Category: Speeches

25 Sep
By: Tanika Jones 0

Minister of Finance’ Remarks at the Unveiling of NIS Commemorative Stamp for 50th Anniversary

Mr. Chairman

Board of Directors of the National Insurance Scheme

Management and Staff of the National Insurance Scheme

Representatives of the Media

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

 

Good evening!

I am very pleased to join you for the unveiling of this Commemorative Stamp. This commemorative stamp is a postage stamp, which is being issued to honor the 50th Anniversary of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS). Fifty years of service to the Guyanese citizens is indeed a significant milestone that is worth observing and remembering in a symbolic way. And what better reminder than this stamp! Congratulations are extended to the Board of Directors, Management and Staff of the National Insurance Scheme.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, your golden anniversary is worth celebrating. as the organization, over the years, has metamorphosed from the provision of basic benefits at a central location in Georgetown, to an expanded coverage for employed and self-employed contributors at locations across Guyana. Modern technology has also transformed the way you have been doing business, as compliance and reporting can be done via the internet and within a much shorter timeframe.

Mr. Chairman, last year, during my address to the staff on the Scheme’s 49th Anniversary, I briefly traced the origin of the NIS. As I recalled, the idea of establishing the National Insurance Scheme was conceived by the late Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, who, at that time, was Prime Minister of Guyana and Founder-Leader of the People’s National Congress. He would later go on to become the first Executive President of the country. Back in 1969, that political party held a majority government and the Peoples Progressive Party was in opposition. Mr. Chairman, I recall this tiny, but important, bit of our history because the establishment of the National Insurance Scheme was done against the backdrop of strong opposition by the PPP.

Today, I shudder to think how the absence of a National Insurance Scheme would have impacted the standard of living of our retirees and senior citizens, who are now recipients of old age pensions and other benefits; and the employed and self- employed individuals who are still in the work force but who access various benefits of the Scheme, such as sickness, maternity and spectacles. The National Insurance Scheme, having evolved and in spite of its challenges, is a living testimony of the foresight and wisdom of the PNC and the ability of the Government that it led to make wise policy decisions that are beneficial to Guyanese citizens. It is apposite to note that 50 years later, the PNC is the major partner in the Coalition Government that is transforming the country, from coastland to hinterland, improving equity in the allocation and distribution of the country’s resources, and calmly guiding the shape of state in this tense period leading up to the General and Regional Elections. We shall overcome.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, our Government is acutely aware that access to social security is pivotal to the economic and social well-being of Guyanese; it is a fundamental human right enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The establishment of the National Insurance Scheme a mere three years after Guyana gained political independence from the Britain, in May 1966, was a landmark achievement. I want to assure you that our Government will continue to make every effort to keep the National Insurance Scheme relevant and viable, so that Guyanese can continue to enjoy bigger and better benefits.

As the Minister of Finance, with responsibility for general oversight and policy guidance to the National Insurance Scheme, I am aware of some of the challenges that the organization faces, in its efforts to maintain financial sustainability. Some of these challenges are similar to those faced by other National Insurance Schemes in the region. This fact was well documented in a 2016 IMF study that was conducted on Social Security Schemes in the Caribbean. Among the findings were that an aging population, slow economic growth and high unemployment were major contributors to the high actuarial deficit that social security schemes in the Caribbean faced. The report recommended a range of reform measures to urgently reverse the trend.

But let me hasten to say that I am not suggesting that all the reform measures proposed by the IMF are suitable for our country. Clearly, some of them can have a negative impact on the economic and financial position of eligible contributors and beneficiaries. Be that as it may, I enjoin the Board of Directors and Management to urgently review the Scheme’s sustainability plan and come up with country-specific solutions to address these challenges. I can assure you of our Government’s continued support, so tangibly exemplified by the issuance of debentures to offset the loss that emanated from the reckless CLICO investment.

Your 50th anniversary comes at an historic period in Guyana. The arrival of the Floating Production Storage and Offloading Facility (FPSO), of which I had the pleasure of visiting in the company of the First Lady, has brought us closer to that reality. We are all anxiously awaiting the arrival of first oil. The developments in the oil sector have made Guyana prominent on the world map, and the recent discoveries of Exxon+14 and Tullow+2, just a few days ago, has catapulted our country among the world’s top oil producing nations per capita.

These developments will have implications for the performance of the National Insurance Scheme. Oil production will propel significant economic growth in Guyana. Preliminary estimates for real growth in 2020 and 2021 are 33.5 percent and 22.9 percent, respectively. These lofty growth rates would leave behind the single digit rates achieved in the post-Independence period. There is no doubt that these impressive growth rates will translate into more contributions remitted to the NIS.

Oil production will also create employment opportunities at all levels of the supply chain. It is for you, Board of Directors, Management and Staff, to the seize the moment (carpe diem) to expand the Scheme’s revenue base and enhance your financial position. You must continue to build capacity and put the necessary institutional measures in place to ensure that all employers, employees and self-employed individuals are registered with the Scheme and their contributions remitted in a timely manner.

You have come a far way; you reached another milepost. There is more work to be done.

Thank you!

And now it is my distinct pleasure to unveil this commemorative stamp.

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07 Sep
By: Tanika Jones 129

Commissioning of Lube Bond and Office Facility – Address delivered by Hon. Winston Jordan Minister of Finance

Chairman and other Members of the Board of Directors
CEO, Management and Staff of GUYOIL
Representatives of the Media
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

Good afternoon!

First, let me thank Ras Camo for that lovely Guyanese patriotic song, “Oh Beautiful Guyana”. That song keeps reminding us of what a blessed place Guyana is, especially in light of the devastation wreaked on The Bahamas by Hurricane Dorian. I distinctly recall many Guyanese who left these shores in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s in search of a better life. Many of our teachers, who were educated at Cyril Potter College of Education and Lilian Dewar College and who were the beneficiaries of free education, left these shores for The Bahamas. Many of them probably lost everything as a result of Hurricane Dorian, which packed winds in excess of 200 mph. I take this opportunity to commiserate with the people of The Bahamas in this time of grave suffering. I understand that they intend to rebuild stronger and better. However, these powerful hurricanes are becoming more frequent. A Category 5 hurricane is classified as one packing winds upwards of 155 mph. However, with Dorian, the Scale may have to be extended to Category 10. The point is that we will have to think well beyond just put in place more resilient infrastructure. It is time these islands consider their long term future and examine how, in the context of the CARICOM family, they can take advantage of the bounties Guyana has to offer. Just some food for thought.

The second comment I would like to make, before touching on my Address, is that, at nearly $300 million, the planners of this modern edifice should have considered moving the entire staff from their Headquarters in Camp Street. This would provide synergies, economies of scale and general cost savings. In addition, the City is beyond congested; the future is the East Bank. Already, a number of businesses have established in the Providence area. Many housing schemes are springing up in several villages. And, with a road connecting the East Coast of Demerara with the East Bank of Demerara at Ogle and Timehri, new lands will be opened for business, farming and housing. So, the place to be is the East Bank; it provides easier passage to higher ground on the Linden Highway, should the low-lying coast be visited by a watery catastrophe.

Nevertheless, I am delighted to join you today for the commissioning of this modern Lube Bond and Office Facility. At the outset, please allow me, Mr. Chairman, to add my own special welcome to each of you and to thank you for your presence.

