Guyana’s Construction and Housing Industry – Displaying resilience and steady growth in any season

October 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Even in the most worrying of economic times, there is one industry which has displayed remarkable resilience over the years. It is none other than Guyana’s construction and housing industry.
Through the good times and the bad, investors, and even the government, have shown consistent support for this sector which has maintained a steady annual growth rate.
The construction and housing sector has been one of the leading sectors in Guyana, particularly over the past three years. It has been providing focus, transforming the landscape across the country, while creating employment and stimulating demand throughout the land.
This industry accounts for approximately 7% of Guyana’s gross domestic product (GDP) since 2008. It is driven by a range of government and privately funded projects.
Strong growth of 6.6% was recorded during the first half of the year for 2013 in the construction sector, while 2014 saw the industry growing by 18%.
The construction and housing industry in Guyana includes the building of vital infrastructure, such as hospitals, roads and bridges, as well as construction to support the country’s large agricultural and mining industries.
Guyana’s National Development Strategy relies heavily on the construction industry too. There are several professional bodies acting to advance the interests of those in the sector. These include the Guyana Association of Professional Engineers and the Guyana Institute of Architects.
To promote the improvements in this sector, there is an annual Building Exposition which is held at the Providence Stadium. The Building and Construction Exposition showcases exhibits from suppliers of hardware and electrical items, contractors, construction and engineering companies, millers and lumber dealers, housing developers and real estate agencies, furniture manufacturers and suppliers, suppliers of paints and household items, among other items.
The occasion is always a significant one for this sector because it promotes the enhancements in construction. It also serves as a platform for reflection on the move by the previous government to regularize squatting areas and distribute house lots across the country. This has promoted pride in Guyanese ownership and the movement towards building homes for oneself.
The previous administration devised several plans in the pipeline to help young professionals and remigrants, while special incentives from the banking sector have been put in place to help low-income earners. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been lent to this category of persons, who need this kind of assistance. This is always promoted at Building Expo.
The exposition has been such an attractive feature in promoting the construction and housing industry that it sees participation from international companies out of Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, USA, Canada and Barbados. According to the former Housing and Water Minister, a lot of investments from the public and private sectors are usually channeled into this event.
One of the biggest highlights coming out of the Building Expo is: Silica City.
Silica City is the first real initiative to take industry, commerce and residential housing to higher ground. It offers a sustainable and viable solution for the country’s housing needs.
During the event, regional and international exhibitors participate to provide investment opportunities and create opportunities for networking between and among local, regional and international businesses. Executives of the Private Sector Commission have lauded the importance of the construction industry, and pointed out that there will soon be more ways created to increase home ownership in Guyana.
The commission has also pointed out that the construction and real estate sectors have had a combined average of 11.3% of GDP over the past four years. The “impressive” increase in mortgage credit to the private sector, which stands at an annual average of 17% from G$27.3 billion in 2009 to G$45.7 billion in 2012, is all due to the construction and housing industry.
Because of the intricate link between construction and housing, there have been significant forms of development and projects of that nature. For example, some 5,900 house lots and processing, as well as distribution of 4,100 land titles to new landowners were delivered in 2014.
In 2013, a total of G$3.2 billion was spent to conduct eight One-Stop-Shop outreaches, which contributed to 4,417 lots being allocated and 5,326 titles being processed.
In that year as well, several new housing schemes were developed or consolidated with existing ones, benefitting over 30,000 persons.
Through the public-private turnkey housing initiative, more than 90 single-flat concrete houses were constructed besides the 55 homes completed under the Young Professionals Housing Programme, which surpassed the 48 homes targeted. In 2013 under the Core House Pilot, 127 core houses were completed, enabling an additional 580 persons to benefit from improved housing. An additional 153 subsidies were disbursed under the coastal home improvement program, valued at G$30.6 million, resulting in improved living conditions for 627 persons. Also, another 130 hinterland home improvement subsidies, valued at G$107.2 million, were granted, increasing access to affordable shelter by the most vulnerable communities.
Undoubtedly, Guyana’s construction and housing sector remains vibrant. It is certainly expected to grow by leaps and bounds in 2016.
The current and past governments have both agreed that as the economy continues to grow, more assistance from the government would become available for Guyanese to continue the construction of their homes too.

Annette Arjoon-Martins is 1000% Guyanese

October 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

In a man’s world, she has shown what it takes to get things done. Even if it meant working in the mud, she has done all of that. Her work in so many areas, like marine life conservation, has made her a go-to person when it comes to protecting Guyana’s wildlife.

Over the past few years, the name Annette Arjoon-Martins has been featured regularly in the media.

From her advocacy to sea turtle conservation, or from tourism awareness to work in the aviation and business sectors, Annette has been busy.

Her leadership skills and ability to get things moving saw the government placing her in charge of the billion-dollar mangrove project initiated to protect the country’s shores from the rising sea level.

As the Customer Services and Marketing Manager at her family-owned Air Services Limited (ASL), Annette continues to be feverishly involved in her environmental work. She successfully lobbied for her beloved Shell Beach to be declared a protected area by the government.

Annette came from a very prominent family: the Mazaharallys, who were known back in the 1980’s for their sawmills in Essequibo. Today, the family has grown to become a powerhouse in another area – the aviation sector.

Half Amerindian, half Indian, she was raised in Pomeroon, Essequibo, learning to swim across the river at an early age. “I think that contributed to my passion for all things outdoor. My affiliation with nature [and] being exposed to that kind of environment made me who I am,” Annette opined.

She was no ordinary girl. As a young teen, she stayed in her family’s logging camps in the backdam, which is not an entirely easy life. “Which was why I got into the field of environment,” she said.

Her two children, Alex (22) and Victoria (18), are both attending schools in the US. Both are well known in the sport circuit, winning squash championships at both the local and Caribbean levels.

But Annette is also known in another area. She is married to Dave Martins, frontman of the popular Tradewinds band.

She credits meeting Dave to her best friend, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, when she was the Minister of Amerindian Affairs. The former minister accompanied Annette on many hinterland trips to share her experience of working with women’s groups, especially in the North West region. During her excursions, Annette had gathered hundreds of photographs of Amerindian life.

“I was asked to put together a slide show for a gala dinner that was held for tourism at the Pegasus Hotel with Dave Martins as the guest speaker. He had been flown in from the Cayman Islands where he lived for the past 25 years.”

According to Annette, the story was simple.

“He saw the photos, got interested in the photographer and a year later we were married in 2009 at the Baganara Island Resort.”

Annette used her photographs for which Dave wrote the descriptions to produce a book. She sold it locally and on trips with her husband when he went on gigs overseas, and used the proceeds to help young Amerindian girls and women. “I would tag along with Dave… and of course the people who paid to come see the Tradewinds would buy the books. What basically brought us together was the love for this beautiful country. When my first husband and I separated, I thought that was it. I didn’t expect to get such a wonderful person to share my life with.”

Humble Beginnings

Her mom was a young Amerindian girl, 16, who met Yacoob Ally, 22 while working at a shop. Yacoob was from a well-known timber family. He was one of the main persons who built the Mazaharally group to a powerhouse.

The young mother was unable to care for baby Annette, so she left her in the care of her grandmother at a place called Siriki, located about 25 miles up the Pomeroon River, in Essequibo.

Annette recalls paddling two miles along the Pomeroon River to the nursery school with her uncle and aunts.

“That was one of the many reasons I learned to swim at an early age. Sometimes, when I wanted to visit my friends, I would swim across the river. I was comfortable with water at an early age. Later, during my sea turtle conservation days, I went on long trips in the rough Atlantic Ocean, and even in the darkest nights that involved water, I was never afraid.”

She explained that her mother and father were never married since they came from different backgrounds.

“Eventually my mom realized that she would not be able to give me much as she was just an ordinary Amerindian girl. She gave full custody [of me] to my dad so that I could be given a chance in life and that’s how I got educated. I was raised by my aunts in Georgetown,” Annette recalled.

In the city, the young Annette attended Dolphin’s. When time came for her secondary education, she was sent to a boarding school in Barbados. “That school made me want to excel and do my best. It was the best years of my life. It was a school founded in 1918 as an English boarding school. I was always competitive and still hold the 800-meter race record which I attribute to my Amerindian heritage. That kept me running when others were collapsing behind me,” said Annette.

