Guyana observes World Prematurity Awareness Day

December 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

World Prematurity day was observed on November 17, last. Throughout the month, there was great focus on lifesaving treatments and community support.

As most may know, prematurity is the number one cause of death in newborns worldwide. Fifteen million babies are born prematurely every year and more than one million die from complications. The babies that survive often have lifelong disabilities such as cerebral palsy, vision loss, loss of hearing and breathing problems.

According to a study done by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2010, 1800 babies were born pre-term in Guyana and 100 died from complications of pre-term births.

All around the world, organizations, health care professionals and individuals join together and show support for pre-term births and their prevention.

In April 2011, the Guyana Help the Kids Organization was established and registered as a non-profit organization in Toronto, Canada and subsequently in Guyana following a successful partnership with the Canada – Guyana Medical Partnership Coalition. The organization’s sole mandate is to work with the Government of Guyana to reduce infant mortality.

The Guyana Help the Kids Organization, in collaboration with The Ministry of Public Health and the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation hosted the first Prematurity Awareness Walk on November 18, 2017.

The ultimate goal of the stakeholders involved is to improve the health of babies by preventing premature births so that more babies can survive.

How do we get the Diaspora to return to Guyana?

December 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The truth is, Guyanese abroad, who are accustomed to a way of life that involves efficient systems as well as service at an international standard, are easily disenchanted at the thought of returning to their homeland.

Sure, there are opportunities for investment for these possible remigrants, but at what cost? Would you want to return to the 1960s after enjoying the technological advancements of the 21st Century? Of course not! And that is putting it lightly in Guyana’s case. Therefore, in order to get our business-oriented minds to return and re-grow their roots here, something has got to give. There are many individuals who agree with this perspective too.

Speaking with the Guyana Inc. Magazine, University Lecturer and Political Activist, Dr. David Hinds eloquently said that the fundamental question before us is, ‘How do the authorities of the day begin to encourage members of that community to return and invest in their homeland when one of the major complaints by the ones already here is the amount of hands you have to grease in a mostly backward and broken system so as to get simple things done in a professional manner?’

Dr. Hinds said to even address such a predicament one must first acknowledge that corruption and inefficiency in both the public and private sectors are problems which have deterred Guyanese from coming back home. He said that those are the areas that need quick attention.

The political activist said, “There is a start as far as tackling corruption is concerned; we now know that the roots are deep and the reach is wide, so it will take a lot of effort and time to bring things to an acceptable standard.”

The columnist added, “As far as efficiency is concerned, perhaps that is an area that the Public Service Institute could tackle—training public servants in ethics and standards. These are critical areas. So yes, a new Diaspora initiative has to be supplemented by big efforts to decrease corruption, improve standards and efficiency in government and other public agencies. Otherwise, the situation will remain the same. It would only result in deterring our business-minded people.”

Head of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), Godfrey Statia, a Guyanese who has returned to provide his services, shares those very sentiments. He told the Guyana Inc. Magazine that the first step is the creation of an investment code to create good financial and tax planning, as well as systems in place for consistency in treatment to our business-oriented brothers and sisters.

“Also, there is a need for a level playing field. While foreign investment should be encouraged, it should be by tax credits rather than exemptions. Exemptions allow for greasing; but with tax credits, this would not take place. Take for instance, fuel. Exemptions for this should be removed.”

The Commissioner General also stated that tax credits would be a great system, as it forces people to comply then get the rewards. “Sure there are millions of us overseas who are millionaires in our own right. But there is a need for a level playing field. I have advocated for this and I will continue to do so.”

The Guyana Inc. Magazine also sought the opinions of Foreign Affairs Minister, Carl Greenidge, as it relates to the Government’s efforts in inspiring the business community of the Guyanese Diaspora to return to Guyana.

In this regard, Greenidge noted that while there are still many areas which need to be addressed,  the Government has made some significant steps. It is on this premise that Greenidge, an Economist, spoke of Government’s ‘Go See Visits’ project, under the Regional Project for the Effective and Sustainable Diaspora Engagement for Development in the Caribbean (ESDEDC), in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Mission in Guyana.

According to the Foreign Affairs Minister, the ‘Go See Visits’ project is indeed historic. He said that it represents a collaborative effort between the Government of Guyana and the IOM, which is unique since the project is an offshoot from the Guyana Diaspora Project (GUYD). GUYD was launched in 2012 with the expressed objective of streamlining, in a sustainable manner, the interaction and relationship between the Government of Guyana and the Guyanese Diaspora.

“As you are aware, the ‘Go See Visit’ project will, for all practical purposes, complement the efforts of the Government by helping us to tap into the human and financial resources available within our Diaspora, among other deliverables. However, what is opposite to note is the fact that the project also offers the Government the opportunity to provide assistance though facilitating structured access to stakeholders, including policy makers, to help germinate business ideas that enterprising members of our Diaspora may have. It’s a win-win situation, as diplomats would say.”

“This ‘Go See Visit’ project, therefore, must be recognized as a tangible effort to further cultivate and strengthen relations with the Diaspora. The efficacy of the project, undoubtedly, is reflected in its main objective of exploring the possibilities for creating small and medium size enterprises (SMES) through the establishment of community and entrepreneurial development initiatives that will enable growth, productivity, exports and employment in low-income communities in Guyana.”

