Guyana makes tremendous strides in regional development --says MP Ramdas

Guyana Chronicle
April 17, 2000

THE Government has made significant strides in the overall development of Guyana and more particularly, in the ancient county of Berbice. This is the firm view of People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/Civic) Region Six Representative in the National Assembly, Mr. Kumkarran Ramdas.

Ramdas noted that in the process of regional development, the local democratic organs of Region Six have been making a concerted effort towards improving the well being of Berbicians.

He pointed out that approximately $50M in subvention was given to the Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) to assist in their capital works.

According to the Parliamentarian, Local Government is an important element in the process of broadening and strengthening local democracy. He said that through their (the NDC's) involvement, community centres, markets, access roads and streets, playgrounds and drainage systems have been rehabilitated.

He said as a result of these works, average collection of rates and taxes have improved from 20 per cent to approximately 45 per cent allowing the NDC to provide more services to their residents.

Ramdas noted that the bridge across the Berbice River would be of significant economic benefit for the entire country. "Trade and commerce would benefit, delivery of goods and services would be improved, transportation and handling costs for farm products would be reduced, valuable man hours lost (previously) could be utilised for other productive activity," Ramdas said.

The PPP/Civic MP was at the time making his contribution to the recent Budget 2000 debate in which he expressed congratulations to the Minister of Finance and his team in "presenting a Budget that has outlined a plan of action for the furtherance of the continued development of our nation...a plan that has addressed a number of key issues."

According to Ramdas, when the Peoples' Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/Civic) government presented its first Budget in 1993 to our nation, the Government highlighted to the Guyanese people the harsh realities that had to be overcome for a rapid turnaround of our nation's shattered economy.

He highlighted some of the difficulties faced then, such as debt service obligations which accounted for 90 per cent of revenue collection; infrastructure was in a state of disrepair; cuts in social spending; decline in real income of the working people; and lack of accountability of public funds, among others.

Ramdas said a subsequent state paper was presented to the National Assembly in March 1994 entitled `Government's vision of development' in which was outlined the Government's major goal of reconstruction.

The PPP/Civic Parliamentarian pointed out that the state paper signified Government's quest for meaningful debt relief because the external debt was strangling the country. The burden of servicing that debt was impeding economic growth. The administration planned to expand and diversify the productive base by giving high priority to agriculture and natural resource industries, and to better remuneration for increased productivity. The Government also planned to increase the tax base of the economy; expand investment in the social sector; and rehabilitate and expand physical infrastructure among other projects.

Ramdas also said these projections, which were successfully implemented, have transformed Guyana's economic fortunes, improved its social development and has restored the country's self-respect as a nation.

"Seven years down the road have shown that our analysis of the prevailing circumstances was correct and the course we charted steered us away from negative growth and economic decline to positive growth and development," he noted.

Ramdas challenged: "How else can we attest to the following facts: increase in sugar production by 22.8 per cent (highest since 1978); increase in rice production by 7.6 per cent; increase in forestry sector by 12.9 per cent; 6.5 per cent in the manufacturing sector; 1.0 per cent in the fishing industry; and increase in wages and salaries?"

The PPP/Civic MP pointed out that these are enviable achievements from sound economic planning and management by the PPP/Civic administration.

"A good Government is creating the conditions for the private sector to grow," he said, adding "How else could you get such positive results?"

He noted the honouring of the Government's 1997 Manifesto commitments to improve investment in the social sector and referred to `Appendix 1' of the budget where Government spending for education and health amounted to 18.3 per cent of the National Budget.

Ramdas said that for the PPP/Civic Government, development is distinct from economic growth alone. "Development must bring with it a just distribution of national wealth. It must be premised on the well being of those involved in the production of national wealth," Ramdas said.

In view of the Government's public sector investment programme orientation, Mr. Ramdas drew attention to developments in Eastern Berbice.

According to him, in the effort towards improving access to health care, the Government has continued towards the improvement of infrastructure in the health sector in Region Six. He pointed out that the New Amsterdam, Port Mourant and Skeldon Hospitals have been renovated; rehabilitation of health centres have been completed at Bananen Land, Schedmoed, CWC, Bohemia and Sand Root.

"Our investment in immunisation programmes, training of community health workers, environmental health assistants and community assisted outreach programmes have all contributed in the improvement and access to health care. Infant mortality, an important indicator of health delivery and nutrition, has dropped from 43 per 1,000 to 22.9 per 1,000..." Ramdas explained.

He also said that over the last year the Government's efforts had improved the Region's infrastructure works in the education sector. A number of primary and nursery schools have either been rehabilitated, extended or built anew. These include the rehabilitation to Leeds Primary School, CWC Primary and Nursery Schools, Betsy Ground Primary, Number 48 and Number 59 Primary schools; and new schools were built at Overwinning, Tagore, Nurney, Port Mourant and Cane Field.

In addition, two new resource and skills training centres have been built at a cost of $27M. "For us, education is located in the centre of our development strategy and re-construction process," Ramdas said.

He noted that teachers training, technical and vocational education, parents and adult education are all-important facets that will help to foster growth and all-round development of the country's young people.

He also mentioned that "in association with the Ministry of Education at the Regional level, we want to acknowledge the efforts of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other interest groups, which are making contributions in the development of computer literacy skills in our secondary schools, especially Berbice High School, Tagore High, Number 68 Skills Training Centre and the Guyana Outreach. "The broader objective is ensuring our young people are adequately prepared to meet the challenges of the age of information technology."

Ramdas also proudly stated that the opening of the Berbice campus of the University of Guyana in October is most welcome, and would be a fulfillment of a dream of this Government and the fulfillment of a desire for residents of East and West Berbice. He said the Berbice Campus would be a boost to prospective students, who have had to curtail their ambitions of a University education for a want of additional funding for accommodation and upkeep. "It would propel them to strive for excellence in the absence of these additional burdens," Ramdas said.

He also proudly said that access to potable water has witnessed remarkable strides in the Region. "We are committed in ensuring that every home receives a piped supply of pure drinking water," he said. He reminded the National Assembly that "fetching water for domestic purposes has been a drudgery that children and housewives have longed to be relieved of...(and) the PPP/Civic Government sees an end to this laborious and burdensome task."

In concluding his presentation, Ramdas quoted a passage from Information Minister Moses Nagamootoo's contribution to the 1998 Budget debate saying: "We, therefore, wish on this side of the House, to send a message to those who do not accept that democracy does not end with one single election, that their participation in the process is important for the economic development of the country for the promotion of good governance and also to qualify good governance for the building of a state of all the people of Guyana, reflecting all interest, all strata, all classes of society."

"In other words, we all have a role in this process of nation building," Ramdas said.