Coming back to Guyana, Annette started her working career at the family’s timber concession at Supenaam, Region Two.

She was rotated to the other mills: “I spent a year at every mill before I realized that I wasn’t keen in the business and I was more interested in the aviation part of the business.”

She went to Trinidad and earned her pilot’s licence at Briko Flight School. She was not alone in the family. Several other cousins, her sister and her brother had pursued their licences too.

According to Annette, “In the family, getting a pilot’s licence was not an uncommon thing. It was more like something that everyone needed to do. My dad didn’t restrict what we could or could not do because we were girls… We were given equal opportunities.”

As a matter of fact, a proud Annette said, her sister, Feriel Ally, has been recently recognized for her contributions to the aviation industry.

When Annette got married and had her first child, her then husband was not too enthusiastic about his wife flying so her “wings were clipped”.

Shell Beach

She formed a tour company called Shell Beach Adventures, operating out of an office at the Pegasus Hotel.

Her knowledge of the hinterlands saw her doing logistics for the US Southern Command when they came to Guyana to conduct jungle training.

Annette also received work from a number of well-known overseas television production companies.

“During elections time, I would also do charters for the Commonwealth Secretariat, which much later afforded me the opportunity to meet the Queen through the Commonwealth Foundation,” she stated. “As I was standing there in the palace shaking the Queen’s hand, the palace photographer took a photo as it was a Golden Jublilee.”

She came back to Guyana, made several copies, inscribed with the words “the Buck in Buckingham Palace” and presented them to several persons. She did this because people often referred to her as a buck. It was a triumph for her to be in the palace because the name ‘Buck’ referred to Amerindian people in a deragotary manner. But she said, as she grew older, she accepted her heritage, and became proud of it. It didn’t bother her anymore.

Annette’s love for the environment received a nudge in a different direction when she met Dr. Peter Pritchard, who would visit Shell Beach often to monitor the sea turtle nesting in the area. She explained, “I wondered what this man was doing down there so often and it was then I took it upon myself to visit Shell Beach with him and saw my first green sea turtle; it was love at first sight.”

She made several trips. “Slowly, Dr. Pritchard was able to increase the population by helping to stop the killing and selling of the turtle meat.” Joining Dr. Pritchard’s advocacy, the sea turtle population has increased dramatically.

However, she complained: “We still have large amounts of mortality due to drowning in fishing nets and the ingestion of floating plastics, which sea turtles mistake for jelly fish. I am all for development of my country, but it has to be done in a sustainable manner.”

Annette is a member of several environmental committees and firmly believes that environmental education at an early age is crucial for the success of conservation efforts.

She is highly spirited while talking about it. “We need to follow protocols so as to protect and preserve nature. I would love one day to put on my TV and see the local Learning Channel showing Guyana and its natural beauty, native animals and places, instead of zebras and elephants from the other side of the world.”

Annette is equally passionate about other marine life, like the whales. When, for some inexplicable reason, a couple of them washed up ashore, she was in the thick of things, wading in the mud and dealing with the media and the technical folks.

“I am not only concerned about the turtles that come up to nest on Shell Beach, I am also very much involved and concerned about the other marine life found in our vast ocean. For example, the whales that were washed up, the reasons for their deaths, how they are being affected,” she stated.

Annette believes that since the oil industry is new for Guyana, there is an opportunity to ensure we get it right from the start. “For example, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission should not permit seismic surveys during marine mammals nesting season. Environmental safeguards must be in place for compliance by our emerging oil industry and there must be robust regulatory oversight.”

Her decade long passion with Shell Beach did not interfere with other areas of her life.

Women Empowerment

One of her most successful projects was the outlet for products of Amerindian women called the North West Organics. Some of these products were coco sticks and cassava bread.

Annette explained, “I was able to get it into the leading supermarkets all over and this made my women empowerment project a huge success. When the Guyana Mangrove Restoration Project (GMRP)   was conceptualized and started, I was honored to be asked by the government to chair the Mangrove Action Committee.”

She also worked with another group of about 20 women, in what she refers to as a “Bee Defense” project where they were taught beekeeping skills and provided with equipment to set up their hives.

“Despite the usual start up challenges, it was a success. The honey was sometimes sold before it even hit the market and one of the producers now has her own Victoria Honey Hut and her own brand. In return, this helps mothers to keep a better home and give an education to their kids.”

Annette regrets, of course, not spending enough time with her children: “My family life suffered a lot because of my field of work. As an environmentalist, I had to be hands on. I couldn’t sit in an office and manage remotely. I had to be there to encourage the other women and to make sure everything was in order, so it took me out of my home a lot.”

She admitted that her kids were neglected because of the work: “If I had the chance to do it all again, I would have shared my time differently and prioritize my kids’ needs over that of my profession. But thank God they had a wonderful father who did double duty and we never got any trouble with our kids. They are two beautiful kids with lots of talents.”

Annette has advice for young professional women: “Strike a balance between work and family.”

At ASL, Annette’s work was a busy one too. ASL is said to be the busiest company at the Ogle Airport where the company is based. “My biggest role was to help my brother establish our own fuel farm and ensure that we controlled our own supply and cost of fuel which is the most expensive part of our operations,” she stated.

She also oversaw the introduction of the fuel-efficient turbine engines Cessna Grand Caravans to the fleet of ASL’s aircrafts.

She was responsible for the expansion of ASL’s shuttle  operations at Mahdia, a key mining community in Region Eight where the company moves over three hundred thousand pounds of cargo and passengers each month.

When the government announced that it was allowing the licensing of helicopter operations in Guyana, Annette was again called by her family to ensure the process went smoothly.

ASL bought three helicopters over the past years. “Because of those helicopters, we were able to help the gold miners, especially to places where they didn’t have airstrips.”

Annette is perhaps prouder of the company’s work in using those helicopters to help National Geographic, Discovery Channel and Omni Production to do work in the interior.

“We were also able to do some incredible television work after that and were able to get millions of viewership,” she proudly stated.


The videos have helped to market Guyana’s ruggedly beautiful sights. She is also passionate about protection of especially the jaguars and pumas.

“The good thing is that the [former] Ministry of Natural Resources has established a National Wildlife Management Steering Committee of which I am a member. We address the disturbing and mindless slaughtering of our national animals – the jaguar and even pumas. We need mechanisms to support ongoing awareness and outreach work … on the challenges of human and jaguar conflicts. [We also need] sustained research to establish closed seasons on other endangered species,” she stated.

She is also proud of the Mangrove Restoration Project which is a tremendous success. “There is an amazing awareness of the importance of mangroves. People are becoming aware that the wildlife legislation exists, so there is progress; slow, but sure. I am very proud to know that I can use my experience and my expertise is valued to be of national use.”

Annette is also a member of the Private Sector Commission. She is not quiet in her advocacy. “When I don’t agree with something said, I articulate my position very clearly. I have been accused of being a nag; but if that is what it takes to get heard, I am fine with being a nag.”

Annette is very much independent. “I like to express my opinions and views and I’m always trying to be careful not to do so in an offensive manner. I believe that women are not afforded adequate respect, especially in male-dominated boards. We need to have more women represented in such boards.”

At ASL, Annette’s push for equal opportunities for women saw her introducing a deliberate policy to hire more women.”

The all-rounder knows that the only way to success is through hard work.

Her advice is: “As a woman, I want to let every other woman out there know that there is no shortcut to true success. If you want to achieve that, you have to work hard. Whether it is studying, learning a trade or whatever way you choose to educate yourself, it’s very important to invest in yourself. There is no instant gratification… you have to work long and hard to see achievements.”

The life of Annette Arjoon-Martins is simply one that speaks of living in the different worlds of Guyana. She has learnt the Amerindian ways, has flown to all parts of Guyana, has rubbed shoulders with world renowned environmentalists, and has sat in boardrooms making decisions that chart the course of the country. Best of all she has had fun while doing it, living the Guyanese dream.