Accordingly, Minister Greenidge said that the project aspires to achieve the practical goal of creating employment in low-income and vulnerable areas, among others. And as a pilot project, he opined that its success will certainly precipitate its sustained replication, an outcome for which the Government of Guyana is most desirous.

As a result of the ‘Go See Visit’ Project, the Foreign Affairs Minister noted that the Government has received several business proposals, with regard to exploring investment possibilities in a number of areas, including Information Technology, Agro Processing, Financial Services, Tourism and Customer Services, Renewable Energy and Health Care Services.

“I would also like to state here in this interview that the Government of Guyana wishes to commend the efforts of all prospective investors and entrepreneurs who have shown the interest in responding to our request for submission of interest in participating in the project, and especially those who have been selected since the project first came out.”

The open process of inviting members of our Diaspora to submit proposals of interest was facilitated through the GUYD website, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, Diaspora organizations, and Consulates abroad.

The selection process was carried out in collaboration with the IOM Mission in Guyana. As part of the process leading up to this project, the IOM also facilitated a Consultant’s report on “An Assessment of the Needs and Interest to Support Local Initiatives in Guyana: Exploring Opportunities for Diaspora led SME’s in Low Income Communities in Guyana”.

In this regard, Minister Greenidge sought to underscore the fact that the Government’s ongoing sustainable thrust to engage and espouse the Diaspora goes way beyond obligatory efforts at fostering national identity and highlighting and appreciating our cultural diversity abroad.

“Instead, the Government of Guyana’s enhanced Diaspora engagement efforts also include critical national development pursuits that require us to harness the expertise, resources, capacities, and goodwill of Guyanese world over. And it is in this context that we should place this ‘Go See Visit’ project.”

It is no secret that the Guyanese Diaspora comprises our country’s men and women who number perhaps as many as us who reside in Guyana, and arguably even more, as is posited by some commentators.

But according to the Foreign Affairs Minister, the Government is extremely mindful of the importance of each of the constituent groups that make up the Guyanese Diaspora, whether in the Caribbean, North America, Europe, Africa, Asia or elsewhere. As such, Greenidge said that the Government is committed to ensuring, at all times, it’s stated and functional Diaspora strategy reflects this policy in a transparent and evenhanded manner.

Greenidge commented that Diaspora engagement in today’s world has taken on proportions that have evolved out of the complexities of an international arena in which rights and privileges are sacrosanct.

Similarly, he posited that national governments have had to be cognizant of these global shifts and take appropriate action at the local levels. It is in this context that he said Diaspora affairs have not only grown in complexity and influence, but also in relation to the demands and expectations of national governments.

“I am happy to inform you that the Government of Guyana, again in collaboration with the IOM, is in the final stages of concluding our new Diaspora Engagement Strategy and Action Plan, which will formally guide our relationship with Diaspora, particularly the business community. The government has absolutely no equivocation whatsoever about the critical role our Diaspora must play in Guyana’s development, as our country strives toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in 2030, and well beyond.”

According to the Foreign Affairs Minister, the new Diaspora Engagement Strategy and Action Plan will address the concerns which the members of the Diaspora have had over the years.

He said that this comprehensive policy document will not be dormant ‘white paper’. Instead, it will be a policy guide that will require stakeholders to adhere to principles based on international and other proven best practices, and will be predicated on the unavoidable pervasive precepts of accountability and transparency.

Work Related Law… Protecting Pregnant Women in the Workplace

September 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Pregnancy is deemed to be one of the most incredibly fascinating turning points of a woman’s life.
But when it comes to her place of employ, a woman on her journey to motherhood may face acts of discrimination instead of consideration and support.
Prior to her pregnancy, she may have been extremely productive at her workplace. But the trials of pregnancy can easily reduce the speed at which she can complete tasks assigned to her, as well as impair her ability to handle the volume of work she did before.
Some employers who operate their businesses without any “sentiment” may tend to respond to a woman’s pregnancy in various ways. In many instances in Guyana, this can take the form of reducing the workload, which in turn decreases the usual pay or offers the pregnant woman a lower position so as to cut costs. An employer may also choose to do neither of the foregoing and simply dismiss the woman altogether.
It is important to note however, that such acts, among others, constitute pregnancy discrimination.
In Guyana, there are several pieces of legislation which serve to protect pregnant women against discrimination in the workplace.
The Protection Against Unlawful Discrimination Act, for example, provides for the elimination of discrimination in employment, training, recruitment and membership of professional individuals and the promotion or equal remuneration to men and women, whether pregnant or not, who perform work of equal value and for matters connected therewith (13th October, 1997).
Section 4-Subsection 1 says: For the purposes of this Act, a person discriminates against another person if the first mentioned person makes, on any or the grounds mentioned in subsection (2), any distinction, exclusion or preference, the intent or effect of which is to nullify or impair equality of opportunity or treatment in any employment or occupation.
Subsection 2, in conjunction with Subsection 1, states that the grounds referred to are as follows:
(a) race, sex, religion, colour, ethnic origin, indigenous population, national extraction, social origin, economic status, political opinion, disability, family responsibilities, PREGNANCY, marital status or age except for purposes of retirement and restrictions on work and employment of minors.
(b) any characteristic which appertains generally or is generally imputed to persons or a particular race, sex religion, colour, ethnic origin, indigenous population, national extraction, social origin, economic status, political opinion, disability, family responsibilities, PREGNANT STATE, marital status or age except for purposes of retirement and restrictions on work and employment of minors.
Part III- Protection against discrimination in employment, Section 5 covers for equal employment opportunities in the statement made in subsection 1: It shall be unlawful for any person who is an employer or any person acting or purporting to act on behalf of a person who is an employer, in relation to recruitment, selection or employment or any other person for purposes of training, apprenticeship or employment, to discriminate against that other person on the grounds listed in section 4 (2).
Section 6 covers for no discrimination on any of the mentioned qualities when employing someone, especially if their qualifications match those that were described when advertising. Section 7 ensures that special measures be taken by employers of a temporary nature to promote equality of opportunity in employment based on the grounds set out by section 4(2).
Section 8 deems sexual harassment against an employee by an employer as a form of unlawful discrimination based on sex and in some cases, pregnancy.
Section 9 ensures that everyone doing equal work, even pregnant individuals must be paid equally.
So in essence, pregnant women are protected in the workplace from discrimination. They are ensured equality in hiring, promotion, opportunities, as well as remuneration.