Mr. Chairman, the construction of this facility is, indeed, a positive development, as it is yet another indication of the great strides that the economy is making. Any economist would tell you that a good barometer of how well an economy is doing is the growth in construction. In fact, it is rumored that, in an attempt to understand how the economy was progressing, a former Governor of the Bank of Guyana would mount the last flight of stairs to the Roof Garden of the Bank, where he would enjoy a panoramic view of cranes, derricks and smoke-emitting chimneys.

If people are constructing, they are showing faith in the future. They would have made their own assessment and come to the conclusion that it is worthwhile putting down a permanent structure. All over the country, things are happening, something is being constructed. As a result, at the half year, the construction sector had grown by 8.2 percent, following 8.1 percent growth at the similar period last year. And, buoyed by this growth, we have projected the sector to grow by 11 percent by the end of the year. Overall, we project the economy to grow by 4.5 percent in real terms, the fifth consecutive year of growth under the Coalition Government; it would represent another year of solid, broad based growth, and give credence to the NASDAQ prediction of Guyana having one of the fastest growing economies in the world. This performance would nail the lies of the haters, the naysayers, the detractors and the fault-finders who see nothing but gloom in a country bristling with promise and progress, and making its way to prosperity. On the other hand, it would be sweet music to the ears of investors, both foreign and local, who have been exuding confidence in the long term prospects for the economy, ever since Exxon 13 + Tullow 1 have de-risked the Guyana petroleum basin.

I understand that this building is 100 percent solar powered, in keeping with the company’s strategic objective of “energy conservation in alignment with Guyana’s green initiative.” Solar power ranks highly amongst the cleanest and most green energy sources, since no pollution is created in the process of generating electricity. Evidence has also shown that although renewable energy requires upfront capital, it is one of the lowest cost energy options available, the most compelling reason for its utilization globally.

I have no doubt that this investment, while supporting the country’s long term development strategy, will reduce the company’s expenditure, improve its profitability, and put it in a better position to make larger dividends and other transfers to the Treasury. Unlike many of the commercial corporations that still shelter under the public umbrella, Guyoil has been a net contributor to the Treasury. However, while this position is not threatened with reversal anytime soon, GUYOIL has faced some challenges, in recent times, that have had an effect on sales volume, sales receipts and the bottom line. I know that the Board and Management will be working assiduously to reposition and realign the corporation as quickly as possible.

Be that as it may, I would like to applaud the Board of Directors and Management of GUYOIL for taking the initiative to go green. Transforming Guyana into a green economy requires the support of all stakeholders, particularly key stakeholders like GUYOIL.

The commissioning of this facility is also taking place at a time when the Government, in pursuit of its green agenda, is putting together an energy plan with an appropriate energy mix, utilizing solar, wind and hydropower, among other clean energy sources. Guyana is largely endowed with all of these resources and the discovery of oil and gas, in impressive amounts, has enhanced the country’s natural resource mix. This Government is aware that low cost, reliable and affordable energy supply is critical to economic growth and development, and has started to invest in renewable energy projects. I should like to use this opportunity to highlight the efforts of my Administration to diminish our dependence on fossil fuels.

The main electric utility, Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL), is preparing for utility scale solar PV farms for the national grid. With funding available under the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF), Guyana is pursuing 30 MW solar PV farms for the Demerara-Berbice Interconnected System and 5 MW (combined) for the Essequibo Coast and Leguan Systems. In addition, the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) is supporting the Government of Guyana and the private sector to advance solar PV initiatives under a pipeline of projects.

Our Government installed the first Solar PV Farm in Mabaruma, Region 1 with an installed capacity of 400kW. However, because of damage caused by lightning during installation, the completion has been delayed.

Through support from the Government of Japan and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), we will benefit from a Renewable Energy and Energy Efficient Power System Project. This project comprises 2 components: (i) Technical Loss Reduction for the GPL Power System; and (ii) Installation of a 400kWp solar PV system with storage, along with a Building Energy Management System at the Caricom Secretariat building.

During 2020-21, we will install 3 utility scale solar PV Farms in Bartica (1.5MW); Lethem (1MW); and Mahdia (0.65MW). In addition, Guyana’s proposal for 3 additional utility scale solar PV Farms for Port Kaituma (0.65MW); Kwakwani (1MW); and Matthew’s Ridge (0.4MW), under the International Renewable Energy Agency/Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (IRENA/ADFD), was approved in January 2019.

With grant funding from the United Arab Emirates Caribbean Renewable Energy Fund (UAE-CREF), GPL will benefit from the installation of 600 kW Solar PV Farm at Wakenaam, with battery storage to supply the island with about 80% of its energy needs.
Also, the Government has embarked on a Green Public Sector Programme, in keeping with a Presidential charge for the public sector to lead the way in transitioning towards greater renewable energy use. During 2015-2019, rooftop solar PV systems were installed at 291 Government buildings resulting in a total combined installed capacity of over 5 MW.

The Guyana Energy Agency is carrying out a pilot programme for stand-alone solar street lighting and, to date, 65 solar powered LED street lights have been installed. An additional 400 solar powered LED street lights is being installed in 2019.

In addition, as a member of the International Solar Alliance (ISA), we have submitted an application for support for the implementation of a solar PV programme that targets off-grid Solar PV, with storage for hinterland communities and rural electrification. The programme will provide sustainable electricity and potable water to hinterland villages.

In the area of hydropower, we completed the construction of a 20 kW hydropower power plant at Hosororo, in Region 1, in 2018, and we will start the construction of a 150 kW hydropower power plant in Kato, Region 8, in 2019. In addition to these projects, several other hydropower stations are planned for the 2021-25 period, including Moco Moco (0.7 MW); Kumu (1.5 MW); and Ikuribisi (1 MW).

We hope to add a 188 MW Natural Gas Power Plant, in the not too distant future, to complement our intricate energy mix. Although not “green”, it is a cleaner source of energy when compared to our diesel and fossil fuel power generation options. Already, our Government has commissioned studies to assess the viability of this project, including looking at options, cost, impact and key considerations of transporting and utilizing offshore natural gas for electricity generation and incentivizing the growth of our fledgling manufacturing sector.

In the area of energy efficiency, over 26,400 LED lights and 4,500 occupancy sensors were installed by the end of 2018 in public buildings, ministries and schools. With support from the Government of Japan, the Japan Caribbean Climate Change Partnership (JCCCP) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Guyana commenced the planned installation of over 11,000 energy efficient street lights, which will continue during the remainder of 2019 and 2020.

An LED Lighting Replacement Programme is being implemented for the residential and commercial customers of the 6 Hinterland utilities (Kwakwani Utilities Inc., Lethem Power Company Inc., Mabaruma Power and Light Inc., Port Kaituma Power and Light Inc., Mahdia Power and Light Inc., and Matthew’s Ridge Power and Light Inc.) The objective of the Programme is to promote energy efficiency and conservation in connected households and commercial businesses by replacing older lighting technology with LED lights. A similar programme is planned for 2020 for Linden, Bartica, Leguan and Wakenaam.

Mr. Chairman, when this Government took office, in May 2015, there were many communities in Guyana that had access to little or no electricity. Renewable energy has taken electricity to remote and other communities in Guyana, improving living conditions and changing peoples’ lives forever. Many of our Indigenous communities are able to establish commercial activities for the first time because they now have access to electricity. Children in Indigenous communities are performing better at school because they have electricity and can spend more time doing homework.

