Budget 2012 designed to provide golden opportunities for Guyana - says Minister Robert Persaud
GOVERNING People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Member of Parliament and Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Robert Persaud, in his presentation in the budget debate 2012 yesterday, said the budget will certainly take the country forward and providing opportunities for the people. In the third day of the budget debate in the National Assembly, Persaud joined his colleagues in commending and congratulating the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, for “presenting to us yet another national budget which will certainly take our country and our people forward”.
He said the 2012 budget has been framed in new political circumstances, but also in very tough global financial situations, and when one goes through the national budget, he would see that there are certain underlying themes, including fulfillment of promises and programmes that the PPP/C administration would have made in successive elections, and most recently, for the 2011 Elections.
“Also looking in terms of modernizing and transforming the traditional sectors of our economy, also creating new opportunities and opening, as it were, new economic growth poles in our society; and an important thrust of the 2012 budget has been creating and enhancing a society in which we see much more compassion, providing opportunities for all our people,” he said.
He said, “If we look in terms of constructing this society, I am sure all of us would agree that it is still a work in progress; but to create the impression that we have not made that effort, and have not made considerable achievements, I think would be far from the reality.
Alluding to the opposition, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) MP, Dr. Rupert Roopnarine, in his presentation touching on governance, Persaud alluded to the ongoing inter-party dialogue process and the efforts to reach out.
He said Roopnarine, who pointed in his discourse to governance and the number of institutions that are not adequately functioning or are yet to be composed, omitted some important facts.
He said from June 2011, then President Bharrat Jagdeo, through the Head of the Presidential Secretariat, had written to the Leader of the Opposition for names to chair the Human Rights Commission and there was no response; and more recently, President Donald Ramotar would have invited and met the Leader of the Opposition to look at all outstanding constitutional appointments which require consultation and interaction, including the Chancellor and Chief Justice, the composition of the National Broadcasting Authority, and the vacancy at GECOM.
“To date there has been no response from the Honourable Leader of the Opposition,” Persaud pointed out.
As part of the dialogue process that was taking place, he added, the issue of GECOM reform was raised and was also put on the agenda, and it was anticipated that the political parties would provide submissions on the reform.
“So when we talk about ensuring that we build and we enhance the governance structure, when we want institutions to work, it requires participation, it requires involvement, as provided for in our Constitution,” he underlined.
“I cite these examples because if we are going to talk about constructing and building a society of inclusiveness, of involvement, of participation, we must be genuine and consistent. Not consistent only in our speech, not consistent only in lip service, but also consistent in action, in delivering on what we want for our nation,” he said.
Persaud reiterated that the PPP/C and the government remain open to suggestions and ideas, and “to be involved in a dialogue mechanism and processes that will see us deliver the type of society that we all yearn for.”
In terms of creating opportunities, he said, “We can only inspire hope and create that sense of pride if we provide our people with the opportunities that they need, if we continue to ensure that the traditional sectors of our economy and traditional activities, be it in agriculture, bauxite and forestry, continue to record growth, but also be in a position in which they can withstand internal as well as external dynamics.”
Persaud said they also need to look at new growth areas, of which a significant amount is taking place within the natural resources and the environment sectors.
Looking at the area of extractive industries, Minister Persaud said since 2006 to the present, the entire mining sector has increased output by as much as 42 percent.
The minister recalled that, in 1991, bauxite production was around 780,000 tonnes per annum; last year, it was above 1.8 million tonnes; and this year, it is set to be in excess of 2 million tonnes; and they are also looking at the diversification of products using bauxite deposits.
In terms of gold mining, he said mining and natural resources activities bring with them not only the challenges of opportunities, but also challenges in terms of social and economic issues.
“I wish to encourage the National Assembly to salute and applaud the mining community in our country for their perseverance,” he said, reminding them of the hardships miners faced, since only over the past few years “we have seen a resurgence in gold price creating opportunities”.
“…but they have worked to turn around a sector that is today making considerable contribution to our national wealth,” he applauded.
However, he said, “We will not be complacent on the challenges that are out there, we have to deal with the environmental issues.”
In terms of the development of natural resources and dealing with the challenges to the environment, he said, “The creation of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment itself is recognition by the PPP/C that we needed to ensure there is better coordination, that there is better oversight and that there is harmonization in terms of policies within the natural resources sector, and also in terms of the interface with the environmental sector.”
As for reference made to there not being adequate allocation in the area of environmental enhancement and solid waste, he spoke of in excess of $600M provided for the solid waste disposal project, and another project implemented by the Housing and Water Ministry at a cost of more than $500M, for revamping the sewerage system.
Touching on the EPA, he said this will have to be strengthened and equipped to deal with some of the new areas, including petroleum exploration activities.
“While we can talk about our thrust in enhancing and developing a very vibrant and very competitive extractive industry, we want to ensure that this industry not only satisfies our national requirements, but that it also meets the best international standards and practices,” he pointed out.
Persaud noted that this is given much more focus and emphasis in the context of the low carbon development strategies, and more particularly the engagement with the Kingdom of Norway, with its specific requirements.
“What that shows the international community is here is a country with vast natural wealth, that can pursue its development, and at the same time, can offer itself as a model in which we are able to preserve and enhance and ensure that our eco systems are not compromised, and that is the type of balance that we have been pursuing, and that is the type of approach we will be taking in terms of the development of the natural resources sector and in terms of the management of the environment,” he said.
Persaud said the administration will continue to reach out to international bodies and institutions, noting that they just started an engagement with the Commonwealth Secretariat to improve the institutional framework in terms of the overall management of the mining sector, with focus on the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), and also are in the process of engaging the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. A team will be visiting Guyana in another two weeks to commence negotiations.
The minister said their work in the area of climate change continues and it has been accelerated, and over the last year there has been considerable progress.
He said presently, there is a representative of the Government of Norway in Guyana.
“They are also here in terms of assessing the work we are doing because we are moving into our third evaluation for the third tranche of another US$40M; and so far, all the work we have done shows that we have been able to maintain those commitments.”
He also said work will continue in areas such as wildlife management, updating regulations, national parks and land management.
“Just recently we were able to conclude an arrangement with the Government of Germany whereby we have benefitted from a 4 million euros grant, and another 5.4 million euros grant has been allocated, and that has allowed us to create the first Protected Areas Commission,” he disclosed.
Minister Persaud said they are working with the EU in implementing a 3 million euros project to create a National Integrated Land Management System.
“Looking at the 2012 budget, we have made provisions in terms of addressing these very critical issues in terms of taking our country forward, and we can all look forward to these initiatives bringing about the type of development and returns that all of us would want,” he said.
“We have this golden opportunity to take our country to new heights, certainly to heights in which we can all look forward to a Guyana that we are proud of, and one in which we can be confident for the future of all our people,” he said.