Privatisation programme winding down

Guyana Chronicle
April 5, 2000

THE government expects to "wind down" its privatisation programme by the end of the year, says Minister of Housing and Water, Mr Shaik Baksh.

At the end of the process, there may be only four public sector enterprises - the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO), the Guyana National Cooperative Bank (GNCB), the Guyana Oil Company (GUYOIL) and the Guyana National Shipping Corporation (GNSC).

The privatisation programme has achieved success, Baksh reported to the National Assembly Monday during debate on this year's budget.

Last year, four large entities, the Guyana Electricity Corporation (GEC), Guyana Airways Corporation (GAC), Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation (GPC) and Seals and Packaging Industries Ltd (SAPIL) were privatised.

Steady progress is also being made in the privatisation process for Guyana Stores Limited (GSL) and it is expected to be finalised soon, he said.

Baksh said the presentation on the budget by opposition People's National Congress (PNC) member, Mr Andy Gouveia was "disjointed, disappointing and based on hearsay".

Gouveia claimed there were gaps and dissatisfaction by applicants in the distribution of house lots especially in Sophia, Georgetown and for residents from Tiger Bay, also in the city.

He also said allocation for the water system in the budget has remained much the same since 1994.

Much of his contribution to the housing issue was dubbed "hearsay" by Speaker, Mr Derek Jagan.

Gouveia claimed the government will be unable to distribute 20,000 house lots as promised for this year.

Baksh said the full complement of house lots will be given Guyanese in a "transparent manner, regardless of ethnicity or other factors".

He said the government believes housing provides a direct link for the alleviation of poverty in this country.

The Housing Minister told the National Assembly complete water networks will be set up in 23 major squatter settlements, including Sophia.

A 10-point action plan, which includes setting up a police outpost, a health centre, drainage and water systems and three roads has already been announced for Sophia, he noted.

On the Tiger Bay issue, Baksh said there is a relocation plan for residents in that area but "subversive agents" are at work.

He said 80 Tiger Bay residents last week selected their house lots and each agreed to pay $58,000 for the plots.

The group was given six months to make the initial down payment and will get two years to pay the remainder although the normal period is 12 months, he said.

Baksh said Tiger Bay residents have been allocated house lots at their own request, in Tuschen, East Bank Essequibo; Diamond, East Bank Demerara and at Belfield and Enmore-Haslington, East Coast Demerara.

"We have never promised the people in Tiger Bay (that we) will build houses for them," the minister explained, adding that the government wants, however, to create an environment for them to build houses.

He said once the New Building Society (NBS) Act is amended, some Tiger Bay residents who qualify for loans will be given a signed letter of assurance for them to access finance to build their houses.