President in New Year's message...
'Thanks to your hard work, the nation is on the move'
Guyana Chronicle
January 1, 2004

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In his New Year message President Bharrat Jagdeo noted that when the past is reflected upon, "we take pride in the fact that monumental changes were effected to our landscape. The Amerindians and all the other races that came here at different times and under different circumstances have shaped and continue to shape a nation that they can proudly call their own."

"It may not be easy to appreciate that our people, over the centuries without the benefit of modern science and technology and practically with their bare hands, cleared forests and swamps, built dams to keep out the sea, built vast and complex networks of canals and roads so that they can work the land and eke out a living," the President reflected.

The following is the full text of the President's New Year message:

Fellow Guyanese!

The third year of the new millennium is now history and a new year has dawned. In these first moments of 2004 I wish to extend to you and your families best wishes and hope that the New Year will bring you success and happiness.

Guyanese who live here, and those who are visiting, will remember this festive season as one of the most peaceful and joyful. It was a well-deserved time for rest and merry-making with family and friends after a hard year's work.

It was also a time when Guyanese remembered the less fortunate and shared with them love and whatever they could afford - a defining characteristic of our people.

These festivities have a lot to do with children. We spare no effort to pamper them and succumb to their wishes. It is so wonderful to see the joy in their eyes when they receive their gifts in an atmosphere of love and care. It is important that we make our children happy. They will always cherish childhood memories. It is the happy experiences that will awaken in them the unique Guyanese qualities of kindness, generosity and compassion.

We also observe the crucial role of family and community in our lives and, especially during this season, family members get together and renew ties.

Sometimes we are so busy or occupied with daily tasks that we do not get to spend time with our families. It would be good if we can all resolve to spend more time with family, especially fathers, with their children, given the many single parent families where mothers have to face the responsibility of child upbringing alone.

When we reflect on the past, we take pride in the fact that it is through our individual efforts that monumental changes were effected to our landscape. The Amerindians and all the other races that came here at different times and under different circumstances, have shaped and continue to shape a nation that they can proudly call their own.

It may not be easy to appreciate that our people, over the centuries, without the benefit of modern science and technology and practically with their bare hands, cleared forests and swamps, built dams to keep out the sea, built vast and complex networks of canals and roads so that they can work the land and eke out a living.

Today, the problems faced by our people pale in comparison with the hardships, suffering and sacrifices made by our fore-parents. We must take strength from their perseverance and resolve to succeed. We must face the future with optimism. Though we lack the human and financial resources to solve all the problems that confront our people today we must persist until they are resolved.

We must continue to dream big dreams for our country. We must continue to pursue a vision that will result in a society that is prosperous and caring, in which citizens live in security, respecting and celebrating diversity.

Guyana and Guyanese have persevered in the face of great adversities. Today, we look around the globe and see wars, famine, hunger, disease, racial, ethnic and religious conflicts, and extreme poverty afflict many nations. We have not descended into the quagmire like many, as the prophets of doom would have you believe.

We have had to face an external economic environment characterised by global recession, diminishing development assistance and private capital flows to developing countries, falling international prices and reduction in preferential access for our exports, and high cost of fuel imports.

Tackling these challenges has tested us.

Another challenge has been the crime situation. The upsurge in new and violent crimes means that more of our scarce resources have to be diverted to law enforcement. The changed nature of crime has created a bad image of Guyana and caused untold grief and suffering for many of our people. I wish to personally extend sympathy to those families who have been affected. While there has been a recent lull in the crime situation, we cannot afford to be complacent. We will spare neither effort nor resource to tackle this problem. We need your support and involvement. The security of our people and their property is a high priority. Any unbiased observer will conclude that Guyana has done well in spite of these constraints.

We have made significant progress in the social sectors by providing more and better health, housing, water and education facilities and services. We have opened up new opportunities in agriculture, fisheries, gold and diamond mining, forestry and non-traditional sectors. While we must be proud of our achievements, we must recognise that much more needs to be done. These will remain priority areas in 2004.

