President courts legislature for transforming of economy

Stabroek News
January 15, 2016

President David Granger yesterday called for collaboration between the Executive and Legislative branches of government to achieve "economic independence" saying the transformation of the economy cannot be denied or delayed.

"This year, 2016, is an opportunity to hasten our economic development. Our Golden Jubilee year presents us with the challenge of renewing the Independence Covenant and of rekindling the enterprising spirit of 26th May. This year has been designated the Year of Renaissance. It will be devoted to the rebirth and the renewal of the promise of economic independence and resilience," the President said in an address to Parliament yesterday.

According to Granger, the Independence covenant of a better life remains unconsummated. "Our task today Mr Speaker, is to complete our mission by securing, within the next decade, a good life for all Guyanese. The necessity of economic transformation cannot be denied or delayed. We must act resolutely to implement the reforms that are essential to building a resilient economy, one that is adaptive to the changes and responsive to the challenges of the global economy," he said.

President David Granger addressing Parliament yesterday (Ministry of the Presidency photo)

The president, in his fourth address to Parliament since taking office, declared that impediments imposed by the circumstances under which Guyana attained Independence fifty years ago must be overcome. "We are proud of our accomplishments since achieving political independence over the past 50 years. We now look forward to the achievement of economic independence over the next 50. We shall be prouder when we employ our energies and efforts in this special year of our national renaissance to remove the remaining obstacles that still keep us disunited, and to chart a course that will bring happiness to our people. It is now time to set forth on a new pathway to progress," he declared.

"It is time for a fresh start, a new beginning. It is time to redouble our efforts to eradicate poverty. Our government is committed to promoting sustained economic growth with enhanced distributive justice so that inequalities are reduced and opportunities are increased," he said.

According to Granger, his government's vision is for every Guyanese to be able to enjoy a good life and this requires greater equality of opportunity in order to attain economic growth.

"It is in pursuit of achieving greater economic independence that we have reconfigured an Executive cabinet to give leadership to the renewed national effort to rebuild our economy. It is for this purpose that we have come to the Legislative branch of government to appeal for collaboration in our common pursuit of economic independence," he declared.

"The Executive and Legislative branches together, can continue to pursue policies which emphasize economic openness and competitiveness. We can, together, continue to seek investment for the sustainable development of our natural resources. We can, together, ensure that the benefits of the exploitation of these resources redound to enhancing the quality of life of all Guyanese," Granger said.

He highlighted the various roles of the ministries saying that divisions have frustrated Guyana's economic development and made national unity elusive. "Our Golden Jubilee is a propitious moment for all Guyanese to put an end to hateful and unhelpful political discord, disaffection and disunity. Our Golden Jubilee is a golden opportunity for us to cement national unity at the political level and at the economic level," Granger said.


Among other things, the president said his administration will continue to re-engineer government to ensure that public services are accessible by all citizens this year. He declared that public services must be people-friendly and public servants must be trained and "unbribable."

In terms of promoting economic growth, Granger said the Ministry of Business will continue to support the traditional sectors of the economy and create favourable conditions for investors. "We will pursue economic diversification, augment value-added industries and introduce new developmental portals. We will, also, reduce Guyana's vulnerability by expanding the economy into the services sector and building strong tourism and hospitality industries by developing a diversified mix of tourism products," he said.

The president pointed out that the Ministry of Agriculture has been confronted with the reality that some traditional sectors such as sugar and rice which have been the mainstays of Guyana's economy are in crisis. An agricultural diversification plan has to be launched and this must involve the restructuring of the traditional agricultural productive sectors, he declared.

"The plan is to diversify agriculture into new crops and to open up new areas of cultivation, particularly away from the flood-prone coastal plane. We will expand rice cultivation and establish a stabilisation fund for the export prices of rice. We will improve drainage and irrigation systems; strengthen the regulatory framework governing the fisheries sector and promote large-scale agriculture in the intermediate savannahs," he said.

As it relates to the Ministry of Finance, Granger said that over the next decade, it will develop policies and provide incentives to encourage greater value-added activities in the productive sectors. "This will ensure that our economy can be better insulated from external shocks. It will ensure that our young people benefit from the increased employment generated by greater value-added activities. It will ensure enforcement of the law through rigorous suppression of contraband smuggling and tax evasion," he said.


According to the President, the Ministry of Public Telecommuni-cations is evidence of government's commitment to a digital economy as a new portal of development while the Ministry of Communities will move progressively towards reaffirming the primacy of local government and creating a "green economy."

The president said the Ministry of Education is committed to realigning the educational system so that it produces the skills necessary for economic transformation while the Ministry of Social Protection will restore dignity of vulnerable groups, reduce gender disparities and protect the disabled. He added that the Ministry of Legal Affairs is committed to the independence of the judiciary and the autonomy of Constitutional offices. "We are committed to the strengthening of the institutions which were created as a consequence of Independence. We reaffirm our commitment to the supremacy of the Constitution. We reassure the nation of our support for the strengthening of the National Assembly as an essential pillar of democratic rule," Granger said.

According to the President, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure will extend Guyana's physical infrastructure in order to intensify integration and promote development. "We will, at the same time, provide greater access to the resources of the hinterland which can be exploited for the benefit of all of our people," he said.

He also stated that wide gaps have opened in income between rich and poor and in levels of development between rural and urban and between hinterland and coastland. "A key objective of our government is the reduction of these inequalities by expanding infrastructure to promote geographical integration and economic inclusivity. Integration and inclusivity, in turn, impact positively on reducing inequalities," the president said. "This year will see increased emphasis on investments in infrastructure to improve access to those areas where our natural resources are located and also to support the development and integration of the hinterland to the coastland," he added.

The president also highlighted that an economic transition towards developing a competitive manufacturing sector requires cheaper energy and the Ministry of Public Infrastructure will lead Guyana's drive towards cheaper and cleaner forms of energy.


He also spoke about climate change and its impacts. "Our infrastructure is incapable of coping with the consequences of flooding, drought and damage to our sea defences. We will, over the course of the next decade, be implementing a national climate resilience and adaptation strategy that includes disaster risk reduction measures," he said.

Further, Granger said that the Ministry of Natural Resources will oversee the sustainable exploitation of Guyana's resources. "Independence bequeathed the resources of our country as the common patrimony of its citizens. Guyana's natural resources need not be left idle. They can be exploited sustainably and in an environmentally-friendly manner for the benefit of all of our people. We will continue to improve the management of our natural resources in an environmentally conscious manner in order to ensure that our ecosystems make a contribution to global climate change solutions and the protection of our citizens," he said.

He also said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue to advance Guyana's economic interests and secure protection for the defence of the country's territorial integrity within the international community. "Guyana will continue to reinforce national security in order to protect the country's patrimony in the face of threats by working with the Secretary General of the United Nations to seek a swift juridical solution to the spurious claim of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to our territory," he said.

The president also said that the Ministry of Public Security will implement policies to secure Guyanese from the threat of national and transnational crime, violence and disorder.

"The Legislative and Executive branches of government, this year, must work together. This is the year for national unity. This is the year of fulfilling the unrealised objectives of economic independence. This is the year for recommitting to the vision of a free, united and prosperous country - one in which a good life is attainable by everyone," Granger said.

He added that the elected political representatives of the people must lead by example and must open avenues of cooperation and agreement for the common good.