Vol. 22
APNU PROPOSES A NEW ‘SOCIAL CONTRACT’ A Partnership for National Unity is proposing a new ‗social contract‘ in order to promote national unity, ensure human safety and foster economic development. The People‘s Progressive Party/ Civic administration has demonstrated that it is incapable of solving the country‘s current crises on its own. The economic crisis has lowered workers‘ standard of living. Protests by two of the country‘s largest trade unions – the Guyana Public Service Union and the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union – have demonstrated how labour relations between the state and its workers have degenerated. The ranks of unemployed young people are increasing. Poverty is rampant. The World Bank, in its 2014 World Development Report, rated Guyana as the second poorest country in CARICOM. The Report showed that, with a Gross National Income (GNI) of US$3,410 per capita, Guyana compared unfavourably with The Bahamas at US$21,280 per capita, Suriname at US$8,480 per capita and, indeed, with all other CARICOM states except Haiti. The security crisis has disproportionately hurt the poor. Guyanese are pained by the surge in serious crimes last year, 2013. There were 1,038 reports of robbery under arms at the end of November 2013, representing a seven per cent increase over the same period in 2012. There was an increase in the number of armed robberies involving the use of firearms by 16 per cent. Other serious crimes – including banditry in the hinterland, murder, piracy, fatalities on the roads and interpersonal violence – proliferated. APNU, therefore, proposes a new ‗social contract‘ by which the major sections of society – including the government; political opposition; trade unions; private sector and civil society – can come together to seek agreement on a broad national programme to move the country forward. A ‗social contract‘ could be the main means of combining the talents of a wider constituency and of creating the conditions for social cooperation and economic progress. The three-fold purpose of such a contract would be to reach a broad consensus on the goals of national development; to establish a sustainable institutional architecture and to create effective policy instruments for the achievement of the objectives of the ‗contract.‘

APNU now calls on the PPPC administration to honour its obligations to: undertake and continue tripartite consultations with workers‘ and employers‘ organisations in order to promote increased production and productivity in accordance with The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas Establishing the Caribbean Community; establish, in accordance with CARICOM‘s Charter of Civil Society for the Caribbean Community, ―… a framework for genuine consultation among the social partners in order to reach common understandings on and support for the objectives, contents and implementation of national economic and social programmes and their respective roles and responsibilities in good governance;” and, strengthen the mechanisms for tripartite consultation in accordance with ILO Convention No. 150 on Labour administration, 1978 that provides for an effective system of Labour Administration. These functions and responsibilities can be coordinated properly with the participation of workers and employers and their organisations. APNU calls on the PPP/C to seriously re-examine the prospects for the future relationship between citizens and the state. It proposes that a new ‗social contract‘ be agreed upon in order to address Guyana‘s pressing political, economic and social problems and to foster greater unity, security and progress.

On basis of per capita income…World Bank ranks Guyana second poorest in Caricom
Stabroek News, December 31, 2013 With a Gross National Income (GNI) of just US$3, 410 per capita, the World Bank in its 2014 World Development Report rated Guyana among the least wealthy in CARICOM. This figure is in stark contrast to that of Guyana‘s fellow CARICOM country, The Bahamas, whose GNI is recorded as US$21,280 per capita, making it the wealthiest CARICOM country. According to the World Bank, Guyana is the second poorest country in Caricom but far ahead of Haiti, which has a GNI of US$760 per capita. ―For 2012, the economy expanded by 3.7% down from 4.5% in 2011 and 4.4% in 2010.‖ The Bank however noted the economy‘s expansion in 2013 which it attributed to increased activity in rice and gold production, as well as improvement in the manufacturing sector. The Bahamas‘s economic prosperity, on the other hand, is attributed mostly to its vast tourism sector which accounts for over 60% of the Bahamian Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and creates jobs for more than fifty percent of the country‘s workforce. The island‘s financial services sector is the second most vibrant and accounts for about 15% of its GDP. Guyana was also outperformed by Trinidad and Tobago which registered a GNI of US$14,400 per capita. In fact, the twin-island state has been doing so well that the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2011 removed it from its list of developing countries.

