Fellow Ministers; Resident Representative, Inter- American Development Bank; Chairman of the Board of Directors, Civil Aviation Authority; Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority; Permanent Secretaries;Officers of the Inter- American Development Bank, the Guyana Revenue Authority, Civil Aviation Authority, and the Ministry of Finance; Members of the Media; Ladies and Gentlemen.
Welcome to today’s signing of three well-timed Technical Cooperation Agreements: (1) Support for a National Civil Aviation Plan for Guyana; (2) Fiscal Management Modernization in Guyana Project; and (3) Support for the Development of a National Housing Strategy. These TCs follow closely on the heels of the signing of four loans, to the value of US$40 million, at the Bank’s Headquarters in Washington DC. Although today’s occasion is not as grand, it is no less important, as it signifies the key role the Bank has played, and continues to play in the economic development of our country.
These Agreements represent Technical Assistance resources to the tune of US$1,762,250.00 from the Inter-American Development Bank and is being programmed at a time when Guyana is embarking on the transformation of its national administration of Civil Aviation and the modernization of the Housing and Financial Sectors.
The TC on housing will see the development of a comprehensive strategy that will outline new strategic approaches and interventions for the development of this sector. In the past, housing development efforts were geared towards the provision of housing sites; civil works, including roads and drains; and the allocation of house lots. However, while progress was made in so far as thousands of persons were able to own their own homes, it failed to make a substantial dent in the housing deficit that faces the nation. Many housing schemes have remained under-developed, under-serviced and sparsely-populated. This has contributed to the with low occupancy rates that have been in evidence.
The Government currently has over 20,000 house lot applications on file, and this number is growing daily. Evidently, there is a dire need to house the nation rather than merely provide house lots. It is against this background that the Government has embarked on an intensive endeavor aimed at creating a new and innovative housing stock. This Technical Assistance will support Government’s intention to sharply increase the availability of houses, in the most cost effective manner, and to create a more people friendly and efficient mechanism for delivering a comprehensive housing strategy.
The Technical Cooperation for the Housing Sub- Sector will be executed by the Inter- American Development Bank at a cost of US$517,250.00. The key beneficiary is the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA), whose institutional capacity will be strengthened at the end of the project.
The Fiscal Management Modernization in Guyana Project will channel US$745,000.00 towards the modernization of Guyana’s revenue management and real property tax assessment systems. The initiative contributes to a broader developmental goal of improving the provision of sustainable services to citizens.
The existing organizational arrangement of the GRA leaves many questions unanswered regarding its capacity and capability to administer and collect the country’s taxes. There is, therefore, urgent need to revamp and re-engineer the operations of that Agency to make it Fit-For–Purpose for the important task of collecting existing taxes while expanding its mandate to widen the tax base so that all are equitably committed to meeting their obligations under the laws of Guyana. It is unwholesome that the few that pay taxes are burdened with their tax obligations while there are large subsectors that have either escaped the tax net, sheltered under deceptive legal provisions or have deliberately flaunted the tax laws with impunity.
The Technical Cooperation will be instrumental in assisting the Government in its effort to establish a modern, efficient and effective revenue administration. A diagnostic assessment of the current organizational structure, institutional capacity and technical capacity of the Guyana Revenue Authority will be executed to identify areas for improvements to the systems. A strategic plan will be developed upon completion of the assessment.
The Technical Cooperation Agreement for the Modernisation of the Financial Sector will facilitate the initiation of an urgent assessment of the real property tax collection process under the Valuation Division of the Ministry of Finance. We are aware that the current property valuations for our 9 municipalities and 66 NDCs are immensely outdated. This has led to serious deficiencies in the property assessments and hence the commensurate rates and taxes due and payable to these entities. As Government pursues its national development agenda, the net result to property owners is the improvement to their real estate and the value of that real estate. However, the absence of recent and updated valuations has led to lower-than-expected rates and taxes. This serves to stymie development of the Municipalities and the NDCs. The mandated Property Assessment List of the Valuation Division remains unchanged for many years, even in the face of economic development, and the expansion of communities, municipalities and townships. The current Value List and assessment methods employed by the Division are outdated and unable to reflect the changes in market values of properties.
In an effort to correct this shortcoming, the Valuation Division needs to become a modernized system which estimates property values uniformly, at current market value, and in a cost-effective manner. To achieve this goal, Technical Assistance resources from this Technical Cooperation will be instrumental in financing the necessary assessment that will establish a strategic process for the transformation of the Valuation Division.
The Support for a National Aviation Master Plan for Guyana Project will provide Guyana and Guyana’s Civil Aviation Authority with a National Air Transport Plan, a National Airspace Plan, a National Airports Plan, and a National Plan for Administration of Civil Aviation by the GCAA.
Increasing competitiveness and connectivity is critical for Guyana’s economic growth and development. Deficiencies in our port infrastructure, capacity and legislative framework, add unnecessary costs to the value chain that impact negatively on the country’s competitiveness.
The Government’s prime concern for the aviation sector, in the short term, is to achieve compliance with its obligations as a member of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The Loss of Category I status has had significant impact on the ability of airlines to provide service from Guyana to the United States. The Government is also keen to map a strategic direction for the development of civil aviation in Guyana. The conduct and elaboration of such a study will form the basis for the development of a National Civil Aviation Development Master Plan, aimed at improving the quality of the civil aviation oversight in Guyana and promoting structured Civil Aviation improvements over the next two decades.
The various Technical Cooperation Programmes will support the Government’s drive to improve efficiency and stimulate economic growth in the economy. In this respect, the Government recognizes the strong technical expertise that resides in the IDB and looks forward to the Bank working in close collaboration with our technical Departments to ensure timely implementation.