And please note, ladies and gentlemen, that Guyana will not be the only oil producing country to pursue a renewable energy path. In fact, Norway, a major oil producing country, sources most of the electricity generated in the country from renewable sources, and is considered a world leader in the use of renewable energy.

You all are aware, that the impressive developments in the petroleum industry in Guyana are attracting global attention. Foreign investors on a daily basis are coming to Guyana, as they seek to participate in the new oil discovery. As a company with many years of experience in the downstream value chain, GUYOIL must take advantage of new business opportunities that will arise, so that the company can benefit directly from the country’s oil sector.

GUYOIL must also prepare itself to move beyond its current role of stabilizer of domestic prices, towards participating in the re-distribution of the country’s oil wealth to the society, in general, when oil production starts. You must become an industry leader, going where others fear to tread, thereby helping the Government to bring equity to the Regions and communities. You will need to expand your facilities, build capacity and acquire new skills, where necessary.
Increased economic activities have precipitated a significant rise in the number of vehicles entering the country. The standard of living of Guyanese will continue to improve, as the country is poised for high and sustainable growth levels. This growth will translate into more motor vehicles being imported for private and commercial purposes, among other things. I must add, also, that, with the production of oil, the Government’s plan is to diversify the economy, to develop the indigenous and new economic sectors, in order to avoid becoming heavily dependent on the petroleum resources. These developments will have implications for the services offered by GUYOIL. Therefore, you should prepare adequately to respond to the changing needs of your customers.
Ladies and gentlemen, in closing, I congratulate all those involved in bringing this investment to fruition. I hope that this facility will enhance service delivery, thereby making GUYOIL more relevant and more profitable.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is now my pleasure to commission this Lube Bond and Office Facility.

I thank you.

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02 Aug
By: Tanika Jones 0

Speech of Minister Of Finance for the Success Elementary School Graduation

Success Elementary School

Ninth Annual Prize- Giving Exercise

National Cultural Centre

(July 10, 2019)

Address Delivered by Hon. Winston Jordan

Minister of Finance

Mr. Wilfred Success, Director, Success Elementary School

Graduating Class of 2019

Staff of Success Elementary School

Students of Success Elementary School

Proud Parents and other well wishers

Representatives of the Media

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen

Good afternoon!

Let me begin by extending a warm welcome to all of you to this very special event. I would like to thank the pupil for that kind introduction. While I sat waiting to come to the podium, I enjoyed the offerings of the students of the school. I got goosebumps listening to the choir’s rendition of “Wade in the Water”. I hope the choir master has taken the time to explain the significance of that song. Indeed, that song was sung by the slaves and used to guide runaway slaves to Canada, where they enjoyed complete freedom. 

I would like to recognise the contribution of the founder of the school, Wilfred Success. Sir Wilfred, your contribution to the education revolution – from your success at West Ruimveldt Primary School to your stellar achievements at your own school – will have a special place in the annals of our history. I offer my personal congratulations on the conferral of a national award. I also want to thank my fellow Member of Parliament, Ms. Africo Selman, for initiating the request for me to be the Guest Speaker today. We may be on the opposite side of the National Assembly, but both of us have a passion for education and learning.

I am so excited to be here with you, to share in your success, your joy, your hopes and aspiration. From your smiles and happy faces, I know that you have been looking forward to this occasion for the past six (6) years. Through good times and bad, through sun and rain, early morning rising, the difficult subject, the stern teacher, lessons and still more lessons, the temptations and restrictions, you have stayed the course, rode the waves and can now say, with impish pride, “I did it!” Beneath those smiles, though, I sense a bit of fear of moving on, fear of that unknown entity called secondary school, sad of leaving well-cultivated friendships behind, sad to say goodbye to your teachers and friends. 

Looking at your faces, at the teachers, I realise everything has changed from the time when I attended Campbellville Government School, my primary school, from 1964-68. Back then, we did not refer to our classes as Grade 1, or Grade 2, etc. The first two (2) grades were referred to as Lil ABC and Big ABC. The next four (4) grades in primary school were called Standard 1, Standard 2, Standard 3, and Standard 4. In Standard 4, we were prepared to write Common Entrance Examination (CEE), which I did in 1968. If my memory serves me correctly, we wrote Mathematics, General Knowledge and General Science at the Common Entrance. Today, it is called National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA), and you write Mathematics, English, Social Studies and Science.

Back then, we wrote on slate for the first 2 grades, before being introduced to exercise books. We learnt about pounds, shillings and pence:  12 pence = 1 shilling; 20 shillings = 1 pound. Of course, today, there are no shillings and, instead 0f 240 pence, it is now 100 pence = 1 pound.

Back then, we had no TV: we would have been lucky to be treated to a matinee session of the cinema at 9 am on Saturday mornings. So, we immersed ourselves in reading anything that came our way – the daily newspapers and comic books. We listened to the radio, whenever our parents could afford to turn it on. We feasted on outdoor games: sal pass, gam, ling, pee put, litty, police and thief, hop scotch, dolly house, war break and many more; and on fruit trees: mango, genip, whitey, jamoon, gooseberry, dunks, tamarind, among others. We bush cooked, oftentimes the ingredients included a fowl or duck, eggs, vegetables, rice and ground provision that were culled, with or without the knowledge of our parents and/or neighbours.

Today, it is so much more different: smart phones, smart TVs, video games, internet, social media (Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) and so much more. The technology is mindboggling and its potential for smart outcomes is endless. On the other hand, it is having a crippling impact on healthy living: Outdoor recreation has been replaced by the couch potato; Mom’s home cooking has given way to fast food, bringing with it an increase in lifestyle diseases such as diabetes.

In as much as I have reminisced on the past that has brought us to today, we must look to tomorrow, for tomorrow is the future, the beginning of a wonderful, exciting time in your young lives.  Those teenage years promise to be memorable, if you stay away from vices such as drugs. So, how should you approach this aspect of your life? What are the secrets of success? There are many, of which I will share a few with you.

The first is GROWTH

I CAN BEST ILLUSTRATE THIS SECRET BY TELLING YOU THE STORY OF MULAN. I am not sure how many of you know of this story, but ‘Mulan’ is the epic adventure of a fearless woman who masquerades as a man in order to fight Northern invaders attacking China. She wanted to defeat the Huns, but she did not know how to fight. She could not even carry a weapon. But she did not let that stop her. She practiced until she got so tired, she could not practice anymore. The next day, she got up and practiced again; she got beat up, but she practiced; was left hanging on a pole, but she practiced; she got buried in snow, but she practiced. And before we knew it, she was China’s hero.

What I’m trying to say is that the next years of your lives will determine your future. So, make the next years one of personal growth. Embrace growth, find out what you are good at, find out what you like to do and go for it. Grow. Practice. And practice some more. Because, here is another secret: if you practice, you can believe, you can achieve, you can be anything you want to be. Do not be afraid. While you are at it, do not be afraid of failure (FOF). I know the NGSA exam results are out. I have seen how well you and your school have done. But many of you have not done as well as you could have or should have. In your eyes, you think you are a failure because you have not got a “good” school. Your parents, friends, relatives, even teachers, may think so, too. 