The country‘s economy is driven by its petroleum industry, although its manufacturing and tourism sectors are also very important. St Kitts and Nevis also did well, registering a GNI of US$13,330 per capita. Tourism and manufacturing are the main drivers behind the twin-island federation‘s development, after sugar cultivation, owing to growing production costs and falling world market prices, was reduced. The tourism sector has been doing particularly well, and the island has seen tourist arrivals expand from 379,473 in 2007 to 587,479 in 2009. It is also tourism which helped Antigua and Barbuda attain its US$12,640 GNI per capita. The country‘s tourism sector accounts for more than half of the GDP, although the growing medical schools and its students make very large contributions to the economy. Guyana‘s CARICOM and South American neighbour Suriname achieved a GNI of US$8,480 per capita although its economy fell on hard times during the 1990‘s. The country‘s ability to beat back economic hardships and register such a relatively high GNI is a result of government initiatives to diversify the economy, and decrease dependence on Dutch financial assistance. Bauxite mining couple with exploration and exploitation of oil contributes substantially to the country‘s GDP, although agriculture and ecotourism are important components. Ranking closer to Guyana was Jamaica and Dominica with GNIs of US$5,140 and US$6,460 per capita respectively. About 50% of Jamaica‘s economy is built on income generated by tourism related services. At the same time, Jamaica‘s economy is a fair mixture of state enterprises and private businesses, while agriculture, financial and insurance services, manufacturing and mining play integral roles in the country‘s economy. Meanwhile, Dominica, whose economy historically depended largely upon gains from its banana and other agricultural endeavours, came back from the brink of a financial crisis in 2003 and 2004 to experience growth levels of 3.5 percent and 4.0 percent in 2005 and 2006 respectively. Growth in 2006 in particular, was said to be the fruit of macroeconomic reforms pursued by government, which saw new ground gained in construction, tourism, offshore services and some sectors of the country‘s banana industry.

GuySuCo in deep financial crisis - owes creditors $10.5B “No turnaround unless industry fixes agri problems” – GAWU warns
Kaieteur News, January 1, 2014 Government, this year, will be scrambling to find solutions for the country‘s sugar industry as production fell to an embarrassing 23-year low in 2013. Production at the eight estates in Berbice and Demerara closed on December 21, the last day of grinding, at a dismal 186,807 tonnes. This was below the 190,000-tonne figure that had been targeted and which had been revised again and again from the original 260,000 tonnes at the beginning of the year. The situation has now left the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) owing banks and suppliers in excess of $10.5B, union officials confirmed yesterday.

Last month, the National Assembly approved a $4B bailout to help pay its 16,000-plus workers and meet other critical expenditure. However, according to Seepaul Narine, General Secretary of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), the largest sugar workers‘ union, the $4B will not be enough. Once the ‗sweet king‘, earning the hog‘s share of foreign exchange, sugar has slid to third, behind gold and rice.
Already, the Corporation is facing the squeeze from its suppliers, with a number of them refusing to extend more credit. Hard-hit are supplies of spares and fertilizers. Insiders have been blaming GuySuCo‘s agriculture and technical problems, at especially its flagship Skeldon factory, as the biggest contributor to the decline of the industry.

Almost $200M has been spent to build the new factory in East Berbice and develop new lands to accommodate mechanical harvesting. Kaieteur News was told that a cash-strapped GuySuCo took the decision to reduce its fertilizer quantity on the canes and is now paying the price with lower-than-expected yields. The Skeldon factory itself remains a major problem. While it had targeted 43,482 tonnes at the beginning of the year, actual production at December 21 was a miserly 25,380 tonnes. The problems at the factory have been known since being commissioned in August 2009, more than four years ago. A key punt dumper, critical to taking the canes from the waterways into the factory‘s conveyor systems, has been malfunctioning. So too had other areas in the factory. Several faults have been fixed by the Chinese contractor, but with the defects liability period over, GuySuCo had turned to South Africa‘s Bosch Engineering this year to help address some of the issues. With more than US$8M ($1.6B) reportedly being spent on Bosch, GuySuCo and union officials have admitted that the remedial works have not gone so well. Workers are now attempting to fix those ―repairs‖. Yesterday, Narine called for a collective effort in solving what is now turning out to be crisis.―We are saying to management and workers that the industry is at a crucial stage. It calls for understanding and cooperation between management and workers.‖ GuySuCo has been blaming poor weather, strikes and workers‘ absence as the biggest factors in the slide. Turnout has on average been below 50% and has been that way for the last few years. Workers have been finding a more permanent fixture in the construction and mining fields. ―Yes, labour remains a big issue. They (GuySuCo) have been using the bell loaders and mechanical harvesters. But this is still not enough.‖ GuySuCo‘s report of 2012 has told an alarming story. Factories stood idle most of the time.GuySuCo, to meet its European quota of 190,000 tonnes, has been sacrificing its packaging arm at Enmore. However, the European quota is not likely to pose such a big issue, as under the agreement, the year runs from October to September, union officials said yesterday.It is still not clear whether Guyana will be importing sugar to meet local demand.While GuySuCo has been saying technical problems have forced tonnes of cane to be carried over to the new year for the new crop, union officials yesterday claimed that in an effort to meet the 190,000-tonne target in December, young canes were cut. ―So we were actually cutting young canes,‖ a GuySuCo official admitted yesterday.

