Equal opportunities available for all Guyanese
- substantial evidence available
February 15, 2004
ALL races are included in the socio-economic and political development of Guyana and this fact is evident in the areas of health, education, housing water, infrastructure, employment, social elevation, land ownership, business development and business ownership.
According to the Government, overall poverty in Guyana has reduced from about 80 per cent to 35 per cent in the last decade for all races.
This reduction means that Guyana has experienced tremendous improvements in living standards and to say that benefits have not trickled down to the ordinary man is to be na´ve and mischievous, the Government Information Agency (GINA) has contended.
The agency said Stabroek Editorial and Lincoln Lewis recently introduced the term `economic genocide [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] ' which they claim is the method Government has used to discriminate against Afro-Guyanese.
"The term 'economics' means 'the production, distribution and use of income, wealth and commodity', while 'genocide' refers to the 'deliberate and systematic extermination of a nation or race'.
"Editorial pieces should be designed as highly analytical and grounded in sound facts, data and evidence. But, where is the 'economic genocide? Where is the evidence to support the term?
"From its accession to office, the People's Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) Government has adopted several measures to address poverty reduction as a whole in Guyana. As a result, poverty has been reduced dramatically for all races," GINA said.
According to GINA, some measurements used to measure the level of poverty are:
1. The Human Development Index - which is the measurement of human development. This is calculated by using three indicators of human development - per capita GDP, education and life expectancy. This measure is used mainly by the United Nations to measure poverty.
2. Another measurement is the Integrated Poverty Index or the Basic Needs and Global Indicator. This is measured by the degree of access by the population to five basic aspects of social development. These include access to Health, Education, Nutrition, Sanitation and Economic Research.
Guyana's drive to reduce poverty is complemented by the implementation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP). The PRSP, which was drafted over three years ago, is a blueprint for poverty reduction in Guyana and has been subject to nationwide consultations and international acceptance.
Some of the programmes include the Social Impact Amelioration Programme (SIMAP) 111, Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF) programs, the Linden Economic Advancement project (LEAP) and Youth Choice Initiative Programme. And these programmes are not unique to Indo-Guyanese communities or to any other ethnic group.
Employment and Social Elevation
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP, through surveys conducted in 2000 in countries worldwide, has found that Guyana, despite being a third world country, has preformed well in the human development area.
UNDP's study conducted for 2000 shows that Guyana, despite ranking 103rd, showed remarkable performances in terms of its Human Development Index HDI. The HDI is a combined measurement of a country's pre capita GDP, literacy rate and life expectancy rate. The three indicators, measures separately, revealed that Guyanese are better-off that many other nations, GINA said.
Employment has been ongoing and constantly created through several capital projects throughout the country. The spill-off effects of infrastructure developmental programmes in communities have created employment for thousands. Jobs have been created in the areas of roads, bridges, buildings and others.
GINA noted that the public sector, which is perceived to be dominated by Afro-Guyanese has had increases in the minimum wage of over 600 per cent since the PPP/C took Office. The minimum wage in 1992 was a little over $3,000 and rose to $22,000 by 2003.
The PPP/C Government has also sought to provide assistance to employees of the ailing the Bauxite industry that is dominated by Afro-Guyanese. Government, cognizant of problems of falling international prices and increased completion affecting the bauxite industry, negotiated for alternative economic support for the people affected.
As a result, the Linden Economic Advancement Programme (LEAP) came into operation. To date several Afro-Guyanese are equipped with alternative knowledge and skills and an opportunity of becoming self-reliant.
Additionally, the town of Linden has been given special priority in terms of budgetary allocation, road rehabilitation works and alternative activities for youths.
Land distribution system under the PPP/C Government
When the Government took office in 1992, two land distribution committees were set up to address land distribution and ownership issue. These were the Land Selection Committee that operated from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Housing Committee. The committee was designed to bring order in the distribution system, as well as to grant poor people, of all races, the opportunity for wealth and ownership.
House lots were allocated on the basis of points scored. Applicants scored points from the amount of dependants (children) and income level.
Each case was handled individually and persons were allocated lots based on their ability to pay. Housing development was done in some areas in three segments: housing developers, middle income and low income. Low-income persons were given lots at $58,000 and a minimum of 18 months to pay.
Development in the low and middle income housing areas, such as, Foulis, Hope, Mocha Arcadia and Non -Pariel occurred under the other two segments of housing development.
Business development and business ownership - Macro Economic Stability and Guyana
- Awarding of contracts
According to President Jagdeo, Guyana's current procurement legislation is one that Guyana should be proud of, since it can be considered the most comprehensive piece of legislation in Caricom.
The procuring process today has strict guidelines, which greatly reduce possible collusion between potential contractors and decision-makers.
