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Our economy experienced modest growth. Our fiscal and monetary targets were met. Inflation was contained within single digit and the Guyana dollar remained relatively stable. The prudent management of our resources, through the application of sound policies, brought tangible benefits to large sections of the population.
Today, more citizens have access to improved health and education services. Thousands more, know the satisfaction of owning their own homes while many more are on the same path. Many, for the first time, were connected to sources of potable water. These developments moved us closer to our goals of wealth creation and the eradication of poverty.
Our foreign policy focus allowed for greater interaction with the world community resulting in us benefiting from trade, investments and international assistance. In this regard, we hosted several regional and international forums and Guyana was represented at major international gatherings. Your country offered leadership to the further deepening of our regional integration movement through the chairmanship of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM.
These achievements were made in the context of a difficult world environment and a complex domestic political situation. This was aggravated by an upsurge in new, more brutal types of criminal activities. This situation fuelled fears among our people, disturbed our life-style and impacted negatively on our efforts at job creation and economic expansion.
As we reflect on the past year, I want to acknowledge the courage and dedication of the members of our law enforcement agencies to making our homes, communities and country safer. They deserve our full support. As a society, we must collectively condemn the slaying of our law officers and the terrorising of innocent citizens. The criminals must know that there will be no safe-havens and that no resource of the State will be spared in bringing them to justice.
We must never be afraid to confront adversity. Our leaders and our people, in the past, provided us with a vision that brought an end to slavery and indentureship. They guided us to independence, republicanism and to democracy. They shared love, patriotism and a deep feeling for each other and for this our great land. It was their pride. They looked to the future with great optimism. We must do the same.
We must move forward as a united nation and build on our past achievements. Our democracy cannot and will not be alive without a vibrant opposition. I am unreservedly committed to dialogue with the political opposition and to exploring every avenue for us to work together in the interest of our people. Only a relationship based on trust and genuine commitment will last. We will have to learn to trust each other and to work towards building a new political culture. We must bring to an end the era of confrontational politics.
I look towards 2003 with optimism. It will not be without challenges, but I am confident in our ability to rise to the occasion and do our country proud.
My vision for Guyana is a simple one: a land of abundant opportunities for all our people and a place where citizens are free, proud and can pursue their way of life in dignity. We have the plans to make this vision a reality. We must now accelerate their implementation.
This year, the priorities of my Government remain job creation through increased support for the private sector; improved conditions of employment of our workers; enhanced quality health care and education; greater access to potable water, housing and other social services; the protection of our children; reform of the Judiciary; a more accountable Government; and an intensified crime fight.
The 2003 budget will give effect to these priorities.
On the political front, I am committed to the immediate implementation of the historic new provisions in our Constitution to ensure that all our people are further involved in the process of governance.
Our foreign policy will continue to ensure our territorial integrity. It will serve to attract investment to the country and secure markets for our products.
Nation building is not only the task of the Government, it is also the task of all Guyanese - politicians, workers, entrepreneurs, farmers, religious leaders, young people, and the elderly. We must now create the political environment that allows for nation building.
Let us enter the New Year with renewed resolve to build a Guyana that is “great and free.” The building blocks of this resolve are faith in ourselves, cooperation with each other, and the equitable participation in work and in the wealth of the nation.
I am wholeheartedly committed to this task. I am sure I can count on you, and all Guyanese in this endeavour.