Examining the performance of Guyana’s Microfinance sector

October 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Guyana’s microfinance sector, although small, has played a significant role in improving the living standards of those who have access to its services.
Over the years, the microfinance sector has also shown that it can provide investment opportunities for the working poor who have been incapable of accessing the formal financial market.
Micro-financing refers to the activity of providing a broad range of financial services to low-income clients who lack access to the formal financial institutions. These financial services include very small loans (microcredit), savings, insurance and payment services. Access to credit is seen as an important step in improving a households’ welfare, hence helping in breaking the cycle of poverty on their own terms.
Based on its performance, which is monitored by the Bank of Guyana, the sector continues to prove that it has great potential to reduce poverty in Guyana.
As of June 2014, there are two entities in the microfinance sector: the Institute of Private Enterprise Development (IPED) and Small Business Development Finance Trust (SBDFT).
IPED happens to be oldest and the largest micro-financing institution in Guyana. It is registered as a non-profit, limited liability company and is exempt from corporation tax. All donations to this company are exempt from income tax.
According to the Governor of the Bank of Guyana, Dr. Gobind Ganga, IPED is the only microfinance institution in Guyana which covers all of the administrative regions of this country.
Dr. Ganga said that SBDFT was launched in November 2002, with locally generated funds of about G$12 million, which were then supplemented by support from the governments of Guyana, Canada, United Kingdom, and a loan from one of the commercial banks. He said that SBDFT is a tax-exempt, non-profit institution. SBDFT provides four types of loans: micro, developmental, consumer, and housing loans. Micro and consumer loans are payable in six months and developmental and housing loans, within two years.
The Central Bank Governor said that the security required for the micro and consumer loans are mostly moveable tangible assets. In the case of the developmental and housing loans, the securities that are required are transports and land titles.
According to the Central Bank, the total assets held by the two microfinance institutes – IPED and SBDFT – amounted to G$3,926 million as at the end of June 2014, a 9.3% (G$401 million) decline from the end of June 2013 level, and 2.7% (G$108 million) below the end of June 2012 level of G$4,034 million. However, it is projected to improve significantly.
Loans, which represented the largest asset category, accounted for 77.3% of the sector’s total assets at the end of June 2014. The companies reported aggregate loans of G$3,036 million, a 13.2% (G$354 million) increase when compared with the corresponding period in the previous year.
The Bank of Guyana said that the portfolios of the institutions consisted mainly of microcredit and loans to Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), which together accounted for 99.6% of total loans. It said too that loans to the SMEs totaled G$2,644 million, and accounted for 87.1% of the sector’s aggregate loan portfolio, resulting in a 15.1% (G$347 million) increase for the same period 2013 and 2.1% (G$53 million) below the June 2012 level.
Loans to the SMEs were 85.7% and 85.8% of total loans as at end of June 2013 and 2012 respectively. Microcredit, the second largest loan category, amounted to G$375 million and represented 12.4% of total loans for the review period. Microcredit loans of the end of June 2014 reflected a 0.6% (G$2 million) decline from the June 2013 level. During the review period, the total number of loans granted stood at 3,475 compared with 764 for the corresponding period in 2013. The increase in the number of loans disbursed contributed to an increase in the number of jobs created. The share of loans to men, women and couples were 60.4%, 38.7% and 0.9% respectively.
Total liabilities of the microfinance sector as of end of June 2014 amounted to G$940 million. Borrowings from local financial institutions of G$696 million as of end of June 2014 accounted for 74.1% of total liabilities. Borrowings from local financial institutions to total liabilities were 69.0% and 71.7% as of the end of June 2013 and the end of June 2012 respectively.
Additionally, capital and reserves amounted to G$2,986 million at the end of June 2014. Retained earnings and undistributed profits grew by 14.3% and 17.3% respectively when compared with the corresponding period in 2013.
The micro finance sector’s major source of funding was that of interest income, which amounted to G$300 million and accounted for 81.9% of total operating income as of the end of June 2014. Further, interest income increased by 38.7% when compared with the corresponding period for 2013. Other income of G$66 million represented 18.1% of operating income as of end of June 2014. Interest expense and other expenses which amounted to G$17 million and G$214 million respectively, represented 7.3% and 92.7% of total operating expenses. The net income of the sector amounted to G$135 million as at the end of June 2014, an increase of 17.2% when compared with the end of June 2013.
(Data provided by Bank of Guyana)

Arya’s Fresh Cut Vegetables

October 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The brainchild was that of Diana Persaud, who needed a job to occupy her time, but could not find one that fits into her schedule as a wife and mother of two.
Like most housewives, part of her duties entailed her having to prepare lunch for her husband to take to work. In order to make the cooking process shorter in the mornings, she had to begin preparing meals the night before.
“My husband had to leave for work at 6:15 am just to beat the traffic so that he can be on time. This forced me to pre-prepare or cut all fresh vegetables in the evening or sometimes days before, and leave it in the refrigerator so that the cooking time becomes shorter in the mornings,” she told this magazine.
Persaud added that she realized that freshly cut vegetables, “once properly cut, washed and refrigerated, remained in their original state without spoiling [for] days after cutting.”
She eventually started to monitor daily the shelf life of the individual vegetables and herbs to see how long they took to change their original state while refrigerated. “To my surprise, the items lasted for approximately five days”, she added.
As such, after her routine cutting of the vegetables and being unable to secure a suitable job, her husband joked that, “Since you’re good at cutting vegetables to make your life easy, why don’t you just make more people’s lives easy by cutting vegetables for them?”
This was taken a bit more seriously than expected.
“It took about nine months of ground work and local research before the first package of Arya Fresh Cut – Farm Fresh, Healthy Living produce was produced,” Persaud stated.
Persaud said that her husband Aditya, who is a qualified and experienced agronomist, used his technical skills and experience to guide her along the entire process of setting up the new business.
He told this magazine, “We’ve seen how fresh veggies are being handled, and as a professional who is trained in agriculture and food safety, it was our idea to package fresh wholesome safe vegetables for consumers.”
The name Arya, which means ‘Noble’, was chosen to brand the idea.
Asked about feedback on her new product line which has been on shelves for over a month, Persaud pointed out that, “the idea was well received and supported by many, including leading supermarket owners who have all agreed to stock the produce in their supermarkets.”
Additionally, consumers have also embraced the idea, which is seen in daily purchases at supermarkets.
The new product line includes: a mixture of cut vegetables for the preparation of chowmein and fried rice, peeled cassava, ochro, chopped cabbage, tomatoes, oregano and thyme, peeled and chopped pumpkin, curry leaves and mint leaves, among many others.
Soon to be added to the Arya’s Fresh Cut line are kale, cilantro and vegetable salad mix.
The packaged vegetables last a maximum of six to seven days and are taken off the shelves and replenished with fresh vegetables for sale after their shelf life have expired.
She also noted that the product is geared towards allowing parents to spend time with their family members/children by making their time in the kitchen shorter.
Arya’s Fresh Cuts uses only locally grown vegetables which proprietors also believe provides an avenue for job creation along the production chain.

Guyana’s manufacturing and services industry implements initiatives to maximize GDP contributions