But I have news for you: failure is a part of life, a part of growing up. The Bible is replete with many examples of failure, perhaps the most famous being the failure of Adam and Eve to heed the caution about eating the fruit from the tree of good and evil. We all know of the greatest basketball player, Michael Jordan. What you probably don’t know is that he missed 9,000 shots in his career, lost almost 300 games, and missed almost 26 winning shots. He failed over and over and over again. Yet, he is undoubtedly the greatest of them all. There are other inspiring stories from which you could take heart, not least of them being that of Colonel Sanders, the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken. His is a story of rejection, disappointment and failure time and time again. But he took his failures in stride: every time he fell, he got up, dusted himself off and started again.

Here is a very interesting statistic: only four – Burnham, Jagan, Hinds, Granger – of Guyana’s nine Presidents went to Queen’s College. That’s less than 50 percent. And yours truly went to a junior Secondary School, Cumming’s Lodge Secondary School. Today, I’m the Minister of Finance, who has had the good fortune of attending four universities, free of tuition, including the prestigious Harvard University. I have been responsible for Guyana earning the accolade of the fastest growing economy in the world by the NASDAQ. So, parents, here is some sobering advice: do not pressure your child, but nurture and love him/her. Your response to your child’s result can lower his/her self esteem, bring feelings of worthlessness, and damage his/her future. A seed, once planted, cared for and nurtured can bloom and thrive in the toughest of environments. Guyana needs all of its sons and daughters to guide the nation through an explosive period of transformation and development, where the Good Life is promised to all.

THE SECOND KEY TO SUCCESS IS GUIDANCE

I expound on this secret with a quote from Sarah Brown Wessling, Teacher of the Year, USA 2010, “…Without skills, students are left to memorize facts, recall details for worksheets, and relegate their educational experience to passivity…Embracing a 21st-century learning model requires consideration of those elements that could comprise such a shift: creating learners who take intellectual risks, fostering learning dispositions, and nurturing school communities where everyone is a learner.” We live in a world that is dominated by social media, where the fusion of ideas and knowledge offers a country a competitive edge. So, I urge our youngsters in attendance to seek early guidance as to a career opportunity. As one educator puts it, “The primary purpose of education is to enable students to make a living as adults; without this capability, everything else falls away…” Teaching and teaching methods must change rapidly; twenty-first century learning must emphasize higher order thinking skills, critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and out-of-the-box thinking. Here I want to recall Elisabeth Reid Boyd’s, The Beautiful Truth: How creativity can help us cultivate moral imagination, in which she contends, “Our moral imagination can put us in touch with all that is truthful and beautiful in the world, in ourselves, and in each other.” W. B. Yeats, in his preface to the poetry of William Blake, wrote “All worthy things, all worthy deeds, all worthy thoughts, are works of art or of imagination.” So, the value of positive, imaginative, innovative thinking must be imbued and inculcated in our children. While we are it, changes to the curriculum must incorporate nonconventional subjects such as entrepreneurship; must remove the stigma from technical and vocational education; and must embrace a foreign language as part of matriculation requirements. Even Social Studies should be revamped to emphasize Guyanese history and pride in citizenry. It is most distressing to learn how our children possess very little knowledge of Venezuela’s and Suriname’s claims on our territory. Teachers and parents, I urge you to help students see future possibilities, and keep them engaged today. Help them to connect their strengths and interests to long term goals today.

THE THIRD KEY TO SUCCESS IS GRATITUDE

We say it every day – “Thank you”. But we do not know how much power THANK YOU has. When you appreciate people and events, and the things you have in your life, the whole universe jumps up and down and what it wants to do is to give you more. Try it. Say thank you more often. Say it with your every step; say it with your every prayer. You will be amazed at the wonderful surprises it will give you. Your parents, mentors and teachers have put a lot of effort into helping you to reach this point in your academic journey. So, this is a good opportunity to hug them and thank them for supporting you. And while we are at it, I want to thank you for having me in your presence today. It is my great privilege.

THE FOURTH KEY TO SUCCESS IS DISCIPLINE

I ask myself: what is in the head of the average 11-year old? Gaming? Latest phone or video game? The opposite sex? (of course). All of the above? In secondary school, you can become easily distracted if you do not exercise discipline. Stay focused, carefully select your friends and wisely manage your time and activities, especially the online activities. Remember that the internet and social media are good tools for success, but addictive masters if used irresponsibly. So, although your parents will most likely give you more internet privileges now, it is your responsibility to ensure that you use these tools to enhance your academic performance and keep you out of trouble. 

Make a commitment to let this new stage of your academic journey be better. Study hard and play hard. Make time to read widely. Test scores in this year’s NGSA, for reading and writing, have not been encouraging. While we may enjoy speaking creoles, we must write in Standard English. So, take a cue from the girl who was adjudged the best writer of the composition aspect of the NGSA. She was an avaricious reader, and, in her own words, it helped her to write an excellent composition. Use some of the time you spend on your phones and computers to read a novel, the newspapers, a magazine.

So, we have dealt with a few keys to success. But success isn’t just an alibi to a better life. Life is just not about success only. Life is also about your happiness and wellbeing. Your happiness is critical to your achieving success. Choose your path in life wisely. Don’t let others harm you or ruin your happiness.

I have given you the 3 G’s and a D to success. It would be remiss of me, however, if, before closing, I do not leave you with the 3 A’s. The first A is to Aspire. To aspire is to aim, plan your journey, take action. The second A is to Achieve. To achieve is to go and take steps closer to your goals. This is the part when you say, “I can, and I will”. This is very important in secondary school, when the going gets tough and you feel like giving up or dropping out. The third A is to Advance. To Advance is to take it to the next level, to deny your comfort zone, and go outside the box. When you graduate, it ends a journey and begins another one. There is still something bigger and higher after that. Life never seems to end, and that’s the good thing about life. So, always remember the 3 A’s. And yes, there’s always a chance you may fail, but there is a bigger chance you may not.

Let me, once again, extend congratulations to all of the graduates, parents, teachers and everyone who contributed, in some way, to making today’s event a reality. Please give yourselves a round of applause! 

To the graduates, I hope that in your life, you will have people who will listen and spend some time with you, encourage you and believe in you. May you embrace growth and excellence, may you be generous, may you say thank you more often, and may God, Allah and Lord Shiva watch over you. With this blessing, may you go forth and find your calling in life, and do wonderful things with it. Again, my heartiest congratulations to you and thank you for listening!

 

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27 Jul
By: Tanika Jones 0

Address by Minister of Finance at Linden Business Summit

Linden Chamber of Industry Commerce and Development

Business Summit, Watooka House

 (July 25, 2019)

Remarks delivered by Hon. Winston Jordan

Minister of Finance

 

Mr. Chairperson

Mr. Victor Fernandes

President, Linden Chamber of Industry,  Commerce and Development

Other Members of the Head Table

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

 

Good morning!

I am honored to have been invited to address you at the opening of this inaugural Business Summit that brings together experts from the public and private sectors and the Diaspora. My deep appreciation goes out to the organizers of this Business Summit.  This event provides us with an opportunity to bring together a vital cross section of peoples and organisations dedicated to the sustainable development of the Linden community against the backdrop of the natural beauty of this region. Please allow me, Mr. Chairman, to extend a special welcome to everyone present, especially those from the Diaspora. I wish you a very pleasant and productive stay.

 

Mr. Chairman, though I keep a busy schedule, I am always happy to come and break bread with Lindeners, whenever I can. Since becoming Minister of Finance, I have visited Linden frequently, and have assisted in a number of areas, including providing beds for dormitories, lights, bus sheds and an early learning centre. I have also supported social and other worthy causes. This support comes from a minor vote, which comes under my purview. And I am always happy to assist within the constraints of the available resources.

