U.S ambassador sees optimistic signs for Guyana
Guyana Chronicle
February 19, 2002

UNITED States Ambassador to Guyana, Mr. Ronald Godard, says several developments over the past year give cause for optimism about this country's future.

He listed among them work on the Guyana-Brazil road, improved relations with Suriname, political dialogue and manufacturing of new products.

Godard was speaking at the 34th anniversary dinner and commissioning of a $2.7M hard court by the Lions Club of Central Demerara on February 9. The functions were held at the organisation's Den and Civic Centre at Mocha Road, Providence, East Bank Demerara.

The diplomat, who took up duties here one year ago, said the period has served as a "real crash course" on things Guyanese.

According to Godard, improved transportation between Guyana and its southern neighbour, Brazil, and the free trade agreement between the two countries open new opportunities. He compared them with those sprung between the U.S, Mexico and Canada with the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"Guyana is uniquely located to serve as an important gateway between North America and South America, (with the) Free Trade Area of the Americas to be concluded by the beginning of 2005...", Godard said.

He added that the expansion in trade between Brazil and the South American trade bloc Mercosur and the U.S, Canada and Mexico "offers unique opportunities for Guyana as an entrepot country, with various service industries to support trade between North and South America.

And regarding Guyana's eastern neighbour, Suriname, the ambassador said recent cross border cooperation will spur development, noting the two are the only Caribbean Community member countries with a land border.

He said regional stability encourages foreign investment and referred to comprehensive confidence building mechanisms, Customs cooperation, consideration of a maritime law enforcement agreement, cooperation on disease control and business exchanges that will lead to cross border development.

Godard also said political dialogue between the ruling People's Progressive Party/Civic and opposition People's National Congress has been the "best chance the country has had in decades for bridging the political/racial divide that has threatened to destabilise society repeatedly." He added, "political stability is essential for economic growth."

The ambassador said impressive first class furniture, Foot and Mouth disease free status, new dairy products, aquaculture and garment manufacturing are positive developments in the face of concern about what exports will drive future growth with declining prices for traditional products.

Godard also noted that remittances to Guyana by its citizens living abroad (some $65M last year) have been a social safety net and can also be financiers of development.

The appointment of Professor Calestous Juma of Harvard University as Chancellor of the University of Guyana; new ideas for transforming the latter institution into an important force for development; specialisation in biodiversity with plans to expand the related centre at U.G and a $20M Inter-American Development Bank computerisation project are other positive signs, Godard said.

He added that the growing network of non-governmental organisations will strengthen democracy. "Guyana's young people in particular are active in social causes, notably in the campaign against HIV/AIDS...the tradition of service to the community is a very encouraging sign for the future."

Godard called the Central Demerara Lions, pioneers in civil society and congratulated them for their civic mindedness in building the hard court. Club director, Mr. Chetram Singh, said the facility will be used for basketball, lawn tennis and volley ball games. "We are hoping children in the community will be able to utilise it for (those) games...we are also hoping to plan some competitions among the schools on the East Bank of Demerara.

Other activities such as fund-raising ventures are planned and a jazz session and fish fry are among the first on the cards.

Singh said the court will also be rented to other social organisations for similar events.

Among those contributing to the project were Sterling Products, Courtney Benn Construction Services, Wieting and Richter, Guyana Sugar Corporation, National Bank of Industry and Commerce, Demerara Distillers, Shell Antilles Guianas Limited, New Building Society and Mr. Howard Bovell of the U.S.

"Our dream is to make this place the preferred venue for relaxation for both our youths as well as our adults...we also want this to be the place our youths will choose to keep themselves away from the negative influences they encounter everyday. It must also be the place they will choose to display their sporting prowess with pride to the applause and acknowledgement of our community," lion Mohamed S. Ally said.

Lion Hans Barrow who recalled the history of the Central Demerara Club said it will continue resolutely to alleviate the suffering of the sick, needy and less fortunate to touch many lives with hope.

Pledging the Club's full commitment to unity and cooperation, Barrow said, "We treasure our camaraderie and hold in veneration our respect for each other's culture, traditions, political and religious persuasions.

"We place a great reliance on the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. This we have achieved because in the eyes of the everlasting Father we are seen as one race, the human race; this is the nexus which fuels our solidarity and constantly rekindles the flames of our love to serve our fellowman; living up to our Lions motto - "We Serve."