October 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Since its inception in the 1960s, Guyana’s manufacturing and services industry has made admirable contributions towards the overall growth of the Guyanese economy. But of course, a significant part of its untapped potential can see it making even greater contributions to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association Ltd. (GMSA), that emerged some 50 years ago, is now a highly recognized institute ranked as one of the leading business support organizations and it is hoping to improve the role played by the industry.
Its mandate is essentially to strengthen the relationship between the sector and the relevant governmental agencies, and to act as a vehicle in hastening the economic advancement of Guyana.
Sectors which fall under the purview of the GMSA include agro-processing, forestry and wood products, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, construction and engineering, minerals and services.
According to its Chairman, Clinton Williams (who has since been replaced by Norman McLean), the Guyanese economy has been consistently recording a 5% average growth over the last five years with various sectors playing major roles. These include mining (particularly gold and diamonds); wholesale and retail trades; rice and seafood; building and construction; and information and communication technology.
While manufacturing has accounted for 4% of the GDP, Williams said a number of challenges are still facing the sector. Some of these are high energy and transportation costs as well as insufficient financing.
He said that the sector is still in the process of devising mechanisms to effectively break away from primary processing of agricultural, mineral and forest products.
Meanwhile, the GMSA is pursuing initiatives in order to realize several objectives hinged on making larger contributions to the GDP. The first is the pursuit of the more lucrative trade in services in offshore markets, especially those with which Guyana has signed partial or full scope agreements.
Williams emphasized that Guyana has some very distinct advantages that make its products unique, as he made particular reference to eco-tourism, non-fossil fuel energy sources, professional services, health and wellness, among others.
The manufacturing industry is also hoping to develop product diversification within existing industries by advocating for attractive incentives for fledging industries in forest and wood products and agro-processing both of which have great export potential.
In the same vein, the GMSA Chairman said that efforts are being made to provide existing manufacturing enterprises with special fiscal incentives. As it gears to stimulate increased growth, there have been several notable contributions and successes of the sector.
The pursuance of opportunities for Trade and Investments primarily with the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), Williams asserted, via business lunches, networking and other linkages, proved to be very beneficial.
Another big step for the GMSA was its participation in trade and investment forums both locally and externally, including the Trinidad and Tobago Trade and Investment Expo.
The GMSA Chairman also stated that another great start for the industry was following up on a 2011 Economic Integration project initiated by the Brazilian BSO SEBRAE and the Manufacturing Association. This saw the Caribbean Export Development Agency conducting a study last year to assess viable trade and investment opportunities in Guyana, Suriname and Brazil.
He explained that the aim is to design an actionable strategic plan to enhance export trade among the territories. It is expected to be a road map for achieving export growth, identifying key sector(s), sub sector(s), products and services that are export-ready. It wants to establish key institutional relationships between trade support institutions that require strengthening, and earmark external financial and technical support programs that could be accessed.
Williams said that a project has been identified to generate US$135 million in export sales by 2018 and his organization is most proud of this initiative. Some US$8.5 million will originate from Guyana and US$5.1 million from Suriname.
Another new scheme which is also in the pipeline to boost the industry seeks collaborative efforts between the GMSA and the Energy and Research Institute of India under the patronage of the Office of Climate Change. There will be approximately 10 firms selected to benefit from an Energy Efficiency Project via technical assistance from India.
Once its efforts to maximize the industry’s potential go according to plan, its projections for the near future are guaranteed to be realized.
It expects to be able to manufacture and market high quality, value added products and services, achieve substantial enhancement of productivity and production capabilities and scope, open up new markets and expand the current market share.
The GMSA executive member also believes that the projects will not only see the introduction of new processes for Guyana’s manufacturers but also the transformation of the Manufacturing Sector as it aims to raise its contribution to GDP to a level even greater than the 16%, which was the norm four decades ago.
Williams categorically stated that Guyana’s manufacturing and services sector is filled with astounding potential for the diversification of the country’s economy, and added that the proposals created bring the industry closer towards achieving such heights.

Guyana’s Competition Commission strives to stamp out anti-competitive behavior in the world of business

October 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Stimulating economic productivity and protecting consumer welfare can be done by ensuring fair competition exists in the market place. But where do businesses turn to for meaningful assistance when this environment is not maintained due to the anti-competitive behavior of its dominant counterpart?
Entrepreneurs are urged not to despair, but rather, take their plights to the guardian angels of nondiscriminatory trading: the Competition and Consumer Affairs Commission (CCAC). It has its office in the National Exhibition Site, in Sophia, Georgetown.
In April 2006, Guyana’s Parliament passed a Competition and Fair Trading Act, which covers offences such as price fixing, conspiracy, bid rigging, misleading advertisements, anti-competitiveness, abuse of dominant positions, and resale price maintenance.
This Act governs the work of the commission. The offences listed in the legislation are normally handled by CCAC and the Consumer Affairs Department (CAD) in the Ministry of Business.
The latter is considered the first option to address consumer complaints through discussions. But once this does not work, the commission, which became operational in September 2011, steps in to provide further advice and assistance with the legal side of the matter.
The Commissioners of the competition commission represent four broad stakeholder groups: the private sector, the public sector, the legal profession and the consumer representative bodies. The Chairman of the commission is Mr. Ramesh Dookoo from the private sector.
The commission also advises the appropriate Minister on matters relating to the operation of the Act where it deems necessary or when requested by the Minister.
The CCAC also has a responsibility to keep in constant contact with competition authorities of other member states to ensure the application of the local law where it deems fit. This alliance is effective as it serves to identify and thwart anti-competitive conduct and exchange information relating to such.
The competition body is also empowered to approach the High Court to impeach persons or companies it finds to be in breach of the Act. The punishment, according to the law, can see defaulters being fined from $20,000 to $1,000,000, with an added imprisonment sentence of up to one year.
There have been a number of successfully challenged cases by the commission in the court.
According to the chairman, the competition commission is not in the habit of waiting for complaints from aggrieved businesses. From time to time, it would carry out its own checks for companies breaking the law.
Price fixing, where companies come to an illegal agreement to not sell goods or services below a certain price, is just one of the matters it has taken the initiative to address.
The Commission has also noted that several businesses are in the habit of conspiring to reduce the supply of items to create a shortage, thereby allowing for the increase in prices.
The Act is clear about this practice being prohibited as it says that, “No enterprise shall conspire, combine, agree or arrange with another person to: (a) limit unduly the facilities for transporting, producing, manufacturing, storing or dealing in any goods or supplying any service; (b) prevent, limit or lessen unduly, the manufacture or production of any goods or the provision of services or to enhance unreasonably the price thereof; (c) lessen unduly, competition in the production, manufacture, purchase, barter, sale, supply, rental or transportation of any goods or services or in the price of insurance on persons or property; or (d) otherwise unduly restrain or injure competition.”
As for bid-rigging, the Act also says that, “it is unlawful for two or more enterprises to enter into an agreement whereby one or more of them agree to undertake not to submit a bid in response to a call or request for bids or tenders; or as bidders or tenders they submit, in response to a call or request, bids or tenders that are arrived at by agreement between or among themselves.”
There have also been several complaints about misleading advertisements by some companies who are obviously desperate to do anything it takes to grab a consumer’s attention.
Section 42. (1) of the Act says that, “An enterprise shall not, in pursuance of trade and for the purpose of promoting, directly or indirectly, make a representation to the public, by any means that is false or misleading or likely to be misleading in a material respect in the form of a statement, warranty or guarantee of performance, efficacy or length of life of goods or services that is not based on an adequate and proper test thereof, the proof of which lies on the person making the representation.”
Companies and consumers are advised that complaints to the commission must be received in writing and addressed to the Chairman of the Commission, Ramesh Dookoo, at its Sophia Office.
Dookoo emphasized that it is always open and ready to receive matters on inequitable trading practices and promises to make a significant effort to investigate matters, as provided under the Competition and Fair Trading Act (2006).

An introduction to the distinguished members of The Guyana Cabinet

October 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A Cabinet refers to a body of distinguished state officials, normally consisting of the top leaders of the executive branch. In Guyana’s case, these are Senior Ministers and Vice-Presidents. The chairing of the Cabinet is shared between President David Granger and Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo.Cabinet is entrusted with the responsibility of discussing the business of the state and making important decisions as it relates to policy making and approval of funds for various projects. Here is a brief profile on the various members of Guyana’s Cabinet.

His Excellency, the President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, David Arthur Granger, MSM, MSS

President David A. Granger was born into a large family, with strong roots in the public service. His life spans throughout the three counties: Essequibo, Berbice and Demerara.

He was educated at Queen’s College and graduated from the University of Guyana, where he received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. He also attended the University of the West Indies, the University of Maryland and the National Defense University in the USA.

His memorable years of military service are based on his belief in Guyana’s independence and territorial integrity.

Granger received his military training at the Mons Officer Cadet School and the School of Infantry in the United Kingdom, the Jungle Warfare Instruction Center in Brazil, and the Army Command and Staff College in Nigeria. After serving as Commander of the Guyana Defense Force and National Security Adviser to the President, he retired with the rank of Brigadier.

He made a significant contribution to national defense and public security as a member of several defense and security agencies. These include holding the Chairmanship of the Central Intelligence Committee, Co-chairmanship of the Border and National Security Committee, and Membership of the Guyana Defense Board, National Drug Law Enforcement Committee and the Disciplined Forces Commission.

