Public consultations on poverty reduction strategy launched

By Wendella Davidson
Guyana Chronicle
June 19, 2001

A CONSULTATION process through which the public will be able to make an input and share ideas regarding the key Guyana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS) was formally launched yesterday with President Bharrat Jagdeo urging all to be involved.

Noting that poverty is a complex problem, he assured that if the issue is tackled together, debt will no longer be a burden to Guyana and it will be able to access further debt relief.

He urged all to work towards that end, putting aside all partisan behaviour.

The process was launched in a ceremony at the National Cultural Centre in Georgetown where Mr. Jagdeo featured in the launching too of a website, a medium through which persons can source information on the GPRS.

The website with the theme `Working together to reduce poverty' can be found at and the President suggested that Internet cafes make free time available so that every Guyanese can become knowledgeable about the process.

Expressing satisfaction that the consultation process was finally on, Mr. Jagdeo said the initiative was the brainchild of the Government after it assumed office and is one of six key areas of focus.

The areas -- the macro-economy; rebuilding social infrastructure; development of the human resource; public accountability; poverty reduction and diversification of the economy -- have been the guide for the government in many of its projects, policies and programmes, he said.

The President noted that poverty is a global problem which attacks people not only materially but morally and spiritually.

It also affects a person's life by limiting access to quality services in areas such as housing, education, health, water, sanitation, employment and governance and international communities and world governments are working hard to eradicate the ravages of poverty, he noted.

A most recent survey here showed that 35 per cent of the Guyanese population live in poverty, and to this end the Government prepared an Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper covering several essential elements for reducing poverty, he explained.

The Government has considered too that the public should play a role in shaping the policies and programmes.

The audience, which included Prime Minister Sam Hinds, Ministers of the Government, members of the Diplomatic Corps, businessmen, trade unionists and students, heard of some of the difficulties Guyana encountered in seeking to access debt relief.

According to President Jagdeo, the Government had recognised that one of its key strategies not only in the macro-economy but in its financing strategy resided in an aggressive debt relief policy.

To this end, he recalled approaches by the Government to the Paris Club and arguing for Guyana to be part of the Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) Initiative at a Commonwealth Finance Ministers meeting.

And a result of the latter and strong support from a number of Third World countries, Guyana became the first country to qualify under the fiscal openness criteria, he said.

He spoke too of an earlier decision taken by the multilateral financing institutions that policies within Third World countries and those like Guyana to be pursued, will be judged based on the impact of poverty in those countries.

The institutions, he said, have indicated a willingness to review the existing guidelines, but have also asked that a social impact analysis be conducted to assess the impact on the poor and other vulnerable groups of the policy measures implemented by the respective governments, in support of the country's poverty reduction and growth objective.

Mr. David Yhann 11, on the 13-member steering committee, who gave a background to the consultative process, called for all Guyanese to actively participate in the consultations.

He said the Poverty Reduction Strategy will utilise two different approaches --that of face to face interaction and full use of the media to disseminate information, in particular to communities which are normally marginalised.

Of the website, which contains background information regarding the process, as well as data on schedules and upcoming meetings, Yhann said it will be accessible to anyone.

Following the consultations, a national conference will be convened to review the draft GPRS paper, he added.

A Poverty Reduction Strategy brochure states that in 1971, about 38 per cent of the population was below the poverty line and by 1998 the figure had increased to 65 per cent.

However in 1992, only 43 per cent existed below the poverty line and in 2000 the figure had declined further to 45 per cent.

The document noted that the Government is still not happy about the situation and considers the proportion of the population in that state unacceptable.

Its efforts to have the state reversed include focusing on programmes to further reduce poverty, and these have been helped by debt forgiveness from the donor community.

The Government's plan to reduce poverty is based on creating economic opportunities and improving social services for every Guyanese.

The economic opportunities will lead to growth and more jobs, while social services will improve people's lives and create prospects for a better future for our children, the document added.