Measured progress in poverty reduction
October 25, 2003
THE Millennium Development Goals to which the Government is fully committed has, as one of its main objectives, the reduction of poverty.
Specifically, the aim is to reduce by half the number of people - some one billion worldwide - who live in a state of extreme poverty.
The current PPP/Civic administration from the moment it assumed office in October of 1992 declared that poverty reduction was going to be high on its development agenda.
It is no secret that by the end of nearly three decades of PNC rule, poverty levels had risen to unbelievable proportions, especially with respect to the deep riverain and hinterland regions, which suffered the most over years of neglect.
True to its word, the PPP/Civic Government, immediately on its assumption of office, embarked on a poverty reduction programme with the help of the donor community.
Given the rundown state of the economy, the new administration had little option but to seek recourse to the international financial institutions for the financing of its poverty reduction programme.
Fighting poverty is no easy matter. It requires a considerable amount of planning and consultation with important stakeholders.
Moreover, it demands a strong implementation mechanism to ensure that resources earmarked for development trickles down to the beneficiaries and are not consumed in inordinately high administrative and technical costs.
Even more important, fighting poverty requires a strong dose of political will to commit resources in those areas that make for human empowerment - education, health and skills development.
In this regard, full credit is due to the PPP/Civic administration for having placed, as a matter of policy, human resource development at the center of the overall national development strategy.
An examination of the budgetary allocation over the past decade will reveal a definite trend of resource allocation in favour of the social sectors, which is quite unlike what it was under the previous administration.
It is not surprising, therefore, that measured progress with respect to the reduction of poverty levels in Guyana is being made.
Within a relatively short span poverty levels have been significantly reduced, declining by nearly 20 percent in a six-year period from 1993-1999, according to a 1999 Living Conditions Survey.
This is no cause for complacency, however.
The challenges to overcome poverty in Guyana are still formidable. But given the political will and sound economic and fiscal policies, it is only a matter of time before we turn to corner, as it were, and provide that good life to which our people justifiably look forward.
As we address issues such as poverty, the celebration of Diwali provides an appropriate backdrop for our reflection on how we can use occasions such as this to strive yet harder to realize our needs and desires.
Our understanding of the word "Diwali" is that it represents the Sanskrit word "Deepavali" - Deepa meaning light and Avali, meaning a row. It thus means a row of lights - the probable reason why illumination forms its main attraction.
Diwali symbolizes that age-old culture of our country, teaching us to vanquish ignorance that subdues humanity, and to drive away darkness that engulfs the light of knowledge.
It is in this context that we extend sincere Diwali greetings to all Hindus, to all our readers, and to all Guyanese.