Mr. Chairman, this Business Summit may be the first of its kind, but I certainly hope that it is not the last. I anticipate that it will evolve into an annual event. I am particularly happy to see here today, many participants from outside of Linden, but who are integrally involved with business and commerce in the town. I expect that this Summit will strengthen these ties, and that it will create new vistas in trade and commerce not merely in the business sector, but across the spectrum of positive people to people relations. In these turbulent times, where partisanship seems to trump partnership, one can only hope that that this Business Summit contributes to advancing the principles and foundation on which this Coalition Government was built.

I note from the programme, that this Business Summit will be addressing a number of key issues affecting business opportunities and development in Linden. While you are at it, I hope that you will also discuss green businesses and oil and gas, two emerging sectors that have the potential to shape Guyana’s trajectory in the medium to long term.

Mr. Chairman, I observe that the theme for this Business Week and Exposition is “New Horizons, New Opportunities in 2019”. Well we are way past half of the year, already. And, with a mere 5 months to the end of 2019, I am not sure about the suitability of this theme. However, it becomes apt if you were to drop “in 2019”. I would then find the revised theme “New Horizons, New Opportunities” to be fitting, at this juncture, when Guyana is poised to become a major oil producing country.

Mr. Chairman, I am here to reiterate that Guyana is open for business. Over the last 4 years, we have been constantly reforming and adjusting our policies, rules and regulations to make the investment climate more favourable, predictable, facilitative and friendly. This is unlike what we met, when we entered Office: a situation of who knew whom and who could have ‘hobnobbed’ with the then political elite, were favoured with concessions, prime land and property at peppercorn rates, and other giveaways. Today, those who benefitted are being called upon by their ‘handlers’ to show their appreciation by confronting the Coalition Government and the independent, Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). My Government has taken the courageous step to remove this parasitic approach to one in favour of equity. In short, we want to establish a welcoming economic environment for all, not a select few. Among our notable achievements have been comprehensive reform and simplification of the tax system, including: reduction in Company tax for non-commercial companies from 30 percent to 25 percent; reduction in the Value Added Tax from 16 percent to 14 percent; increase in the VAT threshold from $10 million to $15 million; implementation of a special income tax rate of 25 percent for Small Businesses (This is in addition to the numerous concessions available to such businesses under the various Tax Acts); increase in the threshold for filing a property tax return from $0.5 million to $40 million, and reduction in the property tax rate on chargeable property; exemption from Customs Duty, Excise Tax and VAT on a range of capital equipment, intermediate and consumer goods; removed remaining restriction on accessing the Export Allowance to “soft currency” areas in Caricom; and made it easier for individuals and companies to get refunds of taxes from the GRA. At the individual level, we have reduced the personal income tax from 30 percent to 27.5 percent, increased the personal income tax allowance from $600,000 to $720,000 or 1/3 of gross income, whichever is higher; removed income tax from the employee’s contribution to NIS; and given equal treatment to Vacation Allowance across the public and private sectors. While these business-specific reforms have been direct, the tremendous increase in Government’s expenditure on health and education, housing and water, and the physical and economic infrastructure, while maintaining low, single digit inflation and a relatively stable and free exchange rate; and rigorous measures to fight corruption have contributed immeasurably to the facilitative climate for investment in Guyana. And weaving all these into a strong, durable fabric is the Green State Development Strategy (GSDS) which, in turn, is linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which we aspire to achieve by 2030. Permit me to say, too, that our reforms have extended to measures aimed at greening our economy, including the imposition of an environmental levy; the banning of Styrofoam used in the packaging of beverage, food and food products; removal of taxes on bio-degradable containers; the waiver of all taxes on motor cars and motor cycles; the lowering of taxes on new vehicles and tyres; the restriction on the importation of re-conditioned vehicles; and the banning of the importation of used tyres.

As a result of the bold, dynamic approach to economic reforms, we have recorded positive growth for each of the years 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. Indeed, in 2018, our real growth of 4.1 percent was the highest over the past 4 years and the highest since 2014. In the words of the recent Article IV Consultation Mission of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – an impartial observer – this growth was spread across most sectors. It was to a large extent due to the energy and enterprise of private sector participation such as your good selves. And, many of you would, by now, be familiar with the report of a NASDAQ contributor, which was reported widely in the local press. Here is an extract, as reproduced in OilNow, an online news outlet:

Fueled by mega oil discoveries and production set to hit close to 1 million barrels per day by the mid-2020s, the South American country of Guyana is listed at number 1 among the 5 fastest growing economies in the world.

With a projected growth rate of 16.3% during the four-year period 2018-2021, a Contributor at NASDAQ, the second-largest stock exchange in the world, says Guyana is the fastest growing economy globally. “With a GDP size of $3.63 billion (2018 Rank: 160), a growth rate of 4.1% in 2018 and 4.6% in 2019, Guyana’s economy is expected to grow by 33.5% and 22.9% in 2020 and 2021 respectively,”

With this great outlook for our country, it is truly amazing that we have those in this country who continue to peddle misinformation about the state of our economy and of our future. For too long, we have allowed a small, but influential group, to paint a negative picture of our country. It is time we change that narrative and begin to champion that panoramic view that shows the immense potential of this country, in general, and Linden, in particular.

We recognize the grave challenges we have to face and overcome. From the very beginning of our term in office, our Government identified as a national priority the imperative of bridging the coast with the hinterland, of the need to achieve balanced growth among our regions. In that framework, we recognize that, in spite of the progress made, there is a lot more that needs to be accomplished. We have to address economic and social issues that constrain greater progress and development in Linden. All of us must play a role in laying strong foundations for the sustainable development of this town.

Today, we should be focusing on all forms of investment which, when made with imagination and foresight, and implemented with responsibility and dedication, could play a crucial role in putting Linden’s development trajectory on track. So, this Business Summit should present to you a yet barely explored side of Linden— brimming opportunities and warm and friendly people, all eager to be part of the development adventure. Every dollar spent by our Government, every dollar disbursed by our development partners and every dollar invested by the private sector is a vote of confidence in the resilience and potential of Linden and its people.

Ladies and gentlemen, Region 10 should be congratulated for being the only region thus far to complete the Plan of Action for Regional Development (PARD). This is intended to guide the economic, social, environmental and other development of the Region. Our Government has put together a range of exciting investment projects to be implemented in Linden, inclusive of the Linden-Lethem road, of which the first leg – Mile Zero to Wisroc Junction – will commence in the third quarter of this year. We have secured financing from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to design the Mackenzie-Wismar Bridge. Construction is expected to start in 2020. A study is currently on-going for the upgrading of the Soesdyke-Linden Highway, including the installation of lights. Already we have received a budget support loan, which Cabinet has determined will be used to finance the upgrade and lighting of the highway. Ladies and Gentlemen, coming out of the representation by the residents of Linden from the recent Government Outreach, is a decision to reconstruct the Christianburg Primary School at an estimated cost of $105 million. We have put in our pipeline a Linden Waterfront Development Project. Most important of all, we will ensure that the benefits obtained from these and other projects are shared equitably amongst the communities of Linden.

