Economy needs 6% growth for millennium development goals - Insanally By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
October 25, 2003

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Guyana’s economy needs to grow at a steady and predictable pace - in excess of six percent annually - if there is to be any realistic hope of achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the 2015 deadline, Foreign Affairs Minister, Rudy Insanally, says.

In the foreword to Guyana’s report on its progress towards the achievement of the MDGs, Insanally said that the report must be read and understood in the correct context, which recognises that factors external to Guyana will have an impact on the pace with which the millennium goals are achieved.

The 32-page report, the first produced by a Caribbean country, UNDP Resident Representative, Jan Sorensen said, was launched at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel yesterday morning as part of the 58th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations.

The goals and targets of the MDGs in key development areas, Sorensen said, were set at international conferences and world summits beginning in 1990. In 2000, eight goals — poverty reduction, universal primary education, gender and equality, the reduction of child and infant mortality rates, reduction in maternal mortality rates, the reduction of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, guaranteeing environmental sustainability and creating a global partnership for development were commonly grouped as MDGs to be achieved by 2015.

The report, considered a 13-year or mid-term review, was introduced by Chief Statistician in the Statistical Bureau, Lennox Benjamin. He said that Guyana faces three challenges in its efforts to achieve the eight MDGs - poverty, economic underdevelopment and vulnerability to economic, environmental and social hazards.

With regard to poverty reduction, the report said it would be achievable if economic growth could be restored to five percent to six percent per annum. The commitment was there to deal with the issue, the report said, but there was need for an accelerated pace of reform. In recent years, economic growth has been far below the 6% mark.

As regards universal primary education, 98% of children are enrolled in schools and there is hardly any difference between boys and girls or in rural and urban areas. However, illiteracy among 15 to 25 year olds was measured at 71% in 1990.

Some progress has been recorded on gender and equality, the report said, and Guyana was a signatory to all the relevant and international conventions. However, there appeared to be no real gains for women in terms of jobs. And girls and women continue to have a low level of autonomy in and control over their sexual and reproductive lives.

It is unlikely that child and infant mortality rates will be reduced by 2015, the report said. It noted that physical facilities on the coast cannot accommodate the volume of patients and in the hinterland, staff skills are low. In both areas staff numbers are inadequate.

And in the case of the reduction in maternal mortality rates, the report said that the performance is unclear, given the weak data collection capacity. It is also unlikely that the goal will be achieved by 2015. To meet the goal the rate needs to fall to 60 per 100,000 live births in 2015.

On the reduction of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, the report noted that the incidences are high in Guyana. The reasons vary between diseases, and include environmental issues, internal migration for jobs, the need for improved education on specific health issues, and the need to change behaviours and lifestyles.

There are three objectives in the goal of guaranteeing environmental sustainability, two of which are achievable, the report says. The two that are likely to be achieved by 2015 are to integrate sustainable development principles into the country’s policies and programmes and reverse the loss and degradation of environmental resources; and reduce by half the proportion of people without access to potable water between 1990 and 2015. The objective that is unlikely to be met is making significant improvements in the lives of people who live in low income and threatened neighbourhoods.

The goal of creating a global partnership for development is unlikely to be met, the report said. This is a global goal, toward which each country must meet national objectives. These objectives are to develop an open commercial financial system based on rules which are foreseeable and non-discriminatory, and which will reduce debt to sustainable levels; develop and implement strategies and productive work for young people; and provide access to affordable technologies and scientific advances.

The report was put together by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in collaboration with UNDP, which provided technical and financial support. Contributors included Benjamin, Chief Medical Officer, Dr Rudolph Cum-mings; Evelyn Hamilton of the Education Ministry; Winston Jordan of the Finance Ministry; Rudy Collins of the Foreign Ministry and Denise De Souza of the UNDP.