Guyana gets US$20M boost for democracy, governance By Chamanlall Naipaul
Guyana Chronicle
May 28, 2004

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Guyana's programmes for economic growth and democracy and governance received a boost yesterday with the conclusion of an agreement between the United States and Guyana governments providing for US$20M in grant aid assistance.

The grant will be released in tranches over a five-year period with US$10M earmarked for assistance to boost both economic growth and democracy and governance.

Speaking at the signing ceremony yesterday at the Ministry of Finance, US Ambassador to Guyana Mr Roland Bullen explained that the US support in the area of democracy and governance is intended to improve the functioning of democratic and institutions and systems

He observed: "While many societies of the world have practised democracy for centuries, democracy within the modern state system is the product of an evolutionary process that goes back to the western enlightenment of the 18th century and even beyond. This is to say that democracy has been developed through a long process of philosophical reflection, debate, discussion and plain old trial and error. We sought, and still seek, to develop a system of governance that provides for the greatest good for all."

Asked whether the US government is satisfied with the way the democratic and governance processes are being evolved in Guyana, Ambassador Bullen replied that there has been improvement, but there is room for further improvement.

In relation to assistance in economic growth, the Ambassador said it is aimed primarily at strengthening the enabling environment, stimulating firms, in particular non-traditional ones to boost value-added production.

These approaches are very relevant in the current context of Guyana because the country is increasingly being confronted with complex negotiating issues arising from the different regional and international trade bodies, Bullen asserted. He added that the Guyana government, therefore, must be placed in a position where it can adequately address these issues.

He also noted that the twin processes of globalisation and liberalisation, which have led to the end of trade barriers, will result in Guyana's exporters being exposed to greater competition.

"Contrary to popular opinion, local exporters will not simply just disappear in the face of such competition, but will be required to adapt to more innovative ways of doing business," Bullen opined.

Director of the United States Agency for International Development, (USAID) Dr. Mike Sarhan pointed out that consolidating democracy in Guyana is no mean task and it is one that requires action on three fronts. These are, enhancing real citizen participation and inclusion in the democratic process, making public institutions more transparent and accountable, and reducing vulnerability to ethnic/political conflict.

On the economic front, Dr. Sarhan observed that Guyana is at an important juncture in its economic history, and despite some positive economic signs, its economy has been mired, more or less in a general slump for several years.

"We strongly believe that given this country's small domestic market and population base, the only viable course for moving the economy to a desired high level growth path is through attracting significantly higher levels of investment and stimulating exports, particularly non-traditional exports," Dr. Sarhan contended.

Minister of Finance Mr Saisnarine Kowlessar expressed optimism that the grant assistance would help promote economic growth and sustainability, which would enhance the fight against poverty.

He also reiterated that improved democracy and governance would lead to greater transparency and accountability, which will bring about more harmony and political stability.

Two more grant aid assistance packages are to be concluded soon. One has to do with the fight against HIV/AIDS valuing about US$35-40M, while the other is under the PL 480 agreement and is worth about US$5M.