A sector scintillating with potential is tourism. It is the one sector that, perhaps, has the greatest potential for growth and to make Linden a destination town. Your Government recognises the importance of tourism in the development process, and has been putting the necessary infrastructure and policies in place to promote the development of the tourism sector in Guyana.  And we have begun to be rewarded for our efforts: as you are aware, Guyana was only recently recognized as the Best of Eco-Tourism destinations in the world. Linden is strategically located and endowed with tourism products to provide services at the international standards. The massive oil discovery has given Guyana prominence on the world map. The influx of tourist will continue to increase, so take advantage of this market niche that you have. You have the recently-renovated Watooka Guest House, which was once classified as the most prestigious of its kind in the then British Guiana. There must be some truth to this description when one considers the dignitaries who have stayed at this facility. This is the facility where many members of the royal family stayed, including Queen Elizabeth II. This tells me that there was much class and elegance attached to this facility. And so, I urge the current managers of renovated Watooka Guest House to return it to the same class and level of service that is offered to your customers.

Tourists crave extraordinary scenes like the Gluck Island, where the blossoming of Guyana’s National Flower and unusual species of caiman and otters can be viewed. The success of the Annual Rockstone Fish Festival that attracts large numbers of tourists, is another indication of Linden’s tourism potential

But let me emphasise that although you have great tourism potential, tourism cannot operate on its own. You need to create linkages with other types of businesses to expand and develop all sectors and increase economic gain. Tourists need good accommodation, they need food prepared to a certain standard, and they need entertainment. These should be some of the areas of focus in your short to medium term business plans. Take advantage of information technology to boost tourism. The internet can help to reduce cost, enhance operational efficiency, improve access to customers and improve service delivery.

Other sectors that offer great potential for investors include agriculture, livestock breeding, aquaculture and forestry, manufacturing, textiles and garment industry, power generation and distribution, education, health services, infrastructure and real estate, as well as industries that can produce value-added products for export. The potential of Linden, with its highly-skilled workforce, to contribute tangibly to the emerging oil and gas sector should be exploited vigorously. As you can see, the list of possibilities in Linden is long and it could go on expanding.

It is the foremost responsibility of a sovereign, democratically-elected Government to provide for the needs of their people in ways that nurture unity and harmony, particularly in a country such as ours, with its vast richness of diversity. Development for one should contribute towards development for all. And there is a role for all to play in working for responsible, visionary development grounded in goodwill, good sense, expertise, industry and creativity.

Our private sector partners, the Diaspora and our young entrepreneurs must bring an invigorating blend of urgency and pragmatism, a ‘can do attitude’, and a willingness to roll up their sleeves to get things moving. Your energy and enthusiasm, and your innovative approach can help to discover what others have overlooked, that is, the vast potential and promise of Linden and the wider region.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the elevation of Linden to the status of a town, in 1970, was initiated because the Government of the day, the People’s National Congress, recognized that Linden was endowed with an abundance of resources, and had the potential to efficiently manage its own affairs. Let me emphasize, however, that although your community was one of the most neglected ones for a long time, your Government still has that positive view of Linden, and we will continue to support your endeavours to development this town and the Region. I’m aware that bauxite is a far cry from those halcyon days when the product defined Linden, but you have an abundance of other resources, and, if they are efficiently utilized, can make Linden into a major business hub, servicing all poles of the country.

The Linden Chamber of Industry Commerce and Development has a critical role to play in the economic development of this town. I expect that you will stimulate and galvanize economic development by creating and developing business opportunities and job creation. But to successfully achieve this objective there must be collaboration between the government and the business community. Success is a destination that you must define for this region.  It must represents the vision of a new vista; a new horizon; a new set of possibilities for the region – a change.  That means you will need new skills and competencies.  You will need to change to deal with success.

Change will be a key element in your journey.  Some people will resist change, and leaders are people too.  But when a leader resists change, it slows progress toward the new horizon even more because it is up to them to lead the way.

The journey toward this new horizon brings new challenges and opportunities.  How you handle these new challenges and opportunities will directly impact the speed at which you reach your destination, or if you ever reach your destination at all!  Without change, growth is not possible.  Without growth, new levels of success are out of your reach and you will never experience the new vistas that you seek.

And so, I am heartened by the fruitful discussions that have started between the Chamber and NICIL. It is my hope that stemming from these discussions you will be better equipped to help residents to turn what they know and do best into profitable small, medium and large scale businesses, and provide guidance and advice on business expansion and sustainability.

I understand that one of the main bugbears you identified in your meeting with NICIL is the regularization of industrial land, and I also understand that the Head of NICIL and the Head of the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC) are working to bring about a speedy resolution to this problem. The Linden Economic Network (LEN) financing facility is also accessible and I want you to encourage the people in this community to take advantage of this facility and narrow the financing gap.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the impressive developments in the petroleum sector provide new opportunities for private sector businesses. The Government is putting in place an appropriate local content mechanism, but in order for local businesses to benefit from this new resource they have to operate at the requisite standards and pay close attention to the evolving demand for goods and services at every level of the oil and gas supply chain. An efficient Chamber of Commerce can play a critical role in this process by providing the necessary guidance and advice to its members and the business community.

Mr. Chairman, with the anxious arrival of first oil in 2020, our Government intends to pursue economic diversification while oil is profitable, to ensure that the country is not heavily dependent on oil revenue, to the detriment of other sectors. We will ensure that Guyana does not fall into the trap, like other oil producing countries, including some of our immediate neighbors that took this initiative only after oil revenues began to dwindle. Our Government is aware that the role of the private sector in the diversification process is inevitable, and we are facilitating private sector development and expansion by removing bottlenecks to doing business and making the business environment more attractive.  I have already outlined a number of reforms and measures that we have taken. You will recall, too, the introduction of the Trusted Trader Compliance Certificate, which allows for faster clearing of containers at wharves; and the Automatic Issuance of Temporary Income Tax and NIS Compliance Certificates. More recently, the passage of the Customs and Trade Single Window System Bill 2019 will allow parties involved in trade and transport to lodge standardized information and documents with a single entry point to fulfill all imports, exports and transit- related requirements. And, if you need to be reminded, an entire fiscal incentives regime has been in place for Linden and the Surrounding Communities for over two decades. It is unfortunate that advantage has not been taken of these bounties to turn Linden into a paradise.

Mr. Chairman, our new oil find is receiving attention globally. But your Government is aware that that oil resources are exhaustible and oil prices are volatile, hence the need for efficient planning to ensure that the revenues are spent wisely and the economy is insulated from shocks stemming from price volatility. I’m sure that you are familiar with the various unsolicited proposals in the press about what we should do with our new found wealth. At the level of Cabinet, we have not discussed any of those or other proposals. What I can say, however, that the business community, especially Small Businesses, can expect support both in terms of access to affordable financing, additional concessions and more tax reforms to stimulate businesses. I hope that your Chamber will play an integral part in determining how we should use our new found wealth.

To safeguard against the risks stemming from the petroleum sector, the Natural Resource Fund Act (NRFA) was passed in the National Assembly, in January of this year; we are now in the process of putting the relevant systems in place to operationalize the Fund. The private sector has a critical role to play in the administration and oversight of the NRF. Among other things, the Act stipulates that representatives from the private sector must be part of the Public Accountability and Oversight Committee and the Macroeconomic Committee. I am happy to report that we had received the full support of the immediate past leadership of the Private Sector Commission (PSC). We have written to the PSC to name their two representatives, and we hope that the new leadership will move with alacrity to do so.

In closing, let me once again congratulate Linden Chamber of Industry Commerce and Development for organising this Business Summit. I would like to invite you to join in making this Business Summit the successful launching of a great economic venture. Our Government will champion all those who invest responsibly, who respect the environment and who have at heart, the achievement of peace and prosperity of our people.