(Article taken from the Guyana Inc. Magazine Issue 27)

Caribbean Containers Incorporated Pioneering The Paper Recycling Industry In CARICOM

January 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

As the 21st Century beckoned, there were stark reminders of the need for attention to be placed on environmental management and protection. It therefore called for innovative and environmentally friendly ways to live and conduct business. Recycling, reducing and reusing (The Three R’s of Recycling) materials was identified by scientists and researchers as one of the systems which can be employed to save energy and conserve the environment.
Caribbean Containers Incorporated, located at Farm, East Bank Demerara, Guyana, is the pioneer in the recycling industry within the Caribbean Community. The company operates the only Paper Recycling Mill in CARICOM. It manufactures linerboard and fluting medium, using waste paper as feedstock. The company’s total collection of waste removes from the local landfills approximately 1,200 cubic meters monthly.
The process starts when Old Corrugated Cartons (OCC) are purchased from local and foreign suppliers. The locally purchased product is shredded and baled to facilitate easy handling and weighing. However, the imported OCC is stored automatically for processing.
CCI recycles approximately 4,000 metric tonnes of old corrugated cartons per year. The company produces a wide variety of carton boxes. There is the RSC-LFM model which is a regular slotted carton where the long flaps meet. The RSC-LFOL is also a regular box where the long flaps over lap.
In the event that someone wishes to package furniture, flowers and seafood, the company makes a 2-Piece Interlocking Telescopic (Body and Lid) carton which makes for easy assembly and requires no glue or staples to hold together.
Persons desirous of packaging fillet fish or cakes can also have their needs met since 1-Piece interlocking Carton facilitates these items.
The packaging done by the company is well received all over the Caribbean. Forty per cent of its products are exported to regional customers.
The company began in 1983 under the name SAPIL through its Box Plant. In 1999, the business was rebranded and renamed Caribbean Container Inc. It had been privatised in 1992 and in January 2007 the majority shareholder “Demerara Holdings Inc.” was bought over by Technology Investments and Management Inc. The company then restructured.
A total of 145 persons are employed in a number of fields by the recycling giant. These include indirect employment for about 100 persons who provide resource services such as paper collection.
In February 2015, CCI had signalled its intention to work along with local exporters on high quality packaging.
According to CCI Managing Director, Patricia Bacchus, the company’s ventures were confined to corrugated out-packaging and fibre board fitments, developed to meet the needs of new and emerging Guyanese businesses.
The industries which were targeted included packaging for fresh produce of fruits and vegetables and seafood. The boxes are made in such a way that they can be kept in cold storage. Additionally, to accommodate the packaging of ware bottles, separators were also installed into the cartons.
According to Bacchus, CCI has the capability to create customised cartons to suit the needs of its customers. In doing this, small businesses can have access to feasible yet suitable packaging for their products.
The boxes can be made with or without print for companies who are unable to make large orders of customised boxes.
The company is not just business oriented but has been a part of a number of initiatives to improve the standard and state of the physical environment around Guyana. In July 2012 it had partnered with the University of Guyana in an exercise to recycle disposable waste. The idea was described as a bold one by then Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Robert Persaud.
He had said that the move to have a recycling industry developed in Guyana is an important method of dealing effectively with waste management.
In May 2003, the company commissioned its Tetra-Pak recycling plant which signalled the extension of the company’s interest to consume more recyclable items inclusive of cardboard waste. The fibre yield from the new plant is expected to bolster any shortage of cardboard material locally.
Tetra Pak is an overseas-based company which provided the essential equipment for the plant whilst CCI provided the assembly components which included pumps, pipes and electrical panels.
Tetra Pak is one of three companies in the Tetra Laval Group which began in Sweden. Tetra-Pak focuses mainly on the packaging and distribution of liquid products, but also provides packaging solutions for fruit, vegetables, ice cream and pet food.
The Tetra-Pak plant provides CCI with the aptitude to recycle Tetra-Pak aseptic packaging waste. This material comprises of poly-aluminium usually used in packaging for juice and milk.
The company is known for also being a major donor to Non-governmental Organisations and sporting activities. In January 2015, the company approved substantial financial corporate sponsorship for the Rose Hall Town Youth and Sports Club (RYHT&SC) who was celebrating its Silver Jubilee year.
Recently in August of this year, the Guyana Foundation received a donation of folding tables from the company at the organisation’s recently opened Sunrise Centre at Zorg-En-Vlygt Essequibo Coast.
The tables are intended to enhance the operations of the Centre. The Sunrise Centre offers four skills-training courses, mental health support services and holistic wellness activities to improve the mental well-being of residents of the Essequibo Coast.
CCI believes that a balanced environment is essential to a healthy life and the survival of humanity. Embracing the principle of sustainable development, the company understands that the preservation of nature is crucial to its own existence and the progression of its business.

