Protection of people first priority in economic recovery, rebuilding – Finance Minister


While countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) continue to grapple with some of the worst fallouts from the COVID-19 pandemic, Senior Minister within the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance Dr. Ashni Singh has emphasised that the protection of people must be the first priority as countries strive for economic recovery and rebuilding.

The Senior Minister said this during a virtual high-level meeting on Tuesday which was convened as part of the 2021 Annual Meetings of the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

According to reports from both international financial institutions, the LAC region has been hardest hit by the COVId-19 pandemic. Cognisant of that reality, efforts are being made to springboard recovery efforts in the region.

While presenting at the forum, Dr. Singh emphasised the economic recovery must be pursued amid actions that ensure people are kept alive, safe and well.

“This necessitates ensuring: adequate capacity in the health care system; access by the entire population to food, potable water, and sanitation, especially given the ongoing threat to livelihood faced by the most vulnerable; and access to vaccines given the scientific evidence on vaccine efficacy,” he stated.

Notably, earlier on Tuesday, the IMF released its new World Economic Outlook report. And in that report, the IMF emphasised that indeed, protecting people’s lives should be the foremost policy priority and as such, widespread COVID-19 vaccination campaigns were imperative.

To this end, Dr. Singh detailed that Guyana has spared no efforts in securing vaccines to guarantee the safety of the population. As of Tuesday, Guyana managed to achieve first dose coverage of 71 percent and second dose coverage of 42 within the adult population. In the adolescent population (children aged older than 12), there has been 35 percent first dose coverage and 20 percent second dose coverage.

Having established that people’s lives must be saved, Dr. Singh went onto to explain that countries must focus on minimising damage to their economies. This is particularly important, Dr. Singh explained, because any damages to the economies may result in adverse implications for people- such as losing their jobs and livelihoods, rendering them unable to provide for themselves and loved ones.

To contain damage to the economy, Dr. Singh said that likely actions would include a phased reopening of the economy, injecting essential liquidity and resuming some economic activity by way of providing cash grants for example, and to also incentivise private sector activity.

And, Guyana has pursued these actions and these have contributed to the local economy’s ability to remain afloat. Dr. Singh noted that the 14.5 per cent economic growth report by the Finance Ministry’s Mid-Year report evidenced this.

Importantly too, the 2021 IMF economic growth projections for Guyana have increased despite the adverse implications of the nationwide flooding earlier this year coupled with the enduring COVID-19 pandemic, illustrating that Guyana will continue to lead economic growth in the region.

Dr. Singh, however, posited that these short-term actions may not be enough and that long term planning is crucial.

“…we must lay the foundation for a full recovery and sustained economic growth in the medium and longer term, by addressing and alleviating the most critical prevailing impediments to growth.

“In many countries, these will include catalytic infrastructure, human capital development, technological advances, and the business environment,” he stated.

In Guyana’s case, he assured other panellists that efforts are being made to create a well-diversified and resilient economy going forward.

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