I look forward to a time when we can look back on this Summit, not just as the dawning of a splendid new era in the history of sustainable development for Linden and Region 10, but also as one of the landmarks of economic progress in Guyana.

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

 

-END-

 

To view more images of this event visit our gallery.

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16 Jul
By: Tanika Jones 0

Remarks by Finance Secretary, Michael Joseph at opening of Supplies Bond – Ministry of Public Health

Brief Remarks On The Occasion Of the Official Opening of the

Newly Constructed Central Supplies Bond Of the Ministry of Public Health

July 10th 2019

 “Each of us is carving a stone, erecting a column, or cutting a piece of stained glass in the construction of something much bigger than ourselves”

Adrienne Clarkson

PROTOCOL

Madam Chairperson, Mrs. Michaella Abraham-Ali

First Vice President and Prime Minister, Hon. Moses Nagamotoo

Minister of Public Health – Hon. Ms. Volda Lawrence

Minister of Social Protection –Hon. Dr. George Norton

Auditor General – Mr. Deodat Sharma

Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Public Health – Mr. Glendon Fogenay

His Worship, the Mayor of Georgetown – Mr. Pandit Narine

Members of the Diplomatic Corps

Distinguished Ladies & Gentlemen

Members of the Media

Ladies & Gentlemen

Boys & Girls

GOOD AFTERNOON

I bring you greetings and best wishes from the Minister of Finance, Hon. Winston Jordan, who regretfully couldn’t be with us, as duty calls elsewhere, and so he has requested of me to deliver these brief remarks.

However, let me hasten to assure you, that the duty which has caused Minister Jordan to be absent from this event, has nothing to do with incarceration.

The commissioning of this state-of-the art CENTRAL SUPPLIES BOND of the Ministry of Public Health has been long in coming. It has replaced an old wooden structure of 1,248 square feet, easily prone to leakages and flooding, when it rained.

The old building stored medical and non-pharmaceutical supplies such as gloves, janitorial supplies, printing, promotional and other capital goods.

The physical condition of the old structure while proving inadequate in space to store the vast supplies required to service the seven (7) programmes of the Ministry of Health, also exposed the stored stock to deterioration, mold and mildew, fading and discoloration of stationary and inventory, caused by leakages and non-temperature storage control.

The ensuing damages to stock, reduced the lifespan of affected stores, and in extreme cases, made some affected stock un-usable, thereby delivering less value for money spent, and unnecessarily inflating budgetary expenditure.

These sub-optimal, inefficient and uneconomic outcomes, led to discussions between the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Finance, resulting in the provision of budgetary support for the construction of this newly built state-of-the-art facility, at which we are now gathered to commission.

Constructed at a cost of 539 million dollars, this new facility is 11,520 square feet or almost 10 times its former footprint.

Fitted with an Office Alarm, Security and Voice Paging Systems, and modern air-conditioning, the floor space accommodates a staff room, conference room, kitchenette, documentation room, an accounts and secretarial department, and a records room.

Built of steel portal frames, with corrugated sheeting, reinforced floor with Terrazzo tiles, it stands to address the shortcomings of inadequate space and poorly stored inventory stock.

It is the expectation of the Ministry of Finance that this new facility will be used as intended, and that it will be well kept and maintained. We do hope that should we undertake an ex-post cost-benefit analysis in the future, that the economic, financial, social and environmental benefits will far out-weigh the financial outlay of 539 million dollars, expended to date.

It is said by Walt Disney, that; “you can design and create the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.”

And so, it would be remiss of me, should I fail to recognize the efforts of the main contractor, Mr. Ivor Allen, and his team of construction workers, the In-House Engineer of the Ministry, the Minister of Public Health – Hon. Volda Lawrence -, and her staff of the Ministry, who labored to see the dream of this state-of-the-art Central Supplies Bond becoming a reality on the premises of Lot 1, Mudflat, Kingston, Georgetown, in Region 4.

In closing, I wish to implore us all, to resolve to carve a stone, to erect a column, or cut a piece of stained glass in the construction and fashioning of a modern Guyana that can deliver the good life in our lifetime and for generations to come.

WITH THESE BRIEF REMARKS

I THANK YOU

Michael B. Joseph

Finance Secretary

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11 Jul
By: Tanika Jones 0

Address by the Hon. Minister of Finance On the Occasion of the Launch of the Budget 2020 Sensitisation and Training Sessions

Address by the Hon. Minister of Finance

On the Occasion of the Launch of the Budget 2020 Sensitisation and Training Sessions

July 11, 2019 – Arthur Chung Convention Centre

Welcome to this very important session on the 2020 Budget Preparation. For those who understand budgeting, we would recognise that a budget cycle has a life of its own. There is a preparation stage within Budget Agencies, consideration by the Ministry of Finance at the budget hearings, proposals to Cabinet, then proposals to Parliament, followed by the Budget Speech, Parliamentary debate and consideration of theEstimates. After passage of the Budget, we move to the implementation of the Budget, which includes monitoring and evaluation to ensure that performance is being tracked.  Finally, we have the oversight and audit of the Budget and then the cycle repeats itself.

I have given that brief outline of the Budget cycle because, in this silly political season, you have politicians and wannabe politicians who are bent on creating mischief, seeking to whip up hysteria and confusion with the dissemination of fake news. Then, you have their acolytes and followers who exhibit Pavlovian behaviour. For those who do not know, that behaviour is named after the Russian physiologist, Ivan Pavlov, who, during the 1890s, was researching salivation in dogs in response to being fed. He discovered that any object or event which the dogs learned to associate with food would trigger the same response. It is called a conditioned response or a Pavlovian response. We have several persons in the business community, in civil society and other organisations who exhibit this type of behaviour, an automatic response conditioned by the signal from their master to react in a now familiar manner. So, like their master, they trot out the view that we should not start budget preparation because Elections are due, and that in so far that there is a government, it is only a Caretaker Government. Let it be known that our Constitution does not provide for a Caretaker Government. Parliament has not been dissolved; is still in session. And this Government, in spite of the successful passage of the No Confidence Motion, still retains a majority. It was only last night that someone from the Diaspora was saying to me, “Why don’t y’all get someone from the Government side to bring a Confidence Motion since y’all have the majority.” I never thought of that before, but it is food for thought.

Today we find ourselves, as is traditional, in the Guyana budget cycle, at the early stages of preparing Budget 2020 having concluded work on Volumes I and II of the Green State Development Strategy – Vision 2040 –, earlier this year. We now have a long term development strategy to guide our thinking in shaping the policies and programmes for our sectors. Later this morning you will be hearing more about the content of that Strategy. Many of you would have participated in the formulation of Vision 2040.At its core, is the realisation of a strategy that envisions “an inclusive and prosperous Guyana that provides a good quality of life for all its citizens based on sound education and social protection, low-carbon resilient development, new economic opportunities, justice and political empowerment.”

The core concepts within the GSDS are:

  • Transitioning to renewable energy,
  • Green towns urban public spaces,
  • Sustainable management of natural resources,
  • Green and inclusive economic diversification,
  • Building our human capital and institutional capacity,
  • Good governance, transparency and knowledge management
  • Resilient infrastructure

These concepts will guide our budgeting for 2020 and beyond.Next year is certainly a propitious one. Guyana is about to join the world of oil producing nations! This will mean substantially improved fiscal space, that is, room for spending substantially more on goods and services and the public sector investment programme. If we effectively manage the petroleum resources that are anticipated to flow from this new revenue stream, we will be able to accelerate the pace of economic transformation and development that hitherto we have yearned for but which has proven to be elusive to date.

