Pres. Ali: Easing soaring food prices, sustainable growth focus of gov’t amid positive World Bank projections

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By Vishani Ragobeer

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President Dr. Irfaan Ali has highlighted that his government is focused on ensuring that the positive economic growth projected for Guyana is sustained in the long term but he also emphasised that efforts are being made to ease the current surge in the prices of goods.

A new World Bank report, released on Tuesday, stated that Guyana’s economic outlook remains positive and it is now projected that the country’s growth will nearly double in 2022.

The growth expected in 2022 and the positive growth experiences over the past few years, despite the adverse economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been linked to Guyana’s new oil and gas sector.

Reacting to the World Bank’s new projection at the sidelines of an event on Tuesday, President Ali said that he has consistently talked up the opportunities that lie ahead of Guyana.

But he pointed out that these opportunities must extend beyond short term gains from the country’s nascent oil and gas sector.

“… my deep concentration now is to ensure that we build on those opportunities, we make those sectors competitive, we invest in those sectors and we make a diversified sustainable growth pathway that is sustained,” the Head-of- State emphasised.

This is not the first time the President has spoken about ensuring that the economy is diversified to prevent a heavy dependence on the oil and gas sector. Previously, he talked up Guyana’s agriculture and tourism prowess and more recently, he has talked up the manufacturing sector.

And on Tuesday, he also noted that he wants to see each region being developed.

INFLATION

While these efforts are linked to longer-term planning and development, there is currently a crucial issue facing many Guyanese: inflation.

Inflation, in simple terms, refers to the increase in the prices for goods and services. With inflation, the same amount of money paid for goods and services at an earlier period will cover the cost of fewer of those goods and services.

Locally, there have been complaints about the rising cost of goods in particular.

In response to this, the News Room reported that Director-General of the Guyana’s Competition and Consumer Affairs Commission Anil Sukdeo said that nothing can be done about the pricing.

He explained that the country does not have price controls which are government regulations on the maximum price to be charged for goods and services, especially during periods of inflation.

What Guyana has is a “free market” which allows for competitive pricing.

On Tuesday, however, President Ali said that the increase in prices is linked to global inflation which has emerged from challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. This global inflation has contributed to increased shipping costs that leads to an increase in the cost of imported goods.

And even though some of the goods with increased prices are not imported but are produced locally (such as plantains), the President explained that fertilisers and pesticides needed to produce these goods are imported. And those chemicals are affected by global inflation.

Still, he acknowledged this issue of inflation and assured Guyanese that the government is seeking to address this.

“… we are now working on the budget as you know and we are examining different initiatives that we can further add to the menu of measures that we have already announced to support this,” Dr. Ali stated.

He would not reveal what those initiatives are but ruled out a possible system of price control. Such a system, he said, did not serve Guyana well in the past.

Last week, Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh led budget consultations at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC). And, he told the News Room that the work was focused on having the budget ready as soon as possible but stopped short of offering any dates.

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