Guyana’s Export Performance for 2016 and Projections for the New Year

January 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Guyana’s export performance demonstrated various levels of fluctuations in certain core sectors this year.
For the first half of 2016, statistics provided by the Ministry of Finance show that the balance of trade in merchandise goods recorded a deficit of US$19.1 million, a notable improvement from a deficit of US$250.6 million for the first six months of 2015.
Total export receipts amounted to US$680.4 million, 29.1 percent more than the US$527.2 million recorded at the end of June 2015. This upturn was as a result of higher earnings from gold and other exports.
Exports of merchandise goods (excluding re-exports) rose from a cumulative US$519.2 million in the first half of 2015 to a cumulative US$666.4 million in the first half of 2016. Gold exports more than doubled compared with the first half of last year, rising from US$188.3 million to US$390.7 million. On the other hand, bauxite exports fell from US$53.3 million to US$46.3 million, a decrease of about 13.1 percent, while diamond exports fell by 10.7 percent, from US$9 million to US$8.2 million.
Although global prices for aluminum increased over the first six months of 2016, they remained below 2015 levels. The average price for bauxite exported from Guyana was US$61.7 per metric tonne over the first half of 2016, down from US$76.8 per metric tonne in the first half of 2015. As a result, although the quantity of bauxite exported increased, the total value of bauxite exports was lower in the first half of 2016 than for the same period in 2015.
Similarly, reports from the Ministry of Finance state that the average price per carat received for Guyana’s diamond exports has fallen, resulting in a lower value of diamond exports, despite higher export volume.
The Ministry, in its half year report, said that sugar exports fell from US$30.4 million for the first half of 2015 to US$20.8 million for the first half of 2016, a decline of 31.4 percent. Lower sugar exports reflected reduced quantity, due to lower production in the first half of 2016, despite higher sugar prices.
Rice exports were down by a similar magnitude, falling about 29.8 percent, from US$125.7 million in the first half of 2015 to US$88.3 million in the first half of 2016. Rice exports fell because of lower export quantities and lower prices compared with a year ago.
Although global rice prices improved somewhat over the first six months of 2016, the loss of the Venezuelan market for rice, which paid a relatively high price per metric tonne, resulted in a substantial decrease in the average price received for rice exports. Among other major exports, shrimp and prawns exports increased in the first half of 2016 compared with the first half of 2015, rising from US$27 million to US$29.6 million.
According to the Bank of Guyana, timber export receipts totaled US$19.4 million, 17.3 percent below the value for the corresponding period in 2015, owing to lower export volumes. Export volume was 30.1 percent lower at 52,530 cubic metres. Earnings from other timber exports decreased by US$3.8 million or 16.7 percent while plywood exports decreased by US$0.3 million.
Bauxite export receipts amounted to US$46.3 million, 13.1 percent or US$7.0 million below the value for the corresponding period in 2015, due to a decrease in the average export price for bauxite. Export volume increased by 6.6 percent or 45,591 metric tonnes to 739,390 metric tonnes.
The average export price decreased by 18.4 percent from US$76.8 to US$62.7 per metric tonne. Gold export receipts amounted to US$390.7 million, 107.5 percent or US$202.4 million more than the June 2015 level, on account of higher export volumes and an increase in the average export price of gold. Export volume increased by 102.4 percent to 327,326 ounces as a result of higher declarations, while the average export price per ounce of gold increased by 2.5 percent to US$1,193.5.

Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, presented on November 28, the earliest budget the nation has seen in four decades. In his $250B budget, he spoke of the projections for the leading sectors by year end.
In the areas of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing, Jordan told the members of the National Assembly, the sectors are expected to contract significantly in the second half of 2016 with a gloomy performance expected for all sub-sectors, except fishing and other crops.
He said, “Despite an encouraging recovery in 2015, sugar is projected to decline by 18.7 percent, to reach 188,000 metric tonnes by the end of 2016. The low production is attributed to the El Niño dry spell experienced earlier in the year which resulted in lower yields, combined with late planting and the frequency of strikes, during the second half of the year.”
In the rice sector, the Finance Minister said that due to continued uncertainty, output is expected to reach 600,000 metric tonnes by year end. He said that this represents a decline of 12.8 percent from the levels achieved in 2015. He said, “The El Niño weather phenomenon and the loss of the lucrative Venezuelan market contributed significantly to the decline in production level. Nevertheless, the Government continues to encourage both farmers and millers to move towards more value-added products.”
He continued, “In this regard, during 2016, 300 acres of aromatic rice variety was planted for the first crop and over 3,000 acres for the second crop, compared to less than 100 acres planted for both crops during 2015. Two millers are actively engaged in this venture and have already secured markets, in the US, for their produce.”
As for the livestock sub-sector, the Finance Minister said that it is expected to decline by 5.1 percent in 2016.
He said, “The gains made in poultry production, which is expected to expand by 3.5 percent due to increased demand, combined with new investment in duck production, is projected to be undermined by a fall in milk production by 19 percent. The decline in milk production is due to reduced demand, prompting farmers to take their animals out of lactation. However, the establishment of two abattoirs in Regions 5 and 9, along with improved breeding stock and better husbandry practices, are expected to boost growth in this sector.”
With regard to the forestry sub-sector, the Finance Minister said that the nation should expect it to contract significantly by 33.3 percent. He said that it is mainly because of Barama Company Limited halting the production of logs and the UK’s restriction on greenheart logs originating from Guyana.
The Finance Minister said, “Both the fishing and other crops sub-sectors performed creditably, with growth recorded at 11.8 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively. Growth in the fisheries subsector is expected to be augmented by the introduction of deep float pelagic tuna production. In the other crops sub-sector, growth will benefit from continued diversification efforts in the areas of fruits, vegetables, and spices.”
In the area of mining and quarrying, the Finance Minister said that this sector is projected to grow by 35.7 percent by the end of 2016, the highest in over a decade.
He said, “Gold production is expected to reach 644,814 ounces as a result of the combined efforts of small and medium-sized miners responding to the generous concessions granted by Government and rising global gold prices, and the two foreign-owned companies reaching full capacity.”
Additionally, Jordan told the National Assembly that the bauxite industry is expected to grow by 9.6 percent, while the other mining and quarrying sector is projected to rise by 22 percent, mainly on account of a 92.5 percent increase in sand production and a 9.2 percent increase in stone production.
As for the manufacturing sector, the Minister said that it is projected to contract by 7.1 percent, as a result of the dismal performances in sugar and rice, as well as a small decline in other manufacturing.
Unfortunately, Jordan noted that construction declined from a budgeted 10.5 percent to a projected 3.2 percent in 2016. This performance is related to a decline in activity in the housing sector and the Public Sector Investment Programme.
The services sector is expected to expand by 1.3 percent, with growth driven by the electricity, water, finance and insurance, and transport and storage sectors. The sector’s share of GDP continues to remain above 40 percent, expressed the Finance Minister.

Drug Addiction

September 30, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Today we take a look at one of the ills affecting out society on a daily basis, drug addiction.

Drug addiction is an actual disease, although some people might argue that it is not. It is chronic and often relapsing, affecting the brain and causing compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences to the drug addict and those around them. Drug addiction is in actuality a brain disease because the abuse of drugs leads to changes in the structure and function of the brain. Although it is true that for most people the initial decision to take drugs is voluntary, over time the changes in the brain caused by repeated drug abuse can affect a person’s self-control and ability to make sound decisions, and at the same time create an intense impulse to take drugs.

Persons are often times faced with the decision to quit cold turkey or lose every thing they have and because this disease is so debilitating, most persons end up suffering from the latter.

The issue is not that persons do not want to quit, but they do not know where to find or how to access the right treatment. Nor do some believe that they are suffering from an illness, hence they do not think that they need treatment. It must be noted that this is a disease and it can be treated. Treatment is also very easy to find.

A visit to the Department of Psychiatry at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation and a talk with one of the physicians there is the first step to getting the help you need. Don’t wait!

The Talented Poonam Singh Wages War Against Suicide

September 19, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

She carries herself with such sophistication that she easily exudes an aura that appeals to the masses. It might have been acquired over time but she owns it so well you’d think she was born with it.
She is Poonam Singh. Singh is swiftly becoming a true Guyanese icon – a patriotic personality who sells Guyana very well.
If you don’t know of her then you have been under a rock in a land very far away that is void of technology.
One listen to her soulful and very catchy vocal single and you would immediately want to know more about this young lady.
Her lyrical masterpiece has understandably been making waves throughout Guyana and even further a field and you’ll have no question about her origin when you hear it, or see the supporting video for that matter. It is appropriately titled G.U.Y.A.N.A and basically tells a story about the beauty of Guyana, a country touted to have six united races.
Singh, who is of East Indian descent and hails from the West Bank of Demerara, first shot to fame in 2011 when she competed in the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GTT) Jingles and Song competition.
She placed second but her voice and stage presence certainly left an indelible mark in the minds of many.
This stunning songbird was not fazed because she didn’t claim the coveted jingles crown, in fact, she was satisfied that she had done her best and that was good enough for her.
Born on February 19, 1995, Singh revealed that she had long embraced the notion that “when I get older I will never pursue something that I don’t love.”
She, moreover, has been living by the Maya Angelou inspired mantra “success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it”.
Still a very young and vibrant young woman, she ventured off to pursue tertiary education at the University of Guyana. Communication Studies was her choice as she saw this as an initial step to venturing into law studies. She has since graduated with a diploma and is now pursuing her law degree from the University of London through Nations University of Law.
It might have been the genuine exposures about herself on social media that made her rather suitable to represent Guyana at a level the she would have never imagined.
Poonam was randomly, or so it may seem, selected to represent Guyana as Miss Global International-Guyana. Had she been told she was born for a life of pageantry she would have fiercely disagreed.
“If you told me in 2015 that I was going to be the next Miss Global International- Guyana, I would’ve stared at you until you changed your statement. Mainly because, I always thought, ‘oh pageants are for tall, beautiful girls with perfectly light skin and an exquisite body’. But now that I’m the new Queen I realize that it is really and truly not about a perfect body or a perfect face,” Poonam explained.
She was selected for the task through a screening process by the directing manager of Miss Global International-Guyana, Mr. Hashim Ali. And according to Poonam, “I was very happy because I thought it would’ve been a perfect way to get my voice out there…”
She hopes through this avenue she would be able to speak up about something that she recognizes as a challenge to her homeland – suicide. Guyana has long been dubbed ‘the suicide capital of the world’.
The World Health Organisation in its 2009 Report rated Guyana as the country with the highest rate of suicide in South America and the Caribbean. Although Government has disputed some of the claims about the local suicide rate, the number of cases reported has been viewed by Poonam as entirely too many for her native land.
Moreover, armed with the Miss Global International-Guyana Title, Poonam anticipates that she will be able to start a movement that will ultimately help to bring an end to suicide in this part of the world.
Her aim is to create a group where persons overwhelmed by suicidal thoughts or would have lost someone to suicide can reach out to others who are suffering. Among her primary targets will be school children. Moreover, Poonam has a plan to visit schools across Guyana and have motivational talks with children. She revealed that her intent is to “ensure at the end of the day, they can at least see that life is a precious gift that should be valued.”
Poonam in her noble quest embraces the notion that, “People will forget what you say to them but they will never forget how you made them feel. So if I can make them feel better, then my mission will definitely be accomplished.”