In order to ensure good governance and transparent management of our petroleum resources, we have ensured that a carefully-considered legislative framework is in place. This framework has had the benefit of extensive consultations and advice.  Technical assistance has been sought to build capacity to operationalise this legislation and progresshas been made to ensure the transparent flow of resources from the oil companies to the Natural Resource Fund and into the National Budget takes place.You know, it is only a few days ago that I was forced to remark that we as a people have been so long in the doldrums that we do not know how to accept the fortune that has been gifted to us. Thus we wallow in defeatism and negativism, instead of celebrating and being happy for our improved economic position. Often, this state of affairs is led by some in the media. In this regard, a recent editorial in one of the daily newspapers was questioning the progress made to operationalise the Fund. This was after previous editorials in which they sought to impugn the validity of the passage of the NRF Act because it took place in the aftermath of the No Confidence Motion and in the absence of the Opposition. Well, my answer to that is that the Parliament was still in session and the Opposition chose not to turn up, which is typical behaviour.

The withdrawal rule from the Fund to the National Budget will allow for front loading of development spending while still retaining sufficient resources to be saved for future generations and to be used as buffer, given the fickle nature of oil prices. Over time it is expected that the investment of those savings will result in interest earned to feed into the National Budget long after oil is finished.

How do we ensure that we are ready to take advantage of these resources? First, we must develop the skill sets that can readily support the petroleum and non-petroleum sectors of our country. Every single Region must have a regional development plan that is able to realise the objectives of the GSDS in their own right. Plans of Action For Regional Development (PARDS) have already commenced with Region 10 and 9 being substantially advanced in terms of guiding their Budget 2020 interventions. We must use the lessons learned from the two experiences of developing the PARDS to accelerate the development of regional strategic plans in the eight remaining Regions.Both traditional and non-traditional sectors must be explored to take advantage of the comparative advantages that we possess as a nation. Supportive infrastructure and renewable energy must serve to catalyse the necessary development to transition the hinterland regions to high-performing regions, where service delivery can be comparable to the coast. Indeed, I look forward to the day when coastlanders can journey to the hinterland to live and work with the same level of anticipation as many have done to go to yonder shores. I look forward to the day when the high schools in Mabaruma, Kamarang and Parmakatoi are able to deliver the same quality of education as a top performing high school in Georgetown. I look forward to the day when the maternity patient is able to deliver her baby comfortably and safely in the hospital in Region 7, just as she would be expected to do in our national referral hospital.That is what we need to work towards; that is what we have to deliver; and that is what you, as Heads of Budget Agencies and senior officials in the public service, must reach for and work towards the transformation and development of our nation through every budget cycle. Surely, this is the only pathway to the good life, to which we all aspire.

Getting there is about rolling up our sleeves, putting our shoulders to the proverbial wheel and getting the work done.It’s about putting the systems in place and the institutional strengthening that is required. Addressing the data gaps in our respective agencies is critical to ensuring that we are able to measure our achievements, as we go forward, to determine, based on evidence, what is working and what is not; what needs to be reformed and what needs to be removed. And I am sure that many of these gaps have been highlightedbefore, since all of you have worked with us in preparing the Voluntary National Review of the SDGs.I urge you to continue consulting the stakeholders of your sectors as you prepare your budgets.

Strengthening our systems of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) continues to be a priority. The level of training in key concepts of M&E has been scaled up over the last three years. As a result, almost 700 public servants have been trained with the intention of them returning to their agencies and applying their newly acquired knowledge to their work and to ensure the successful implementation of each successive budget. This week, we commenced what I think is a first in strengthening our public investment management –the training of a core set of Budget Agencies on how to develop their project concept notes from a more scientific basis, so that we can ensure that projects coming into the budget are criteria-based and clearly demonstrate linkages to achieving a Green State.

We have continuously lamented the sloth of implementation of the Public Sector Investment Programme.A closer examination of the reasons reveals that it is a combination of poor management and ineffective planning, but, also, in many instances of civil works.Further, the absence of an adequate number of engineers has compromised the pace and quality of infrastructure development. In addition, acceleration of our PSIP has been strained by incapacity in the private sector. These problems imply a holistic approach to solving. One aspect of that solution must be improved conditions of service, salary and allowances. In that regard, salary improvements to attract higher number of qualified engineers to the central government is under active consideration; it is expected to be approved, shortly. Teacher remuneration has seen continuous improvement over the last few years as well as the salaries of public servants.All categories of workers have benefited fromsignificant reduction in income taxes and substantial increases in the income tax threshold.All of this has taken place in the context of low single digit inflation, rising economic growth and improvement in the social and physical infrastructure – roads, lighting housing, water, and so on. His Excellency has appointed two high-level committees to examine wages and salariesand allowances in the Teaching and Public Services. The one for the teachers is already up and running while the one for the public service is taking a little time to get going. The Government has already named its members to this Committee and we hope that it will get down to the important task, soon.Regardless, I can say with confidence that public servants will get an increase in wages and salariesthis year, and can expect a bigger increase in wages and salaries next year, after we would have won the General Elections.

However, increases in remuneration must be matched by improvement in performance and overall delivery of public services. Managers must manage and supervisors must supervise. Productivity must rise, if we are achieve a modern, competitive nation. It is difficult comprehending why we have to install electric time clocks to track the punctuality of workers and their comings and goings during working hours. And the tracking cannot only relate to the ordinary worker. It has to be enforced from top to the bottom. Too many senior personnel are featuring on Facebook and other social media during working hours, when they should be attending to the public or otherwise engaged in activities for which they are being paid. Irrespective of our impending new status, more money will mean nothing to us, will not result in our advancement, if we are not disciplined in our approach and outlook.

Above all, we must remember that we are public servants.This means that we are here to deliver quality service to all residents of Guyana.We must be driven by results, not consumed by process. Assessing the performance across all sectors is a critical component to ensuring that we stay focused on the target of achieving a diversified, resilient, low-carbon, people-centred vision as articulated by His Excellency President David Granger.

As a former Secretary to the Treasury of the US, Jack Lew, once said “The budget is not just a collection of numbers, but an expression of our values and aspirations.” So, I urge you to translate our national aspirations into effective results-based budgets.

In this politically charged environment, it is easy to become distracted or side-tracked. My admonition to you, my charge to you is to stay professional, stay focused. Leave the politics to the politicians. I am so happy that you turned in your numbers today, and that you eschewed the rantings of the political Opposition who were urging you not to follow the Budget Circular. Continue to work hard and believe. Three decades ago, we were a debt-ridden, pariah state. Today, we have been identified as the fastest growing economy in the world by NASDAQ. This glowing accolade was preceded by a very favourable assessment of our economy by the recent Article IV Consultation Mission of the IMF, and by the CDB and ECLAC. Guyana is on the rise, Guyana is on the moving forward in the right direction. You can feel it, you can see it. Just witness the influx of many people from Caricom countries and further afield, as they seek their fortunes here. It is for us, as Guyanese to unite among a common cause, put aside our differences and concentrate how we can share our country’s prosperity. The time is now! We either seize it collectively, or lose it individually.

Thank you!

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