trading hub, Guyana stands to gain access to wider markets for its products. Meanwhile, other investment opportunities were noted, such as those in the forestry and mining sectors.

Upon hearing about these investment opportunities, DMCC then expressed interest in learning more about Guyana’s agricultural and mining potential including commodities such as coffee, cocoa and rare earth minerals. The Guyanese representatives from both the public and private sectors thereby noted that now is the opportune time for Guyana’s abundant resources to be transformed into wealth for the prosperity of all citizens.

Finance Minister successfully pilots Supplementary Appropriation Act in Parliament

Over $23B Supplementary funding secured for flood relief, vaccines, other emergency interventions including in security, agriculture sectors.

Georgetown, Ministry of Finance, June 14, 2021: Supplementary allocations to address the recent major flooding in several Regions as well as for emergency interventions in key sectors including
Agriculture, Health, Housing and Water, Public Works and Security have been secured with Senior Minister in the Office of the President with Responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh successfully piloting the Supplementary Appropriation Act in the National Assembly after which it was meticulously scrutinized and debated with the Opposition A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC) posing a number of questions before the Motion was finally passed late Monday night.

The Supplementary Appropriation Act approved comprised Financial Paper 1 of 2021 totalling $1.9 B to cover for the period April 1-June 8 which provides for drugs and medical supplies and air, water and land transport and Financial Paper No.2 of 2021 totalling $21. 3 B for works in various sectors including for the Demerara Harbour Bridge and for the rehabilitation of public and access roads. Additionally, funds were approved for the purchase of COVID 19 vaccines and expansion of health facilities and infrastructural works in new and existing housing areas.

In relation to Financial Paper No. 2, $10B was secured under the Office of the Prime Minister as provision for flood relief interventions including repairs to infrastructure and support for recovery in the productive and household sectors as well as for community-grounds-enhancement under the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport. Additionally, funds were secured under the Ministry of Agriculture to provide for additional resources to support the restructuring of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO) and under the Ministry of Home Affairs for the provision of more resources to support the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) in its operations.

Commenting recently on the flood situation in many Regions due to a lengthy heavy rainfall period, Minister Singh said that despite providing an immediate response to the countrywide crisis, more funding was urgent to address the situation and to fix damages in the aftermath. He had indicated that deployment of additional equipment including pumps to get water off the land would have taken place and this action would need to be sustained by Government for the period that the rains continue. He added that the provision of relief for citizens directly affected would need to be sustained as well with there being no access to food, markets and cleaning supplies for thousands.

The Finance Minister had reminded too that several dams, bridges and roads would have been washed away as a result of the flood while some would have been battered by the persistent rainfall
and therefore, additional costs to the country would have been incurred. These, coupled with Government’s continued fight against the dreaded and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, would have necessitated additional vaccines, thus the Supplementary Provisions.