He served in several public organizations and was elected to the Presidencies of the History Society, Guyana Heritage Society, University of Guyana Guild of Graduates and the Guyana Chess Federation. He is also a former member of the University of Guyana Council and the Guyana Press Association.

Presently, he is chairman of the Guyana Book Foundation, and a member of the Guyana Legion and the Board of Trustees of the Guyana Veterans Foundation.

Brigadier Granger has written extensively on national defense and public security issues. He received various academic awards which include the President’s Medal. His military awards include the Military Service Star for distinguished service.

Granger is married to Sandra Chan-A-Sue Granger and together they have two daughters, Han and Afuwa. Born July 15, 1945, he remains a stoic Guyanese politician. He was Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly of Guyana from 2012 to 2015. He stood as the Opposition Presidential Candidate in the November 2011 General Election, but was defeated. He was elected as President in the May 11, 2015 General election, and stands on the precipice of doing what no other leader did: create a truly unified Guyana, where lines and boundaries of ethnicity are totally subsumed and consumed in a nationalistic manner.

 Prime Minister and First Vice-President, the Hon. Moses Veerasammy Nagamootoo

 Mr. Moses V. Nagamootoo was born on November 30, 1947 in Whim Village, Corentyne, Berbice to Gangama and Nagamootoo Ramaswamy.

He is married to Sita Nagamootoo for 45 years and they have four children: Angela Vashmini, Sita Maria, Adela Gangama and Moses Ernesto.

Nagamootoo was educated at Auchlyne Scots School, Rose Hall and Comprehensive High School and the University of Guyana. He later pursued law at the Hugh Wooding Law School.

He also pursued courses at the Accabre College of Social Sciences and the Venezuelan Spanish Language Institute and is a Fellowship of Allen White School of Journalism, University of Kansas.

Though he has an undying love for law, his passion for helping the oppressed led him to the life of politics. Mr. Nagamootoo, in 1961, entered politics at age 14, during the struggle for Guyana’s independence.

In October 1964, he became a Member of the Progressive Youth Organization (PYO) and People’s Progressive Party (PPP). In 1966, he founded the National Union of Students.

From 1976 to 2011, he was a Member of the PPP Central Committee, and from 1978-2005, he was a Member of PPP Executive Committee. In 2011, Mr. Nagamootoo became the Vice-Chairman of the Alliance For Change (AFC).

From 1992 to 2011, he served as a Member of Parliament. Mr. Nagamootoo was a Member of Cabinet under four Presidents (Cheddi and Janet Jagan, Samuel Hinds and Bharrat Jagdeo) during the period 1992 to 2001. His other portfolios include Senior Minister of Information, and Senior Minister of Local Government & Regional Development, with responsibility for Information & Amerindian Affairs. He has served on several select committees on constitutional reform.

The Prime Minister is also a recipient of the PPP’s Certificate for Meritorious Service (1990) and the Guyana IOJ Scroll of Honor as Outstanding Journalist (1996).

Minister of State, the Hon. Joseph Harmon

 Mr. Joseph is a Lieutenant Colonel (Rt’d) and was born and raised in the West Demerara village of Pouderoyen.

As a humble, industrious individual, Harmon completed his schooling in West Demerara, before qualifying to do his ‘A’ Levels at Queen’s College. Because of his circumstances at the time, he was unable to take up the opportunity and instead was forced to find employment.

He worked for about a year in the Geddes Grant motor sales department, before enlisting for the Guyana Defense Force’s Officer Cadet Course. His outstanding performance promoted him to the rank of Second Lieutenant following his graduation, then to Lieutenant Colonel at the time of his retirement.

He completed his law degree at Cave Hill in Barbados before attending the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad. On completion of his law studies, he served for some time in the army’s legal services department, where he was the Commanding Officer.

After 23 years in the Guyana Defense Force and another 15 years as a lawyer in private practice, Harmon is an “active politician” and was a new face in the 10th Parliament. He served as APNU’s Shadow Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure.

Harmon was a member of the Young Socialist Movement (YSM), the youth arm of the People’s National Congress (PNC), Chairman of the Pouderoyen YSM group, and a member of the Regional Executive of the movement.

Mr. Harmon is married and has six children.

Second Vice President and Minister of Public Security, the Hon. Khemraj Ramjattan

Attorney-at-Law and co-founder of the Alliance For Change, Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan, is known to be a power house in any field he is in.

He became a member of the National Assembly in 1992, but his introduction to politics was through the People’s Progressive Party. He ascended through the ranks, from being leader of its youth arm (PYO,) to the position of member of that party’s central committee. However, his futuristic way of thinking, probing mind and true commitment to democracy at all levels, including at the level of internal party arrangements, brought him into conflict with the other heads of the PPP/C.

It was his vision for a new and progressive political dispensation in Guyana that led him to form the Alliance for Change in 2005, the party he founded with Raphael Trotman and Sheila Holder.

He has fearlessly and objectively represented his views on numerous issues, some highly politically sensitive, all in his quest for a better Guyana. His advocacy in many high profile human rights cases has given him prominence and stature in Guyana’s legal fraternity.

He successfully participated in the British Council’s Young Lawyers Commonwealth Scholarship Programme in 1992 at the University of London. He is a former Editor of the Guyana Bar Review.

He is married to Sita Ramjattan with whom he has two children.

Minister of Finance, the Hon. Winston Jordan

Known for his meticulous nature, Mr. Winston DaCosta Jordan is a former Head of the Budget Office of the Ministry of Finance. His stellar academic pedigree allows for confidence building, where Guyana’s economy is concerned. He is a graduate of the University of Warwick (UK) with a Master’s degree in Economics, the University of Guyana with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics, and Penn State University (USA) with a Certificate in Budgeting & Structural Adjustment. He also received a Certificate in Public Sector Budgeting from the Harvard University (USA).

Mr. Jordan has accumulated valuable experience in his field. He served in numerous positions, some of which include a Country Analyst in the Economic Intelligence Unit, a Technical Coordinator at the Public Management Modernization Program (IDB), and a Budget/Economic Adviser at the Ministry of Finance. The minister utilized his education and expertise in teaching at the University of Guyana. He served also as Director of GAIBANK (1987 to 1992); Bauxite Development Company Limited (BIDCO, 1987 to 2003); Guyana Cooperative Financial Service (GCFS, 1997 to 2005); Alternate Director, Caribbean Development Bank (1986 to 1992); Temporary Governor and Alternate Governor to the IDB, CDB and the IMF/World Bank Group.

This kind of distinguished background was recognized and well rewarded. Mr. Jordan deservedly copped a number of honors and awards namely: the University of Guyana Vice Chancellor’s Special Award; Commonwealth Scholarship; UNDP Fellowship; and Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship.

He is married to Charmaine Atkinson-Jordan and together they have three children: Jo-Anne Milner, Darren Jordan and Yanic Jordan.

Minister of Education, the Hon. Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine

Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine comes to the coalition government from the Working Peoples’ Alliance (WPA), a party that had aligned itself with the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), ahead of the 2011 General and Regional Election.

The Honorable Dr. Roopnaraine has been appointed Minister of Education and replaces predecessor Priya Manickchand.

Dr. Roopnaraine was born on January 31, 1943 in Kitty, Georgetown and is the father of Dr. Terry Roopnaraine and Alicia Roopnaraine. He is a world respected professor and instructor of Liberal Arts, who has lectured at some of the most prestigious universities and learning institutions around the world.

Dr. Roopnaraine is in no way a stranger to Guyana’s politics and the struggles of the working class people of Guyana. He has been a leading figure in the WPA, even during the 1980 assassination of his political comrade and colleague, Dr. Walter Rodney.

He has been in the front line of the national political movement since 1977 as one of the elite leaders of the WPA.

He served as a Member of the Faculty of the University of Guyana from 1976 to 1990 and as a Member of Parliament for a number of years.

He was educated at Queen’s College (Guyana), Cambridge University (UK), and Cornell University (USA), and holds a Doctorate in Comparative Literature.

Dr. Roopnaraine was part of APNU’s Shadow Cabinet in the 10th Parliament, holding the portfolio of Agriculture and Environment.

