President promises improvement in public services
Stabroek News
January 1, 2002

President Bharrat Jagdeo has pledged that there will be further modernization and improvement in public services to the people.

In his New Year's message to the nation, broadcast at midnight last night, the President said that he was disturbed by the series of blunders in public agencies and ministries that caused hardship to persons.

"Tell me: why should teachers' pay be delayed because someone did not process the release on time? Tell me: why should a pensioner not get pension on time because a clerk did not come to work; tell me: why should someone be denied justice because a file a misplaced or stolen at the Deeds or court registry? Or, why should someone be asked to give a bribe to get public service?

"These things disturb me tremendously. I know that we may not be able to prevent and correct all these wrongdoings. But if we - government, opposition, civil society and ordinary citizens - work together then, I am sure, we can resolve most of these problems thereby creating more responsive and accountable public services, leading to a better quality of life for our people."

But all was not gloom as the President listed some of the successes for Guyana in 2001, which he noted was a tough year worldwide. Among them was constitutional reform, which he said, reflected the broadest possible consensus of our society, and was a product of political cooperation.

The President also cited as successes low inflation and a "relatively stable" exchange rate during the year. To these he added more schools, health centers, roads, water-supply systems, sea defence and drainage and irrigation structures built and a reduction in external debt.

However, he said, government was not content with these achievements and had "gone back to basics," restructuring the rice, sugar, bauxite, forestry, and mining sectors; supporting new areas of wealth and job creation through tourism, information technology, garments and value-added industries. "But economic prosperity is a like a delicate plant. It needs stability to survive and develop. Without that it would wither. This is why everyone must work together to ensure lasting political and industrial stability."

He predicted that 2002 should be a better year with more investments, jobs, better health services, education, drainage and irrigation, housing, water and physical infrastructure.

The President assured that the government would continue to provide more resources to the security forces and ensure that laws were strengthened to secure greater safety of commuters on the road and to protect children.

"In 2002 we will further broaden our democratic system. We will hold local government election to bring democratic renewal at local levels. More resources will be given to local communities and they will be expected to manage their affairs in a more transparent manner," the President said.

He promised greater incentives to the private sector and to work with labour to provide better conditions and benefits for workers.

Expressing his commitment to continuing dialogue with the opposition, President Jagdeo recalled that at the beginning of his tenure in office he had articulated that this was the approach he intended to adopt to move the country forward. "This dialogue has been constructive and is supported by the people of Guyana. Political leaders have a duty to enhance this process and to display a sense of political maturity in dealing with national issues.

"Surely, there will be hiccups, sometimes fuelled by media sensationalism and speculation. There will be differences. But these are common even in a family. What I am most proud of is that Guyanese leaders, without the prompting of external parties, are able to sit down and resolve differences and find solutions to Guyanese problems. This is the only way. That is why I am committed to this course and will do everything possible to see that it continues."

Referring to the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US, the President noted that security concerns now over-shadow development needs and as such developing countries like Guyana would benefit less from bilateral aid budgets and assistance from multilateral financial institutions.

With regard to the judiciary, the President said that he has been exploring the idea of a parliamentary judicial oversight committee and would seek the support and/or views of the political opposition and civil society organizations on this.

Turning to relations with our neighbours, the President mentioned his imminent meeting with President Ronald Venetiaan of Suriname, expressing the hope that it would "lead to a new dispensation of mutually beneficial and good-neighbourly relations. Similarly, with Venezuela, fresh prospects have been generated for greater bilateral cooperation as we continue to seek a peaceful resolution of the border controversy. At the same time, our proximity to and friendship with Brazil has opened up enormous possibilities for Guyana's economic development."

He noted that Guyana would assume the chairmanship of the Conference of Heads of Government in 2002, "placing us in an ideal position to play a pivotal role in the integration process," in the face of the looming creation of the single market and economy. Guyana will also host the UK-CARICOM Forum next year.

Looking back, he alluded to general elections and the events that followed. He noted that these were fortunately abated due to the commitment of the Guyanese people not to travel the path of division and destruction. "They recognized that violence does not resolve differences and supported the process of dialogue in the national interest.

"We have all just experienced a very peaceful and joyous Christmas season. I believe that this is a sign of the times. For now and for the future, Guyana is stable and free. Long may it be like that.

"Let us therefore in this New Year make a Guyana resolution: To love our country; to love our fellow Guyanese; and to work and live in unity.

Let us therefore embrace the New Year with greater confidence, and let us all go forward with renewed hope!

"In closing let me thank our public servants and farmers, sugar and mine workers, nurses and teachers, policemen, firemen and soldiers, entrepreneurs and professionals, our womenfolk, and young people and every single Guyanese for your support in 2001. And let me wish for all our people, those living here and abroad, a peaceful, and prosperous 2002!"