Suicide- Do Caribbean Businesses Have A Responsibility For Prevention

September 19, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

There is a common belief throughout the Caribbean region that if someone wants to commit suicide, they will find a way to do it, even if it is at their job or someone else’s business place.
But is it possible however, that at some future date, a bereaved family member could sue a business on the basis that they could have prevented the person from committing suicide?
Even without the possibility of a lawsuit, which business wants the negative publicity of someone committing suicide on their premises?
In addition, dealing with the aftermath of a suicide can be considerable and would involve; blocking off the area where the suicide occurred, dealing with the police, having to clean up the affected area, providing counseling for employees or other persons on the premises who witnessed the suicide, providing medical assistance to anyone who might have been injured during the suicide, maybe having to go to court if there is a coroner’s inquest and if it is in a hotel possibly having to provide rebates to guests who witnessed the suicide, along with the negative publicity.
Suicide on a Company’s premises is therefore clearly a potential issue that all businesses should address, with the focus being on suicide prevention. Within the overall issue of suicide prevention there are however two issues to address; persons who use a business place to commit their act of suicide and employees who commit suicide and the claim that they were driven to it by their job. The first issue is clearly a security issue and dealing with this begins with a security assessment that recognizes that suicide on premises is a potential risk.
There are several means by which people commit suicide with the most common in the Caribbean being the ingestion of a poisonous substance, by hanging or by jumping from a high location. Other methods used, though less common in the Caribbean include, willful drug overdose, carbon monoxide poisoning from car exhausts, purposely inhaling fumes from an oven that is on, slitting of wrists and shooting one’s self.
According to the National Suicide Prevention Strategy for England 2006, “research has indicated that the likelihood of taking one’s life will depend to some extent on the ease of access to, and knowledge of, effective means. One reason is that suicidal behavior is sometimes impulsive so that if a lethal method is not immediately available a suicidal act can be prevented”. Consequently, any suicide prevention strategy for a business in the Caribbean must take cognizance of the methods used for committing suicide and then identify systems to prevent it without impairing the overall operation of the business.
Clearly where a business uses poisonous substances in their daily operation, the business must have operational procedures in place that ensure that access to these substances are controlled and only allowed to persons to who have a legitimate need to use these substances. The procedures must however go beyond simply being written procedures but be actively enforced. Too often in the Caribbean, we see where an area is supposed to be kept locked and instead the area is left open sometimes with the keys hanging in the lock, simply because the person in charge finds it too onerous to have to repeatedly get up and open then close the area. The excuse that is sometimes given is that “I am sitting here near to the entrance so I can see who goes to the entrance”. While that may sound plausible, is the person really looking at the entrance all the time or are they periodically distracted by telephone calls or persons coming to speak with them?
Recognizing that jumping from high places is another common method of suicide; businesses need to consider how they can limit the access to these high places. The most obvious conclusion would be to simply ensure that the doors leading to rooftops or high ledges are always kept locked. However, while it might seem both obvious and suicide-preventative to lock exits to high ledges or seal doors to some hallways, it may not be allowable under certain fire and safety codes.
As a result, other options should be explored. Many years ago, I was staying in a hotel in Germany and noticed that outside all the windows was mesh netting. Upon enquiry I was told it was to stop persons from jumping out the windows in a suicide attempt. Now this netting gave the hotel exterior an appearance of being encased in a giant fish net. Since that time hotel designers have developed more aesthetically pleasing suicide prevention devices. Among these are artistic metal bars and also angled nets below windows that are based on the premise that you cannot jump far enough outward to escape being caught by the net. Some international hotels now seal the windows to all guest rooms so that they cannot be opened or only allow windows to be opened by several inches so fresh air can enter but a person cannot jump out.
Any suicide prevention strategies for a business must include staff awareness through education. Staff ought to be taught what the potential signs to look for are and then what action to take. Very often companies train their staff to alert for various things and then tell them to inform their supervisor. The poor supervisor, however, has no idea of what to do when staff comes to them with the concern. Any training therefore must also extend to providing supervisors and managers with clear guidelines on actions to take.

