Berbice central to massive national plans
- President says at landmark UG campus opening

by Sharon Lall
Guyana Chronicle
November 21, 2000

BERBICE is central to massive national plans that have been identified in the industrial and sugar sectors, President Bharrat Jagdeo has announced.

In the proposed restructuring plan of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco), most of the expansion will take place in Berbice where more jobs will be created for skilled and unskilled persons in a new "hi-tech" sugar industry operated by larger factories that require a whole new range of skills.

Guysuco's plan as outlined in the National Development Strategy has envisaged, among other things, the construction of a new 350 technological (tch) factory at Skeldon (111,000 tonnes) from an expanded cane area; the designation of new land for mechanisation; the concomitant expansion of the Albion facilities to 415 tch (153,000 tonnes) and the utilisation of diffusion technology at both Skeldon and Albion factories.

President Jagdeo Sunday said the government also plans to build industrial estates in at least three areas in Berbice where processing of local raw materials can readily occur.

His announcement came at the official opening of the University of Guyana (UG) Berbice Campus which he described as another "landmark" in the development of the country.

Among those at the opening were former President Janet Jagan, ministers of government, lecturers and members of the administration from the UG Turkeyen campus.

The opening of the campus at Tain, in Port Mourant comes more than three-and-a-half decades after the Turkeyen university was opened.

The Berbice Campus, at which classes have already commenced, was built at a cost of $181M.

President Jagdeo, in a speech to declare open the institution, said the government has a comprehensive development plan for Berbice along with other regions.

Work is under way to develop the East Canje reservoir project which could open up hundreds of thousands of acres of land for agriculture in Berbice.

Negotiations are taking place to seal the contract for the Berbice River Bridge, and talks have begun on a deep water harbour, the President stated.

Apart from examining a project for the Intermediate Savannahs, the administration is looking at the possibilities of establishing a ply-board mill and bringing a new partner into the bauxite industry, he reported to the large gathering.

President Jagdeo also said the Guyana economy has moved from a downhill trend and is "stable and moving forward".

Changes have taken place in the Treasury which had used 94 cents on every dollar of revenue collected to service debt, and another 20 per cent to pay wages and salaries, he said.

The President noted that Guyana recently qualified for a new US$25M initiative which would bring about a significant reduction in debt payment starting in 2001.

Inflation and interest rates have come down and so, too, has the fiscal deficit and balance of payment deficit, he stated.

The government is working on restructuring the traditional rice and sugar industries, bauxite, gold mining and forestry sectors for them to become more competitive in the global market.

New industries like information technology and eco-tourism are being developed while a range of minerals are being expanded for export, he said.

To date, Berbice has a $1.8 billion water project together with provisions for housing and an electrification programme in which the government pledged $200M and the Guyana Power and Light Company (GPL) another $185M to provide power in areas that have been without electricity.

These developments are occurring simultaneously with a focus on education, President Jagdeo said.

Guyana has more than 1,000 schools of which 700 have either been newly built, repaired or extended by the government, he noted.

Last week, the Minister of Education reported that Guyana's student/teacher ratio compares favourably even with some developed countries in the world.

The Head of State said the government is trying to negotiate a US$40M loan that would provide Internet access to all schools across the country.

A programme is also in the works for Guyanese youths to gain universal access to secondary education over a period of three years, he said.

President Jagdeo said spending on university education has moved from $150M to $930M and the overall allocation for the education sector is $9.3 billion compared to $1 billion when the government assumed office in 1992.

He said he hopes the Berbice UG Campus will expand into the modern fields of accountancy, information technology and engineering which propel the new world.

Describing it as a place where the dreams of Berbicians can become a reality, the President said the government is proud of the new campus despite all the difficulties that accompanied the early stages of its conception.

The 1992 and 1997 manifesto of the government had proposed bringing university education to Berbice.

President Jagdeo said the building on the John's Ville site, the original area identified for the Berbice Campus, was falling apart when the government made several visits to acquire the grounds.

Promises were made by the persons responsible for the site but they withdrew their offer at the last moment, raising suspicions about whether or not the move might have been politically motivated, the President stated.

The location for the Berbice Campus had to be shifted to Tain but not without a promise by President Jagdeo to soon take over the land at John's, whether the parties involved like it or not.

The Berbice Campus has 162 students registered for classes in the faculties of Arts and General Studies, Education and Social Sciences.

The campus houses six classrooms, each measuring 24 x 24 feet; a cafeteria, an administrative office, toilet block and a 42 x 24 feet library. The complex measures 10,000 square feet and it is on `built up' land to guard against flooding.

All students accepted for studies in the Division of Arts and General Studies and Social Sciences at the Berbice Campus can be eligible to read for degrees in those subject areas, officials said.

In the first two years of its operation, the Berbice Campus will offer Diploma programmes in Arts and General Studies and Social Sciences as well as Certificates in Education.

The two-year Diplomas and Certificate in Education are also the first two years of the Degree Programme.

Candidates who successfully complete the Diploma and the Certificate in Education may proceed directly to read for the Degree which requires a further two years of study.

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