 Minister of Health, the Hon. Dr. George Norton

Head of State, David A. Granger, administered the Oath of Office and swore in as substantive Health Minister, Dr. George Norton, who has served the Shadow Cabinet of the Opposition as Shadow Health Minister for a number of years.

Dr. Norton is an Ophthalmologist by profession. He was educated in Cuba, where he graduated with a Degree in Medicine from the Superior Institute of Medical Science in 1984 and specialized in Ophthalmology in 1988. Dr. Norton is a Consulting Ophthalmologist and Head of the Department of Ophthalmology, University of Guyana.

He is also one of the Vice Chairpersons of PNC/R. He is also the Party’s Director of Hinterland Affairs.

Dr. Norton entered Parliament in 2001 and has also been recognized as a vibrant representative of Amerindian communities throughout Guyana.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Carl Greenidge

Under the new APNU+AFC administration, Carl Barrington Greenidge has been appointed as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Greenidge was born in New Amsterdam, Berbice and attended New Amsterdam Congregational School, first spending a few months at the Malteenoes Branch of Tutorial.

He then attended Berbice High School, until he left for the United Kingdom (UK) to further his education. Greenidge is a former Minister of Finance, Planning and Trade under the then PNC administration, and has extensive experience at the policy, management and technical levels. He has worked on public sector economics and agricultural policies as well as international trade and finance.

Greenidge has also provided distinguished service to his country, the Caribbean and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States. That service has been in the design and management of Guyana’s Economic Recovery Program (1988 to 1992) and the negotiation of the unique north-south cooperation compact, the Lomé Convention, inter alia.

The latter pact aimed to alleviate the burden of poverty in the ACP regions, which include the most trade-dependent countries in the world, and countries in which agriculture is dominant.

He has also successfully headed two joint ACP-EU funded institutions devoted to development and cooperation, and has, in the process, sat on both ‘sides’ of the Donor-Recipient interface.

Greenidge has published four monographs, numerous academic articles on economics, and contributed to books on a variety of issues, including the political economy of agricultural modernization, international agricultural trade negotiations and marine fisheries. He has been Co-President of the Joint Council of Ministers of the European Union and the ACP States.

Greenidge is a member of the PNC/R and served in the 10th Parliament as APNU’s Shadow Minister of Finance and International Economic Co-operation.

 Minister of Tourism, the Hon. Catherine Hughes

Catherine Andrea Hughes is a Media Specialist with extensive knowledge of the Caribbean media and advertising environment. She is a graduate of the University of the West Indies, with a Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) Degree in Mass Communications.

Mrs. Hughes has worked at media bodies in the Caribbean and internationally for more than 20 years, having served as a news reporter for the Caribbean News Agency and with the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) as a television producer. She was part of the BBC’s Radio Merseyside team as a freelance reporter.

Upon her return to Guyana in 1993, she started a company, Videomega Productions. She is also Director of Ariantze Hotel Sidewalk Café and Jazz Club, which she runs with her husband and family.

Other positions she held include: former president of the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana (THAG), and a member of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union and the Caribbean Media Corporation.

She firmly believes that Guyana needs an “entire public relations” campaign, because the country is still unknown to many parts of the world. More than that, Mrs. Hughes wants the country to provide adequate training for those securing a career in the tourism industry.

Minister of Social Protection, the Hon. Volda Lawrence

Among the Cabinet inductees by His Excellency President Granger, Mrs. Volda Lawrence has been sworn in as Minister of Social Protection with human services and social security being incorporated under this ministry.

Mrs. Lawrence is an Accountant by profession. She has a Degree in Accounting from the University of Guyana and a Master’s degree from Gloucester University, England and is a Certified Chartered Accountant (ACCA Level II).

Lawrence is a member of the PNC/R’s Central Executive Committee and also heads the Human Services and Welfare Department of the Party.

She served in the 10th Parliament of Guyana as APNU’s Shadow Minister of Human Services and Social Protection and as Chairperson the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee during the course of the 9th Parliament.

Minister of Communities, the Hon. Ronald Bulkan

The Housing and Water Ministry along with the Local Government and Regional Development Ministry have been assimilated into the new Ministry of Communities. President Granger has named Ronald Bulkan as Minister of Communities under the APNU+AFC administration.

Bulkan is the fifth of seven children of Rehannah Bulkan and the late George Bulkan, both of whom were school teachers.

Ronald Bulkan was born in Supenaam on the Essequibo Coast, and is a product of rural Guyana, though not exclusively so. He attended St. Philips Nursery School, Bush Lot Primary School, Yakusari Government School, Massiah Government School, Dolphin Government School and Queen’s College.

He has spent his entire life in Guyana, except for a nine-month period in 1979/80, when he lived in the USA, while attending the University of Houston.

Bulkan is a co-founder (1983) of Precision Woodworking Limited, a pioneering company in value-added processing in the wood sector of Guyana.

Bulkan and Precision were awarded the coveted Ernst and Young Caribbean Entrepreneur of the Year title in 2001, which is, to date, the only Guyanese company to earn this accolade.

He subsequently was inducted to the World Entrepreneur of the Year Academy in Monte Carlo in June 2002. He is married with children.

 Minister of the Indigenous People’s Affairs, the Hon. Sydney Allicock

Sydney Allicock is from the North Rupununi, Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo, Region Nine and is widely accepted as a pioneer of community-based tourism in Guyana. He was Public and Civic Contributions 2010 Laureate. Allicock is a representative of the Guyana Action Party (GAP) in APNU.

He has been a key figure in the development of the village of Surama over the past two decades, the North Rupununi region, and Guyana’s indigenous communities, which account for nearly a tenth of the country’s population.

As a former Toshao of Annai, Allicock pioneered celebrations for Amerindian Heritage Day which were later adopted as a national event by the Guyana government. Amerindian Heritage Day is now celebrated in a different village each year, bringing both investment and national attention to indigenous communities around Guyana.

Allicock is also one of the Iwokrama Centre’s key tutors for its Training Services Center, where he has helped train hundreds of young Guyanese, mostly from indigenous communities, in leadership, survival skills, and eco-tourism development. His writings have been published in the distinguished literary journal Kyk-Over-Al. He served in the 10th Parliament of Guyana, with responsibilities for Local Government and Hinterland Development.

Minister of Public Infrastructure, the Hon. David Patterson

Mr. David Patterson was born on May 4, 1967 in Georgetown and received his early education at St. Gabriel Primary School and St. Stanislaus College. He studied at the Greenwich University (UK) and graduated with a B.Sc. (Hons) in Quantity Surveying.

He is a Chartered Quantity Surveyor, Real Estate Appraiser and Project Manager. Mr. Patterson has over 25 years’ experience of providing quantity surveying, project management and appraisal services to both public and private sector clients in the United Kingdom, Guyana and the Caribbean.

He is a member of the Royal Institutions of Chartered Surveyors, and the Architecture and Surveying Institute.

He is a member of the AFC and served as a Member of Parliament (2006 to 2011), and as the party’s General Secretary (2012 to 2015).

Other positions held by Mr. Patterson include: past President of the Guyana Amateur Basketball Federation, past President of the Georgetown Dominoes Association, and Past President of the Rotary Club of Demerara. He is a Paul Harris Fellow (Rotary Foundation).

Minister of Legal Affairs, the Hon. Basil Williams

Attorney-at-Law Basil Williams comes to government from the People’s National Congress Reform (PNC/R), one of the larger members of APNU which coalesced with the AFC ahead of the May 11, 2015 General and Regional Elections.

Williams was appointed and sworn in as Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, following the ousted Anil Nandlall.

He began his public service career as a young lawyer, and as one of the Legal Advisors of the late Founder Leader of the PNC, Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham.

Later, he was to become Legal Assistant to the then President Hugh Desmond Hoyte, from 1985 to 1988. Williams also served as a Vice-Chairman of the PNC/R and a member of the Central Executive Committee (CEC).

Williams is also Chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee of the party and a member of the Joint Task Force on Local Government Reform.

Williams holds an LLB (Hons.) Degree from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus and a Legal Education Certificate from the Sir Hugh Wooding Law School, Trinidad and Tobago.

He has served in different capacities in the public domain, including representing Guyana at the 6th Meeting of the Conference of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) in 1985; City Councilor from 1986 to 1988; and Secretary of the Review Committee of the Companies Act, between 1986 and 1988.