Sound macro-economic management of the economy is a sacred principle of my administration. In 2003, the economy continued to grow. Inflation remained at single digit. The foreign exchange rate was relatively stable and many structural changes were accomplished. Significantly, Guyana's foreign debt and debt-servicing burden have been reduced.

Debt reduction has been one of the strategies in a multi-pronged economic programme to develop the country. A decade ago we used in excess of ninety percent of revenue to service Guyana's foreign debt. Today, not only have we reduced the stock of debt but in 2004, we will use less than twenty percent of revenue to service this debt. In one decade, we have restored our country from bankruptcy to viability. We have removed the burden of the debt from the backs of this and future generations and can now utilise more of our resources for national development. This is a huge success story for our country.

Economic progress must be buttressed by political stability; hence the importance of the on-going national dialogue. So far, the talks between the Leader of the Opposition and I have progressed well. Many of the outstanding provisions in our reformed Constitution have been implemented. Two days ago, members of the Public Service Commission took their oath of office. The Ethnic Relations Commission has been established. Many of the changes to make parliament more effective and inclusive are being implemented. My government remains committed to this process and will do everything possible to make every Guyanese a stakeholder in our development.

We have seen the strengthening of our parliamentary democracy. Free and fair elections, freedom of speech, ethnic and religious tolerance, strengthening of national institutions, the independence of the judiciary, among other things, are all becoming the norm in our country. Our new democracy continues to allow all our people to freely express themselves, to join whatever party they wish and to advocate legitimate causes. At the same time we must exercise these rights in a responsible manner. While we defend our causes, we must also respect and defend the rights of others. It is unfortunate that some exploit these democratic rights to show disrespect, sow seeds of discord and attack the dignity of others. Notwithstanding, my administration will continue to pursue policies to strengthen and deepen the rights and privileges of the Guyanese people.

Recent measures, including legislative changes, have served to enhance transparency and accountability in public administration.

There are some areas in which we need to take more aggressive approaches. We must develop a culture to respect one another. In government services, people must be treated with decorum and expeditiously. Public money and property must be used in the most efficient manner. Corruption and poor performance must be weeded out. Good governance must be pursued by all, including the private sector and trade unions.

Guyana has good relations with the international community. This has resulted in meetings at the highest levels with some of the most influential and prosperous countries of the world in 2003. Our foreign policy has continued to secure support for our sovereignty and territorial integrity; to improve the image of Guyana as a destination for investment and tourism and to obtain economic assistance for national development.

Guyana is CARICOM's lead spokesperson on World Trade Organisation matters and continues to play an important role in formulating regional policy positions in relation to the Free Trade Area of the Americas and the ACP-EU negotiations. We are also strong advocates for the early establishment of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, the Caribbean Court of Justice and other integration efforts.

We are working to have closer and mutually beneficial relations with our neighbours - Venezuela, Suriname and Brazil. Our relations with Brazil improved greatly last year, resulting in several bilateral agreements for enhancing trade, investment and other ties between our two countries. These agreements are already bearing fruit.

I wish to thank all the members of the international community for the support received in 2003 especially in relation to the enhanced HIPC initiative. I wish to particularly thank the United States of America for the tremendous support it has given to us in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Today is a time for merriment. As such I do not intend to elaborate on our development plans for 2004. I will do so shortly on another occasion.

Let us hope that together, in the New Year, we can achieve more, individually, and as a nation. The opportunities are there. Let us use the achievement of the past as a springboard to reach greater heights.

Many will be making resolutions for the New Year. In doing so, I urge you to join with me in resolving to do your part in moving Guyana along the road of peace and prosperity.

I wish to extend best wishes to all Guyanese, at home and abroad. Best wishes to all those who are on duty in many parts of the country, especially those in the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Defence Force, the medical profession, at the airport and other facilities. I also want to recognise the contributions made by our workers, farmers and the private sector to national development. Thanks to your hard work, the nation is on the move.
A Happy and Prosperous New Year to All!