As a result, several non-Indian contractors have been and are still being awarded contracts on a regular basis. From the time that the PPP/C Government took Office, it has implemented measures to enhance and promote the transparent awarding of contracts.
Courtney Benn Contracting Services, Guyana National Industrial Company and more recently, the controversial Black contractor, who won a contract to work with the Ministry of Health. And these are just a few that are given publicity, GINA pointed out.
Additionally, the awarding of contracts through the procurement process is unquestionable, especially with the formation of the new Procurement Board in 2003.
If investigations are conducted on the various processes followed before contracts are awarded, it would be discovered that it's virtually impossible for anyone to defraud the system.
Everything being equal, public contracts have been awarded in a transparent and fair manner over any given period of time. Persons could only be awarded contracts on the basis that:
1. They have applied,
2. They fulfill all criteria outlined.
In other words, only people who applied could have the opportunity to be awarded contracts.
Access to small and medium loans
Through enhanced legislative framework, people of all races have been able to access loans through small and micro business ventures from commercial banks and institutions that promote small enterprises development.
Competition in the banking sector has now increased, giving way to more effective services and better deals. Additional services and incentives to develop entrepreneurial skills are now available.
The pursuit of financial assistance to conduct small and micro businesses is another means of poverty alleviation and economic development. Statistics have shown that people of African descent have been given unbiased access to financial resources to pursue business ventures.
Also available are small and medium term loans from several entities, across Guyana. The Institute of Private Enterprise Development records show that loans are equally distributed in all areas. In 2002 alone, Georgetown had the highest percentage of persons receiving micro loans, while residents of Linden and West Berbice received a large percentage of loans.
Infrastructural development - Health and education
Guyana's physical infrastructure in the area of Health has improved dramatically. And everyone has access to these resources.
The Monetary allocation for health services and care increased by approximately 400 per cent since 1992.
In the 1980s, Governmental policies did not ensure the provision of adequate Health services to benefit all citizens. Basic first aid facilities even for minor injuries were not available and as a result a number of deaths occurred.
However, when the PPP/C Administration came into Office in 1992, a strategic development plan was immediately drafted aimed at alleviating poverty, in all areas, through the provision and enhancement of basic health facilities for all people.
Since 1992, the percentage of the national budget spent on the Health Sector has increased tremendously from $2.9 billion in 1991 to over $ 11 billion in 2003.
Additionally, hundreds of health centers and health huts, as well as hospitals were built and/or rehabilitated.
In the area of education, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) website on Guyana's ranking in the international arena shows that Guyana is performing relatively well.
Their findings were conducted through the Human Development Index (HDI) for 2000. This index is a combined measurement of a country's per capita GDP, literacy rate and life expectancy rate.
Separately and collectively, Guyana has been performing above average. In the field of education for 2000, literacy (that is persons over the age of 15 who can read and write simple sentences) was recorded at 98.5 percent. Guyanese should be very pleased with this accomplishment.
Guyana has come a long way. This is because for the past decade, the Government has focused on poverty reduction strategies.
Education is one of the primary vessels that take people out of poverty. The provision of textbooks for primary and secondary schools is also on the agenda. This project, which will operate over a five-year period, cost over $300 M.
Additionally, schools will receive $100 M for the provision of basic nutrition for children through a school-feeding programme. Note, the key word is schools and not a particular ethnic group.
Budget 2003 allocated $881 million for the completion of the La Bonne Intention Inter-connected Water System, the Eccles Inter-connected Water System and the Bartica water network. The rehabilitation of the distribution systems at Bath Settlement, Nos. 52-58 Villages, and Eccles to Friendship is also on the agenda for 2003.
With the help of donor aid, the Linden Water System is to be refurbished at a cost of $170 million.
The Government has allocated $315 million for rehabilitation of coastal and hinterland 'stand alone' water systems, including those at Adventure, Lima/Sparta, Cullen to Zorg-en-Vlgt, Parika, Timehri, Kwakwani, Barker Scheme, Rosignol, Crabwood Creek, Ankerville and Mara.
Also, works will be executed on the water and sewerage systems in locations such as Sophia, Meadow Bank, Albouystown, and North Ruimveldt. Most of these areas listed for water reform are populated mainly by Afro-Guyanese. What does that say about the Government?
In addition to increases in the general per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Guyanese have had increases in Education, Health and Housing facilities.
The measurement of poverty is not simply related to money-in-hand, instead persons commenting on poverty need to use universally-accepted methods.
Guyana's current poverty rate is around 35 to 40 per cent. This rate was twice as high ten years ago, averaging over 80 per cent.
The underlining factor of all these indicators is that every race has benefited from Government policies, programmes and plans. No one race could honestly claim discrimination in any area of development, GINA said.