Linden welcomes long-awaited advancement project By Neil Marks
Guyana Chronicle
February 12, 2002

`These projects should never be subjected to narrow partisan behaviour...outside of the politics, we have to focus on the main issues - that of creating a better life for our people' - President Bharrat Jagdeo

PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday launched the G$2.2B Linden Advancement Economic Project (LEAP), which promises to pull Region 10 and Linden in particular, out of its difficult economic situation.

Region 10 (Upper Demerara/Berbice) Chairman, Mr. Mortimer Mingo, lauded the European Union-funded relief project, saying the residents of the region, especially those in Linden, eagerly await it.

Visiting European Union Director, Mr. Frederick Hamburger said preparation of LEAP took seven years and so it was decided that the "ambitious" programme will run for about seven years, providing assistance and funding for new and existing micro enterprises in Linden and in Region 10.

Briefing mainly residents of Linden at an inauguration ceremony at the Linmine Constabulary Recreation Hall, President Jagdeo said LEAP encompasses a $300M Micro-Credit Fund which will provide loans to individuals with a sound plan to get involved in a micro, small or medium business. It will also provide training especially to young people, he said.

"I hope this programme will focus more on business type training - how to manage businesses, simple ways of putting together accounts, managing finances, approaching institutions with a project", he said.

LEAP will see the setting up of an inward investment facility to attract national and international investment to Region 10 and Linden. However, President Jagdeo said there will be a need to be shift in attitudes if this plan is to work.

"I have seen people that I've encouraged to set up businesses here leave in frustration because they feel they are not welcome at various levels. The first question that comes up sometimes is: `How much tax are you going to pay?' `Will you pay toll coming into Linden if you are bringing trucks?' It does not make for the right atmosphere,' he said.

Another projection of LEAP is to upgrade infrastructure and it is expected to see public institutions strengthened. Mingo welcomed this particular aspect of LEAP.

"These institutions...which are vested with the responsibility of pursuing developmental gains, have been pauperised by lack of material and human resources. We are therefore happy that LEAP is finally here...and that the needs of these two agencies (the Rregional Democratic Council and the Town Council) will be met. We will be able to get the kind of support to fully carry out our mandate to the people of this region," he said.

President Jagdeo said the main objective of strengthening public institutions "is not to make people comfortable" but to provide a better quality service to the people.

LEAP, he explained, will be managed and monitored on a participatory basis, and will involve the Chamber of Commerce, Central and Local Government to avoid problems that might hinder the project's implementation.

President Jagdeo thanked the European Union for approving the grant, which is almost half of what was asked for initially.

The idea of an economic advancement project was that of President Jagdeo when he visited Linden as Finance Minister in 1994.

He said that after an evaluation of the problems facing the town, it was decided that outside of the regular developmental projects in Region 10, a special project was needed, not just to improve infrastructure but to incubate entrepreneurship and businesses.

He said this became necessary, since Linden's mainstay - the bauxite operations - no longer enjoyed the fortunes of the past.

The Region 10 Chairman promised to work with LEAP officials to make the project succeed, recognising its importance in developing the region.

Mingo hoped that "all (will) put aside any partisan concerns or agenda which will hinder the achievement of our main objective - the development of this region and its people."

"These projects should never be subjected to narrow partisan behaviour," President Jagdeo agreed saying, "outside of the politics, we have to focus on the main issues - that of creating a better life for our people and sometimes political narrowness interferes in this broader objective."

"That is the instruction to my people who would work here from Central Government, and I hope it would be reciprocated at every level where the wellbeing of people of this region is paramount to any political problems."

Mingo said all efforts should be made to make LEAP a success.

"It is the hope of the (RDC) of Region 10 that the LEAP...translates into tangible and sustainable assistance to lift Linden and this region out of the economic morass in which it currently finds itself", he said.