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The money is part of a package of the Strategic Objective Grant Agreement (SOGA) valued at US$7,250,000 and represents the fifth amendment of the agreement. "This agreement was originally signed on September 30, 1998 and was previously amended four times to allow for the disbursement of the grant funds in tranches. The signing of this one will allow for the disbursement of an additional sum of approximately US$1.6M, which brings the total drawdown of the grant to US$6,911,585 to date,” Finance Minister Saisnarine Kowlessar explained.
He added: "It will be used to increase the private and public sectors’ capacity to implement economic policy, strengthen the private sector capacity to influence public policy and to increase services available to support small and micro enterprises. It will also be used to boost investment and support production in Guyana."
United States Ambassador to Guyana Mr. John Godard, who signed the agreement on behalf of his Government said it will help Guyana address some of the key economic areas where advances will help unleash the private sector's full potential to contribute to the economic growth and future of the well being of the citizens of Guyana.
Mr. Godard observed: "The agreement we have just signed for approximately US$1.6M in technical economic cooperation is a tangible demonstration of continued United States Government commitment to Guyana's economic development. Another example was the signing in June of our two countries twelfth in a series of PL-480 agreements. In that agreement, the United States undertook to provide Guyana with commodities valued at US$5M."
The Ambassador acknowledged that there is a broad acceptance in Guyana of the need for the Government and private sector to work collaboratively to find solutions to its economic problems. "There is a pressing need to attract foreign and domestic private investment to provide new jobs by creating an investor-friendly environment. A development strategy built around a model for economic growth that assigns a central role to the private sector is the most effective strategy for overcoming unemployment and underemployment. This project is designed to advance such a strategy," the Ambassador exhorted.
He said Guyana also needs to look at its trade policy within the context of the WTO obligations and the ongoing Free Trade of the Americas (FTAA) negotiations to take advantage of export market opportunities.
Mr. Godard stressed the importance of political stability apart from the economic requisites. "Besides the economic building blocks, clearly, economic growth requires a stable democracy, the elements of which are respect for the rule of law, transparency in decision-making, accountability and broad citizen participation in government. Currently, Guyana is engaged in an energetic debate on how this society can best address some of these issues. The recent dialogue initiated last week under the sponsorship of civil society, specifically the social partners group, is promising," Mr. Godard declared.
Newly appointed Mission Director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Guyana Mr. Mike Sarhan underscored the importance of the prerequisites in the sustenance of high economic growth rates. "I must emphasise here that if policies of a country, macroeconomics, the rule of law, trade and investment environment are not right, the country cannot sustain high growth rates over time. All countries that have graduated without exception, have done so through high rates of economic growth over 10-20 years," Sarhan observed.
He, however, was optimistic that the economic challenges facing Guyana can be overcome. "As we all know the economic challenges that Guyana is facing are not easy to overcome. However, I know that we have the tools to deal with even the most daunting problems. These tools were developed from the wealth of information, empirical evidence, and the many lessons learned from our developmental work since World War 11, but especially since the 1960s," Sarhan assured.