New US Ambassador to help reduce HIV/AIDS infection in Guyana
.... USAID, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assist
by Wendella Davidson
Guyana Chronicle
August 16, 2003

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NEWLY-ACCREDITED United States (US) Ambassador to Guyana, Mr Ronald Bullen has signalled his intention to work with the Guyana Government to reduce the rate of HIV/AIDS infection in this country, and to develop adequate treatment programme for those already infected, during his three-year tour of duty.

Ambassador Bullen presented his `Letters of Credence' to President Bharrat yesterday at ceremony held in the Credentials Room, Office of the President, and spoke of his intent in his presentation remarks.

The new US envoy remarked that "now is the time to attack this disease, as it can have a devastating effect not only on the health of the Guyanese people, but also on the health of the economy if it is allowed to progress unchecked".

He assured that both United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the Embassy, would be working hard to assist Guyana to deal with this threat.

To this, the President said he welcomes and appreciates the helpful initiative taken by the Government of the United States in providing significant funding for the anti-HIV/AIDS campaign in Guyana. "From our scarce budgetary resources we have allocated funds to deal with this pandemic by raising public awareness and even providing in some cases anti retro-viral drugs. We would however need greater external support in this effort," he added.

Ambassador Bullen also made mention of the Enhanced HIPC (Highly Indebted Poor Countries) process, and said he was heartened by the news that the Guyana Government is nearing the completion point, and expressed the hope that reaching the milestone will provide additional impetus for economic advancement.

According to him, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Programme (PRSP) of the Guyana Government, which was developed as part of the HIPC process, enjoys strong support from the international donor community.

On this note, Ambassador Bullen said he looks forward to working with the Guyana administration and stakeholders to alleviate "and one day" finally eliminate poverty in Guyana.

The Ambassador said too, the US Embassy stands ready to help Guyana "join fully and robustly" in a Free Trade Area of the Americas, and commended President Jagdeo for recognizing that continued military assistance from the US is in Guyana's best interest, as he is of the opinion it is in the interest of the U.S. as well.

President Jagdeo made note of the critical role the US continues to play in support of the economic restructuring by providing economic and technical assistance, promoting the reform of agriculture policies and providing macro-economic, trade and private sector policy advice, especially through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

And, according to him, the Guyana Government is committed to trade liberalization and a free market.

But he pointed out, that as a small and highly vulnerable economy, the country cannot compete in these new conditions without special and differential treatment and resources for infrastructure building. "We will therefore look to the United States for support on this issue," President Jagdeo added.

He further noted that, just one decade ago, the stock of external debt was in excess of 700% of the country's (GDP) Gross Domestic Product, and its servicing accounted for more than 90% of government's revenue.

"We have managed through hard work and considerable international support to reduce this burden on our people. However, debt servicing still takes up too much of our resources, resources that could be utilized for improving health care and education, reducing poverty and promoting economic growth. I hope that we can count on your support for an early completion point for the Enhanced HIPC Initiative".

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