(GINA) President Donald Ramotar, in his New Year’s message to the nation, has urged all Guyanese to work together in the interest of the country, noting that politics of blackmail will weaken democracy and can lead to further inequality.
The New Year holds out great possibilities and also challenges, but how much is achieved will depend on all, he stated.
The Head of state expressed the hope that in 2014, all will continue to work to strengthen peace, progress and prosperity in the country and to contribute to the world as well.
“I acknowledge that political obstacles stand in the way of our transformative agenda. I hope that the New Year we can get some cooperation from our colleagues on the other side of the House to move our country forward.”
He underscored that if government is to be held answerable for the economy’s performance, “we reserve the right to be responsible for its developmental trajectory. This right however, will not be pursued to the exclusion of other forces within the country. We will continue to encourage dialogue, debates and consultations with all stakeholders, including the people in the communities,” he promised.
Among the plans he has outlined for 2014 are tackling domestic violence further through drafting in social and religious organisations, which he believes should play a leading role in addressing this concern.
Improving infrastructure to address climate change effects
He said that in 2014, efforts will deepen to address the effects of climate change given the recent intense weather experienced locally and in the Caribbean.
Infrastructure will be expanded and improved, mostly sea and river defence and drainage and irrigation systems; forecasting capabilities and response mechanisms will be enhanced, and climate resilience in the social and productive sectors will be built. These, the President stated, will be done within the framework of the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS).
“In recent weeks we have witnessed extreme weather in Guyana and the wider Caribbean. This has resulted in millions of dollars in damage and loss of life. The scientific evidence is showing that for our region, which is one of the most vulnerable these weather events will become more frequent as the impacts of global climate change intensify.”
In this regard, he said that he intends in the coming year, to work with other CARICOM Heads to make certain regional action on climate change is given top priority.
Reliable energy- the pursuit will continue
“Our Government will continue to pursue more affordable and reliable energy for our country. This is one of the most vital infrastructure for our continued growth and development. With this we will grow by leaps and bounds,” he pledged.
The opposition in parliament failed to support the passage of two key pieces of legislation; the Hydro Electric Bill which seeks to establish a protected area for biodiversity conservation and the Guarantee of Loans (Public Corporations and Companies) Bill that were both crucial to the project’s realisation.
The President said the country can save almost $9 Billion that is being spent on subsidising electricity currently, while more billions can be saved in fuel importation for electricity generation.
“With those savings alone we can solve most of the problems presently facing communities. The benefits are enormous and we will persevere,” he asserted.
Pursuing cooperation with other governments
He promised that his government will continue to work with other friendly governments to advance other significant infrastructural works, including the Deep Water Harbour and a road from the Coast to Lethem in the South.
“At the moment we are studying the cost/benefits of these projects,” he stated.
Essential to the modernisation of the country is Information Communication Technology (ICT) that has the potential of creating jobs, and recognising the vast potential of information and communication technology to transform the economy and individuals, he said no home would be denied access, through the One Laptop Per Family (OLPF) Programme.
In the meantime, the network infrastructure that would enable the delivery of e-Government services to citizens is being built.
Economy on right path
Despite the challenges the nation faced during the last year, the Head of State noted that, it kept on moving in the right direction, and the economy, to grow. “Our economic growth last year (2013) is expected to be close to five percent. This is not insignificant when we take into account the international environment in which we operate. The financial and economic crises that affected our world since 2008 have eased, but their negative impact continues to be felt globally. We could have done much better if demand in Europe and North America was stronger”.
The President noted that much of the country’s exports have had to cope with fluctuating prices internationally, mostly falling, and these were evident particularly in the gold and sugar sectors whilst world market prices of key imports, most notably fuel, remained persistently high.
The gains made in the last year were achieved, according to the President, in a very complex and often difficult local and international environment. He said it was also apposite to point out that much more could have achieved as he referred to the set back in the Amaila Falls Hydro Project which was expected to have begun, but was frustrated by the National Assembly, despite many consultations with the opposition parties, by government and the investors.
He spoke of the failure of the National Assembly to pass the Anti-Money Laundering (amendment) Bill and its resultant impact on the financial sector, “This will increase the cost of doing business internationally and lengthen the time that the transactions take”.
`The attempts made to prevent the building of a new Specialty Hospital and a new airport were described as meaningless acts which have only served to delay the provision of advanced health care to Guyanese and slowing down the advances of the tourism sector. All of these projects will have transformative impacts on the country hence the need to persevere and pursue them, the president said.
Extractive industries expansion
President Ramotar said that the construction of the mines will result in thousands of jobs, and once extraction commences, production and exports would experience increased growth. “At the same time, a number of major minerals projects are expected in 2014 to advance exploration activities and commence mine construction, setting the stage for a dramatic increase in activity in that sector”.
In concluding, the Head of State said, “Let us be aware that life is short, let us not waste time on pettiness, but focus our energy towards the betterment of our people.”