About the Author
Brian Ramsey has a B.A. in Accounting & Management, along with an M.B.A. in Finance and over 29 years in the Caribbean security field. He is the Regional Development Director for Amalgamated Security Services Limited which operates in Grenada, Barbados, St Lucia, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago. He can be contacted at

Getting Home Safely

August 9, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

In each island, there are certain times of the year when nationals who live abroad return in large numbers to visit. These times of the year invariably coincide with the festive periods such as Christmas, Mashramani in Guyana, Jazz Festival in St Lucia, and Carnival time in Trinidad.
Very often, these returning nationals come with multiple large suitcases usually containing gifts for family and friends; and many of the flights into the Caribbean from metropolitan countries arrive in the late evening and night. Because of when most international airports in the Caribbean were built, the airport is often a considerable distance from the capital city and has a roadway that may have many lonely stretches.
This is the case when travelling from Timehri to Georgetown in Guyana, and from Hewanorra to Castries in St Lucia.
Criminals take note of these facts and so we periodically hear of persons being robbed when coming from the airport. T
hese criminals have worked out that apart from the items that may be contained in the suitcases, the returning national is likely to have a large amount of foreign currency, and that currency alone is a big attraction.
Being robbed on the way home from the airport certainly spoils the joy of the homecoming both for the visitor and the family who has been waiting to see their loved one.
In this article, we will provide some advice on how to avoid being robbed and so get home safely.
One of the easiest measures for avoiding being robbed when coming from the airport is to ask the visitor to arrange their travel plans so that their flight arrives in the day time. Many times when booking flights, individuals do not consider the security risk of having to travel from the airport at night or they may find that the flight which lands at night is cheaper and so they book that flight.
When a family member indicates that they plan to visit, you can suggest to them that they choose a flight that arrives during the day and indicate the reason why.
Sport Utility Vehicles and large open tray pickup trucks have become very popular in the Caribbean. When one has to go to the airport to collect a family member from abroad, there is the natural inclination to use the open tray pickup, especially if it is known that the particular family member tends to travel with many pieces of luggage or large items of luggage.
The open tray of the pickup certainly makes it easy to load the luggage. Unfortunately, that open tray makes the luggage visible and identifies to the bandit that the vehicle is a potential target. When collecting persons from the airport, it is much better to use a vehicle that has an enclosed trunk and if a pickup is used, then it should be one that has a covering for the tray area.
It is a good idea to get another car to accompany you, both for help in transporting the luggage and for company in case something happens to your vehicle along the road. The presence of another vehicle immediately behind your vehicle makes it more difficult for robbers to force you to stop and also provides more persons for bandits to have to control, thus making you a less inviting target.
Caribbean people are very expressive, and when at the airport you can easily tell when a family member who lives abroad returns to the native country, the shouts of joy and the hugs and kisses are plentiful. At times, after the luggage has been loaded and everyone boards the vehicle(s), someone will suggest stopping along the way for a welcome home drink. The temptation to stop while en route should, however, be avoided, as that makes it easy for the bandits to get physically close. They no longer have to work out how to force the vehicle to a stop, instead they simply invade the group’s presence when they have stopped at a roadside restaurant or bar.
Once the luggage has been loaded, the entire group should head straight for the hotel or home. Along the way the driver should periodically be looking in the rear to see if there are any vehicles that are following them. When the journey is at night this can be difficult as the darkness prevents easy identification of vehicles that are behind you. One method for being able to identify following vehicles is to look in the rear immediately as you pass a street light, the vehicle that is following will also pass under that street light and for the brief period the illumination from the light will allow you to discern features of the following vehicle.
After some distance, the process should be repeated and the driver can then tell if the same vehicle is still behind them. Another method for discerning if there is a vehicle that is clearly following you, is to pay attention to the shape of the headlights of vehicles that are behind you. As vehicle manufacturers try to differentiate their vehicles, one of the features that they modify are the headlights and so increasingly vehicle headlights have different shapes, allowing you to distinguish different vehicles at night.
When a driver is of the belief that they are being followed and they have checked to make sure that there is a good reason for the belief, then the group should immediately stop at the nearest safe haven, which would usually be the nearest police or fire station, hospital or large open business that has a large amount of people present.
Of course being able to stop at the nearest safe haven requires that drivers pay attention to the location of possible safe havens when driving so that they will know the location in an emergency.
On reaching home, individuals should not lower their guard at the gate as robbers have been known to follow their intended target to their homes. Only when the luggage has been loaded and everyone is inside should one say, yes we got home safely.

In spite of the changing times Our Folklore lives on…

July 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Folklore can be defined as the preservation of stories, practices and beliefs that have been passed down orally from the previous generations. Further, it is what separates cultures from others and contributes to what defines us as a people.

One who is familiar with Guyana, its people and its rich diversity, can assume that it is loaded with culture and folklore  indeed, this assumption is true however, to some extent, as Guyanese folklore has been fading into the sunset.

