Jagdeo hopes CGX rig will return next year
CDCs urged to look out for corruption

By Daniel DaCosta
Stabroek News
September 26, 2000

President Bharrat Jagdeo hopes that consensus could be arrived at by early next year for the return of the CGX Energy Inc oil rig to the Corentyne basin if Suriname's President Ronald Venetiaan adheres to an agreement reached at the CARICOM-brokered talks earlier this year.

The Head of State was at the time responding to a question raised by a participant at the first Regional Conference of Community Development Councils (CDCs) at the Bath Primary School, West Coast Berbice on Sunday. "I expect quick agreement on the joint utilisation of our resources," he said, "if President Venetiaan decides to stick to the CARICOM-brokered agreement, while we continue to seek a lasting resolution of the border issue. Government will continue to negotiate to the fullest at the diplomatic level to seek a peaceful resolution to the border issue. This, however, must not be perceived as weakness since we are prepared to defend our territorial integrity and towards this end we have begun to rebuild our armed forces." He did not elaborate further.

Approximately 120 representatives from some 40 CDCs within the West Berbice sub-region attended the conference which was sponsored by the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development under the theme 'Uniting Communities Across Guyana.' In a wide-ranging speech in which he dealt with the debt burden, his government's achievements and plans for the future, the Head of State said the PPP would focus on improving health services throughout the country, providing additional housing for those in need, providing potable water in areas without and additional spending in the education sector.

Noting that job creation was extremely important, Jagdeo bemoaned the fact that despite the abundance of resources in Guyana "our people have one of the lowest standards of living in the hemisphere" and urged, "we must find a way to change this situation."

Big rice farmers must restructure
Touching on the rice industry, the President said that it was being subsidised by the government, which was spending some $800 million annually on drainage and irrigation. "However some large rice farmers do not want to change and restructure their operations while others are willing. Those who do not want to restructure will have to go down," he said, "because some want to live fancy lifestyles and do not want to pay the banks."

The Head of State also referred to a number of projects in the pipeline for Berbice including a planned road from Brazil to a deep-water harbour in Berbice, which will cut the cost of freight by US$30 per tonne for imports and exports. The link, he explained, will also provide access to Europe for a number of South American countries.

He said that government was seeking financing to complete Phase Two and Three of the Mahaica/Mahaicony/Abary Agricultural Development Authority, while referring to the Guyana Sugar Corporation's (GUYSUCO) expansion programme, and the opening-up of the East Canje reservoir. These projects and developments, he said, will make a major difference to Region Five and will impact positively on the lives of residents.

He told residents that the area was likely to be affected by a labour shortage in the next few years. He confirmed that work on the Berbice River Bridge was expected to start next year.

Referring to the CDCs, Jagdeo said, that the government had put a premium on the work done by the CDCs which have been the watchdogs in many areas. It was important for the councils to oversee projects being executed in their areas since there was a lot of collusion and corruption between contractors and consultants involved in some projects, he said. He called on the residents to report cases of corruption, which he intends to deal with resolutely as long as they are brought to his attention.

He also disclosed that within another four months CDCs countrywide will benefit from a US$15 million programme being negotiated for SIMAP for development projects. He called on the CDC members present to be as inclusive as possible and to build back the community spirit, compassion and care within their communities.

"We have to battle corruption at all levels," he emphasised, and congratulated the CDCs for the work they had done and were doing.

Prior to the President's address, opening remarks were delivered by Parliamentary Secretary, Philomena Sahoye-Shury. Regional Chairman, Harrinarine Baldeo, welcomed participants and some leaders presented reports on their councils. Following the President's address several problems were raised by participants including allegations of corruption in the sub-region, the need for telephones in some areas, regular power outages, inadequate water supply, claims of mismanagement at the MMA/ADA, cattle rustling in the Abary area and long delays in securing medical attention at the Fort Wellington Cottage Hospital.

Former president Janet Jagan addressed the conference during the afternoon session which included the distribution of certificates and general discussions.

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