The Caribbean Development Bank and Guyana’s agenda
The coalition administration had its first opportunity recently to address the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and outline its strategic agenda for the development of Guyana and its engagement and partnership with the Bank in pursuit of that agenda.
It was noted however that the 46th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Bank was being held at a time when there is a crisis of confidence and great uncertainty in the global economy.
Commodity prices and financial markets remain volatile and concerns have intensified over China’s transition to more sustainable and balanced growth. While recent data and policy actions give rise to renewed hope and expectation, recovery of the global economy remains disappointing.
According to Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, the growth rate is at its lowest since 2009 and future growth has been revised downwards. He said that into these headwinds have sailed the Caribbean economies, whose vulnerability has been exposed by their openness – characterized by their high import dependence and narrow range of exports.
In the case of Guyana, growth of three percent was recorded in 2015 and the forecast for 2016 has been pegged at 4.4 percent. Jordan commented that this compares favourably with the regional forecast for Latin America and the Caribbean of less than 1 percent.
The Finance Minister said that Guyana, which is a commodity dependent country, has a narrow revenue base. As such, he said that like most Caribbean countries, it is operating within inadequate fiscal space and, therefore, has restricted flexibility to re-allocate funds.
To expand the fiscal space, the Minister said that there will be need to reduce waste and stamp out corruption within the public sector among other measures.
He expressed, “We have to ensure that our taxpayers’ money is accurately accounted for and spent in the most efficient and productive manner and that we create opportunities for the prosperity of our people, as crafted in our Vision 2020 manifesto.”
Jordan continued, “Intrinsic to this strategic trajectory to 2020 and beyond, is the theme of ‘A good life in a green economy’ underpinned by robust economic growth that is equitable distribution, good governance and environmental sustainability.”
Jordan articulated that Guyana Vision 2020 articulates Government’s developmental priorities and central to this is linking the Coastland to the Hinterland through Infrastructural and Social and Human Development.
He said that the Government is promoting greater integration between the hinterland and the coastland of Guyana.
The hinterland comprises over three- quarters of Guyana’s territory. The Finance Minister said that in order for Guyana to realize holistic, comprehensive and sustainable development, the Government is focusing on bridging the spatial and developmental divide that exists within the country.
In this regard, he said that the Government is currently developing four new towns and is examining several other areas for township. They are expected to become thriving economic centres overtime.
Secondly, the Government is focusing on developing infrastructure. Non-traditional economic activities, particularly value-added industries, often require more sophisticated inputs than traditional primary industries.
They need reliable electricity, water, telecommunications, and the ability to transport inputs and outputs. The Finance Minister said that the country’s Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP) for 2016 reflects this thrust as Government is investing over 75 percent of the budgetary allocations in this area.
Thirdly, as it relates to renewable energy, the Government continues to pursue a comprehensive energy matrix. It is expected that, by the end of 2016, one of the new towns, Bartica, willbecome energy self- sufficient with the construction of the first solar energy farm in Guyana.
Additionally, the Government has advanced dialogue with investors to establish a 25 megawatt wind farm on the Atlantic Coast of Guyana.
Fourthly, the health and education sectors are being re-examined. Jordan reminded that building an educated, healthy workforce is crucial towards ensuring that businesses can find employees with the skills required to contribute meaningfully to their vision and mission.
To this end, he said that plans are underway to develop a comprehensive technical and vocational programme; modernize the primary and secondary curricula and institutions; and upgrade the educational programme and facility within the University of Guyana.
To respond to health issues of the nation including high infant and maternal mortality; pandemics such as Zika and Chikungunya; and incidences of chronic non-communicable diseases; and suicide, the Government is investing significant resources in expanding health care facilities, with emphasis on maternal and child health; increasing the availability of drugs and medical supplies; and intensifying training, among medical professionals.
To finance the Government’s ambitious programme, Jordan asserted that there is need to broaden the tax-base, improve tax collection, develop public private initiatives and expand the role of development partners in financing these projects.
In this regard, he informed that the Government has recently concluded an assessment of the current tax system. The recommendations are being reviewed with the aim of speedy implementation.
He said that new policy guidelines for pursuing Public Private Partnerships are being promulgated, while the business environment is being improved to attract greater foreign and domestic investment.
“As a founding member of the Bank, we value our relationship with CDB highly. The Bank remains a fundamental development partner in supporting Guyana’s national developmental agenda. In recognition of this, mere months after its accession to Office, the new APNU+AFC Government was extremely pleased to welcome a high-level team, led by the President. Our fruitful engagement led to the rapid preparation of a Mid- Term Review Strategy Paper for Guyana,” expressed the Minister.