One can say that the clueless expressions on the faces of some when the word“Baccoo” or “Moongazer” is mentioned, is evidence of this.

For those clueless faces, the Baccoo, according to some, is a very short and stout man. There is a long association with our early Dutch history with this Baccoo tale.

Some curious minded Guyanese have drawn a link to a Nigerian’s belief. This little devil may be green or have a beard like the leprechaun we see in movies. He is kept by the evil dwellers to use when necessary to hurt or to harm.

A Baccoo is expensive to keep. They say he requires gallons of milk and bananas on a daily basis. Failure by its masters to satisfy his greedy needs, results in catastrophic ends. Once well- maintained, he grants his keepers riches.

Meanwhile, the Moongazer, is the giant that roams mostly about the shorelines staring at the moon as he walks. It is said that should he step on someone, they will be damned into madness until they die. Many believe that the Moongazer story was birthed to keep island children away from the shorelines.

While Guyana might top the list when it comes to a nation with intriguing  folklore, Guyanese over the years have adapted to foreign folklores and beliefs as the costumes we buy, anxiously awaiting Halloween or the many stockings we hang up the night before Christmas eagerly awaiting Kris Kringle, can attest to this.

However, many folklorists see nothing wrong with this since learning other cultures and folklores aids in our ability to fraternise, adapt and understand other nations and their people.

Many nations have been keeping their folklore alive through cinematic productions. Guyana on the other hand, has begun to raise its curtains once again adapting to this new medium.

With the launching of the ‘Ole Higue’ Movie last February in Georgetown, local folklorists and the elderly societies can now breathe a sigh of relief. It seems like Guyana’s folklore is bouncing back  through cinema.

For those who may not know what an Ole Higue is, the elders of the Caribbean sometimes refer to it as ‘Soucouyant’, a shape-shifting character who appears mostly as a reclusive old woman by day but when the sun sets, that’s when she gets into creepy-mode  and she strips off her wrinkled skin and places it into a mortar away from wandering eyes.

Then, in her true form, as a fireball (sometimes called a “Fire-Rass”),flies across the dark sky in search of a victim. She can enter the home of her victim through cracks, crevices or keyholes and sucks the blood from her victims,  preferably new-borns,  while they sleep, leaving behind blue-black marks.

She then trades her victims’ blood for evil powers with the demon whom the elders say, nestles within the silk-cotton tree.

This story of the Ole Higue has managed to instil a few habits into some Guyanese children  who are aware of the Ole Higue, that is  to remember to close their windows before they go to bed; the Ole Higue tale has mothers rushing to calm their babies when they cry so as to not attract its attention; and as commonly practiced in various parts of the rural areas, the placing of a coconut broom in close proximity of new-borns to repel the blood-sucking creature.

While there are many ways listed by Guyanese to capture an Ole Higue, there are two methods that the elders would advise; to find the skin of the Ole Higue and lace it with pepper. When it tries to wear its skin again it is trouble! A song is then sung, “Skin, skin, yuh nah know me? Why yuh a bite up me so?”

Elders would describe this other method as the easiest way to catch an Ole Higue: to spill rice grains on the floor infront of your front door. As the Ole-Higue enters your house she will be forced to count every rice grain.

A smart Guyanese will therefore ensure there is a large heap of rice on the floor and no bags in sight. As a result the Ole-Higue will have to pick up the grains with her right hand and place counted grains in her left hand.

Since her hands can only hold so many rice grains, it is only a matter of time before the grains begin to fall back to the ground and the process begins again. When the home owner awakes the next morning he/she should find very tired and incredibly distressed Ole-Higue counting rice. At this point in time a smart Guyanese will beat the woman to death with a special anti-Ole-Higue broom.

Encapsulating this phenomenon is the movie “Ole Higue. Produced by SSignal productions, it was cited as a refreshing, ground-breaking local film”. The movie also managed to achieve additional positive reviews as the production crew is currently travelling the country giving Guyanese a sneak peek of the bone tingling thriller.

It was written and directed by veteran music creator, Bonny Alves, and was produced by his wife, the multi-talented, Charmaine Blackman-Alves, both of SSignal Productions.

The setting for the movie is a little community along the Eastern Bank of the Demerara River, called Agricola, and the movie opens with a little girl and her brother heading home from school when they heard an old woman’s cry for help.

Despite her brother’s caution of their mother’s warning that one should not speak to strangers, she flashed back to her mother’s words to always be kind towards the elderly. So she proceeded. Our Good Samaritan was rewarded with a dark and repulsive boon:  the curse of the “Ole Higue”.

The torment subsequently began, the urge to seek and consume the blood of the children residing in the community began to raise to uncontrollable heights.  She wreaked havoc left, right and centre.

In addition to enlivening the Ole Higue, Alves also incorporated elements of another character in Guyanese Folklore- the Obeah Man/ Shaman with dark powers. This character adds fuel to the fire and makes this movie an engrossing must-see Guyanese film.

It would also be interesting to see the Baccoo and Moongazer come to life on the big screen, but for now  baby steps, we will get there, eventually.

It is also the hope of many Guyanese that this resurgence of Guyanese films centered on Guyanese folklore leaves a mark and becomes sustainable. Per chance, these features will encourage the current and new generation of Guyanese to delve deeper into the origins of this truly amazing and mystical culture that Guyanese share, before folklore becomes a remnant of generations past.



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