Williams first entered Parliament in 2003 and also served in the 10th Parliament of Guyana as APNU’s Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs and Justice.

He is also married with children.

Honorable Minister Sydney Allicock’s address to the 11th Parliament

October 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

In his first address to the new Parliament, Minister of Indigenous People’s Affairs, Mr. Sydney Allicock, opened his address by stating that it was an honor to serve the new government. He also voiced his adulation and congratulation to the new President, His Excellency President David Granger.
To those who were absent from Parliament, Minister Allicock said that they were “missing out on a glorious opportunity to assist in distilling this most impressive task which ought to be undertaken collectively in Guyana’s best interest.” In expressing his willingness to work with the absentees, he stated that, “It is not too late to pick up your tools and join us in this noble task of repositioning and rebuilding this great nation of ours.”
He went on to state that, “As we collectively join hands all across Guyana, we are reminded by His Excellency of our diversity and of the richness therein. We are charged with the responsibility of, inter alia, committing to the resolve of ‘…making Guyana “One Nation”.’ We are, as a people, therefore, steadfastly committed to the task of charting Guyana’s destiny over these next five years and far beyond. We are committed to so do, cognizant of the value of our history as a young nation. We are committed to the President’s vision of using unity as the vehicle to solving our many and varied social and other difficulties. If the demons of crime, disease, ignorance and poverty are indeed to be defeated, then only the angel of unity can help us to accomplish this necessary goal.”
Minister Allicock went on to say that, “Rebuilding our local democracy is essential. Depoliticizing the management of Neighborhood Democratic Councils and, in the case of my ministry, the Indigenous Peoples villages must be our priority.”
He reiterated that his ministry is committed to “ensuring that party politics is removed from the management of the affairs” of the various Amerindian villages.
In improving the capacity of the Indigenous People, the ministry has embarked on the process of having village audits and elections. After this, there will be a National Toshao’s Conference to discuss Indigenous Peoples’ rights and resources.
The minister posited that, “Extreme poverty can only be eliminated through sustained, committed and dedicated efforts. It is known that the Indigenous Peoples populations of the deep hinterland regions of Guyana are more vulnerable to the deleterious effects of the scourge of poverty than any other group in Guyana. For example, the community of Baramita sits on gold, yet the residents live in deplorable poverty. The challenges are many and varied: from community leadership, communications and transportation, to health and education, pure, reliable water supply, affordable electricity and agricultural support. The cure for these difficulties has got to be a process designed to bring relief in a deliberate measurable and sustainable manner.”
“To this end, there will be a number of interventions specific to sustainable economic development. Such projects will especially target women and young people. Women are our village economists, while the young people are the next generation of leaders. There will be partnerships with several non-governmental and international organizations. These partnerships are intended to bring to villages benefits in the areas of: sustainable utilization and management of natural resources, conceptualization and management of micro projects, skills training, life skills, sports, cultural and other social based activities as well as infrastructural improvement,” he said.
Minister Allicock said that the Indigenous People’s Affairs Ministry intends to continue to develop and record the indigenous languages of the nine indigenous peoples. “We will store [the data] for posterity, and the valuable historic, cultural records of the indigenous peoples of Guyana,” he said.
He went on to say that the ministry intends to showcase Guyana’s talented people, and craft programs to develop, preserve and promote the Indigenous Peoples’ rich heritage and to marry it to the rich cultural heritage of other Guyanese brothers and sisters.
The minister went on to say that his ministry strongly believes that “if inequalities are to be something of the past, then urgent, immediate attention will have to be paid to national awareness of the rights of Indigenous Peoples, not only at home here in Guyana, but globally as well.”
Indigenous Peoples need to have better access to the opportunities, facilities and rewards that are available nationally. With that in mind, the ministry intends to have a factual, impartial analysis of the state of affairs of the Indigenous Peoples that will be made public. Thereafter, the ministry will embark on a set of strategic objectives that will chart the course for the elimination of inequalities that affect Guyana’s Indigenous People.
Appropriate education is pivotal to this long-term process. The Bina Hill Institute at Annai in Region Nine – which is similar to the Critchlow Labour College – is an excellent project to build upon. Orealla in Region Six has been identified as one such possible site. Other technical training centers will eventually be set up in each region.
With eco-tourism on the rise, every indigenous community is a potential tourist destination. These communities must now prepare for the sustainable utilization of Guyana’s natural patrimony. There is need for tour guides, tour planners, caterers, interpreters, facility managers, logistics personnel and other skilled people to enable the blooming of tourism-based, sustainable, economic ventures.
Minister Allicock said, “The Indigenous Peoples of Guyana welcome the President’s proposed establishment of a Sovereign Wealth Fund. The Ministry of Indigenous Peoples Affairs views this initiative as a very responsible approach to the management of the revenues earned from our national patrimony. We must determine where such resources are best invested. I say invested, because I believe that every cent of state resources placed towards the development of our people is an investment in our country’s future. I believe that after a careful analysis of our needs as a nation, it will be well established that education, healthcare, public transportation, infrastructure, social security, access to information, and environmental protection are important areas to which such investments should be directed. This fund allows us as a nation to avoid the pitfalls of squander mania and focus on ensuring that our citizens get the best out of every dollar of state resources. I pray that we start to produce oil in the large quantities anticipated. This way, the Sovereign Wealth Fund will become a reality and will go on to benefit the people of Guyana, aiding in the swift removal of poverty from our land.”
For Indigenous People, the forest represents life. It is their kitchen, their medicine cabinet, their home, and their sanctuary. The minister expressed “tremendous delight” that the President made his vision for a Green Guyana clear. “The challenges of climate change are enormous. The pressures of development; or the price of development on countries such as ours could be devastating. Our journey towards sustainable management and use of our natural resources and focus on the use of energy obtained from water, wind and the sun as outlined by our President is indeed the way forward. Our eyes must remain trained on our protected areas. We, therefore, offer our full support to these efforts. Our Ministry’s support in this regard will be manifested in the programs we undertake in the years ahead,” he stated.
The Indigenous Peoples Affairs Minister went on to laud the President’s intention to establish Bartica, Mahdia, Mabaruma and Lethem as towns, stating that, “The necessary legislations will be brought before this House shortly. These hinterland communities each have a significant Indigenous People’s population. These communities have not been benefiting from the attention, services, physical infrastructure, agricultural and other technical support over the past two decades. Now, under the visionary leadership of President Granger, they will become towns with their own mayors and town councils. They will bring their own brand of local democratic governance to the fore. A new culture of [an] accountable government by the people and for the people of those new towns will emerge.”
The minister went on to say that the move “is truly the involvement of the people in the management of their own affairs”. The domino effect of this will be better management, sustainable use and maintenance of public infrastructure, such as hinterland stellings, trails to Indigenous communities, and airstrips in these communities. “The hinterland road, river and air transportation services will improve,” he said. “These interventions can only impact positively on the lives and livelihood of the Indigenous Peoples of Guyana’s coast and hinterland.”
In his closing statement, Minister Allicock declared, “I can see in the not too distant future, positive impact in the areas of social life, education, health care, agriculture and general economic development in our hinterland communities, and by extension, in the lives of our Indigenous Peoples. This marks the beginning of a good life for all Guyanese. Let us, therefore, move forward resolutely together; for in the words of Guyana’s first Executive President: ‘We have a Nation to build; a destiny to mould.’”

Empowerment Center being touted as solution to Berbice poverty dilemma

October 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

We all deserve a chance and that is the intent of this facility: to give people a chance at a better life” – Pandit Sugrim

When a naked, presumably homeless young woman is left to wander the streets without anyone attempting to render assistance, it is a clear indication that societal values have collapsed. This was the observation of Pandit Suresh Sugrim, Chief Executive Officer/Administrative Head of the Humanitarian Mission of the New Jersey Arya Samaj (NJAS), which also has a presence in Canada.
Although he migrated to the United States many years ago, Pandit Sugrim, who was born and raised in Berbice, would often visit Guyana.
It was during one of his many visits to the Ancient County that he observed an unclothed woman casually meandering around the Berbice Stelling area. The sight, though alarming to Pandit Sugrim, appeared to be a normal sight to almost all of the people within the vicinity.
“There were many religious leaders and other individuals that were at the Stelling, but not one took a piece of cloth to wrap that young girl’s naked body. I hurriedly got into my suitcase and got out a piece of clothing and covered her… I also gave her a few dollars and she went along her way,” recounted Pandit Sugrim.
The encounter bothered him so much that he recognized the need to address the glaring situation of poverty that existed in that section of the country.
Upon his return to New Jersey, he shared his experience with the Board of Directors of the NJAS and plans were soon after made to expand the Humanitarian Mission to Guyana.
Beginning in 2005, the NJAS plugged support into sections of Berbice with the aim of helping alleviate the poverty situation. A hand-out tactic was embraced, whereby the mission would cater to the physical needs of individuals in dire need. The mission helped poor families construct homes, helped single mothers send their children to school, helped children with heart conditions access surgery, among many other noble undertakings.
“We did pretty much anything that helped to get people through the struggles of life,” disclosed Pandit Sugrim. But according to him, “we eventually came to the realization that we had spent millions of dollars in hand-outs but that wasn’t the solution to Guyana’s problems. After many years, there were still many people in poverty who were simply expecting to continue to receive hand-outs from us.”
By 2011, the NJAS was re-evaluating its support to Guyana, and an informed decision was made to change the mode of support.
The decision, Pandit Sugrim noted, was premised on the Chinese proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Teaching the people of Berbice to “fish” will take on the form of an Empowerment Center at 21-26 Ankerville, Port Mourant, Corentyne, Berbice. The center, which was officially commissioned on August 9, 2015, will facilitate educational programs for out-of-school youths and young mothers, job training, counseling and other social services.
“People would agree that there are many [social] ills that have been destroying and rocking the foundation of families across this country… There are issues such as suicide, domestic violence, other forms of abuse, and there are even problems with alcohol and diseases such as HIV that are happening in Guyana right now and we have to do something to deal with these,” said Pandit Sugrim. He is promoting the Empowerment Center as a possible solution.
The realization of the center, which is currently undergoing finishing touches, was made possible through the support of local donors and others in the US and Canada who helped to raise in excess of US$300,000. The center was constructed on land leased by government.
While the facility will be managed by a board of directors, Pandit Sugrim disclosed that he has decided to return home to give his full support to its operation, because he is confident that it is poised to evolve overtime.
He is hopeful that other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) would collaborate with the center to ensure that the needs of the society are effectively addressed. “We can’t do it alone… We are looking to prepare people for the world of work. We are looking to teach young women to sew and have what they sew sold right back [in] the community so that they can earn a living,” disclosed Pandit Sugrim.
It is also hoped that the center could facilitate daycare services for single parent mothers as they learn a trade to empower themselves. The intended targets for support will not only be women. According to Pandit Sugrim, the center will be reaching out to young men too. Even deportees are expected to find a refuge if they so desire, since efforts will be made to create activities that can ensure that they make an honest living.
In essence, Pandit Sugrim is of the view that the center would be one that addresses the underlying problem of poverty in the society in the quest to bring about needed changes. Realizing the needed changes, he pointed out, would require that entire communities work together.
“Sometimes there is nobody there to hold people’s hands when they are in a crisis, and so it is our hope that we can have a center that offers a 24/7 counseling service, even as we empower our people,” informed Pandit Sugrim.
Attempts have already been made to garner support from the government to aid the not-for-profit operation of the center which is expected to touch the lives of many. “We all deserve a chance and that is the intent of this facility: to give people a chance at a better life,” asserted Pandit Sugrim.

Using Dogs for Home Security

October 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

By Brian Ramsey

Throughout the Caribbean, it is very common for homeowners to have dogs. When asked why, they say that it is for the security of their home. Persons often ask what type of dog is best for securing their home. Actually, almost any breed will protect their home turf, including the common mixed breed dogs. However, there are certain breeds that are known to be especially good as protection dogs.

Among the dog breeds that are good for home protection are the:

  • Bullmastiff – This breed is known for its physical strength, protection instincts, courageousness, and extreme family loyalty. If an intruder crosses its path, a Bullmastiff will typically use its strength to knock them over or block their path. This breed is very docile in the family environment and makes a great household pet.
  • Doberman pinscher – Dobermans are very fast, loyal, fearless and alert. They are considered to be among the smartest of dogs.
  • Rottweiler – This is an intelligent dog that learns quickly and bonds with its owners. It will stand and protect its owners and their property. Their size alone is often enough to scare off an intruder. However, they can be strong-willed and need firm leaders.
  • German shepherd – German shepherds are not only beautiful to look at, but very intelligent and learn quickly. These dogs like being around people. They are very calm dogs, but will quickly react to any threat they perceive to the home or family.
  • Rhodesian ridgeback – Ridgebacks are natural watchdogs. Since they were originally bred to hunt lions, they do not easily back away from a perceived threat. They have a very independent nature, so they must be trained and the owner must be a firm individual. They are said to be selective in their barking so when a Ridgeback barks, it needs to be taken seriously.

There are certain things that should be done in order to ensure that you have a good watch dog no matter what breed of dog you acquire. If you get a puppy, one of the first things that you should do is train the puppy to not be friendly with strangers. This can be difficult to do, especially if you have little children. Everyone will want to play and have their friends play with the cute, cuddly puppy. But then the puppy gets the idea that everyone is their friend, and anyone that enters the yard has come to play with them. Playing with the puppy is inevitable and is indeed good for the puppy. Playing helps exercise the puppy’s muscles and helps it bond with family members. However, as the puppy ages you should begin keeping it away from people other than immediate family, so that it begins to understand that not everyone is to be played with.
Though training the puppy to know that not everyone is their friend is important, it is equally important that you give the dog obedience training. You do not want a dog that is “bad” and you cannot control it. Obedience training should be a must. Obedience training for dogs can start at any age, but it is best if started while the dog is a puppy.
There is one type of obedience training that some people give to their dogs without realizing that it is not good. When visitors come to the gate, the dog, naturally, goes to the gate and begins barking at the visitor. The owner comes out and tells the dog to go to the back or go in the kennel. The dog obeys, but, eventually, some dogs will automatically go to the back when they see people at the gate. The owner has unconsciously trained the dog to do this. The better approach is to pat the dog so that it is rewarded for alerting you, then take the dog to the kennel.
There are people who ask if they should give their dog aggression training. For most part, having a dog barking at strangers, baring its fangs is enough to scare off the common thief. But if the individual is in a neighborhood where there have been burglaries of houses with dogs or the individual has a specific threat, then aggression training is warranted. The purpose of the training is to give the dog the confidence to stand its ground when it engages a stranger. Most of us have experienced a common mixed breed dog backing off when one simply stamps their foot, or shouts, or waves a stick. Aggression training gives the dog the confidence to stand its ground when confronting a stranger, even if that stranger makes some overt move at the dog. The aggression training should never involve physical harm to dog.
Homeowners also face the dilemma of having unfriendly guard dogs and entertaining guests. The practice of locking the dogs away is the action chosen whenever the homeowner has to entertain guests. However, this exposes the property to the possibility of a home invasion/robbery. Fortunately, there are more secure choices a homeowner can make in this situation. If the activity is indoors, the dogs can be released once all of the guests are inside. The dogs are then able to patrol the yard while the homeowner and guests engage in their social activity. If the homeowner hosts social activities often that involve the guests being both indoors and outdoors, he/she should consider dividing the yard in a manner that allows the dogs to roam and protect one section. If dividing the yard, it is important to use chain-link fencing or steel grills to allow the dogs to see into the other section. If anyone enters into that section while the guests are indoors, the dogs can alert the residents by their barking.
Undoubtedly, dogs are a good form of home security no matter the breed. However, the key to having a good guard dog is in the training that is given to that dog. This training should start from an early age.

Brian Ramsey has a BA in Accounting & Management, along with an MBA in Finance. He also has over 29 years in the field of security in the Caribbean. He is the Regional Development Director for Amalgamated Security Services Limited which is the parent company of Alternative Security Services (St. Lucia) Limited. He can be contacted at Amalgamated Security operates in Grenada, Barbados, St. Lucia, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.

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