The industry has been an embarrassing one for the Government with problems carried over from the Bharrat Jagdeo administration to the Donald Ramotar government. Despite a promise to revamp the Board of Directors, there have not been any significant moves. This year, industry officials say that GuySuCo is mulling a 260,000-tonne target but this also seems a little too high. The Opposition has criticized Government on what seemed to be a reluctance to take action, despite the poor run of performance of GuySuCo. Last month, the ruling People‘s Progressive Party (PPP) expressed worry over the industry, calling on ―all stakeholders to redouble their efforts to turn things around. Sugar is still the largest employer of labour and any further decline in production could have disastrous effects on the livelihood and wellbeing of sugar workers and their families.‖ The Alliance For Change has called for the immediate sacking of the entire GuySuCo board and replacing of management.Last month, after days of strike action, GuySuCo agreed to pay its workers their annual production incentive. This will be done in two parts, during the first quarter of this year. The Opposition, during the 2013 National Budget debate, had demanded an updated recovery plan for GuySuCo to be laid in the National Assembly.

Make 2014 Guyana’s ‘Year for Workers’ – Granger
Stabroek News, January 1, 2014 ―Let us, therefore, make the new year – 2014 – Guyana‘s ‗Year for Workers‘ as we all work together towards providing ‗a good life for all Guyanese.‘‖ This was the theme of the New Year‘s message of Brigadier David Granger, Leader of the Opposition. He stated, ―Guyana‘s ‗Year for Workers‘ must dawn on 1st January 2014. This country‘s economic future lies in their hands. Many of our working people, however, are underemployed and unhappy and are not as productive as they could be. Workers face unsatisfactory labour relations in the sugar and mining industries and in the public and private sectors. Artisanal fisherfolk, craftsmen, small farmers and miners found themselves in difficult circumstances during 2013. Life must be better for all in 2014.‖ The statement said that Guyana‘s ‗Year for Workers‘ must be one in which our working people should be able to look forward to a good life. It should be one in which they could look forward to living in safety, to working for ‗living wages‘ to cope with the cost of living and to enjoying adequate social protection in their old age. Granger continued, ―Guyana‘s ‗Year for Workers‘ must be one in which workers can feel free to join trade unions of their choice; in which collective bargaining agreements between their employers and their unions will be respected and in which the state will enforce labour laws fairly but firmly to protect them from adversity and from delinquent employers.‖

The recent IMF-Guyana Article IV Consultation
Stabroek News, January 1, 2014 By Tarron Khemraj
The press release on the Article IV consultation between Guyana and the IMF raised several important points, some of which dovetails nicely with the theme of unity and human development. Of course, the government press and the Guyana Times – engineered through oligarchic manoeuvring – emphasized the favourable macroeconomic figures referenced by the IMF. If we assume the GDP data are credible (I take it with a heavy dose of scepticism), the

Guyana economy is projected to grow by 4.8% in 2013 after recording a similar rate for 2012. If true it represents a respectable rate of growth, although based on two volatile foundations. First, the rice market in Venezuela is hanging on the string of a left-wing alliance between the Marxist-Leninist PPP (according to the party‘s constitution) and President Maduro of Venezuela. Second, the price of gold has declined significantly in 2013 and we should expect it to fall further in 2014 as the Federal Reserve reverses the excessively easy monetary policy and starts to increase the benchmark target rate by end 2014. Other long-term interest rates are already increasing as investors take these expectations into account. Whether the price will fall below the marginal cost of producing an ounce of gold – somewhere around US$800 for the large mines – is yet to be seen. The small gold mines will have a higher marginal cost. Government policy, guided by Minister Ramsammy, clearly accounted for the unprecedented success in rice production. However, it is yet to be seen how the barter arrangement will impact the exchange rate. Short-term exchange rate movements are determined by the flow of hard currencies through the market. As at October 2013, the Bank of Guyana stepped up interventions into the foreign exchange market, no doubt in an effort to curtail further depreciation of the Guyana dollar. I have to wait until the data are released before I can connect further the rice barter and the recent foreign exchange depreciation. Some of the data are usually released by now. In spite of recent depreciation of the exchange rate, most of the macroeconomic indicators appear solid. The banks, except for rising loan concentration, are in good systemic shape. Non-performing loans are low, capital requirements adequate, and there is ample excess liquidity. It would be interesting to know the extent of the loan concentration exposure to the rice sector. An earlier rice sector boom due to the Other Countries and Territories (OCT) market in the late 1990s left the sector and the banks heavily exposed requiring the government to intervene when the OCT market was closed. Notable praise went towards the VAT for helping to stabilize the fiscal deficit. The VAT is likely to be the most favourable long-term legacy of President Jagdeo and his administration. The consumption based tax does not affect investor or worker productivity. It is a crucially important tax in an economy like ours with such a large underground economy where the participants evade paying income taxes. Those operating underground must consume, often luxury and entertainment goods, thus they pay the VAT. Guyana‘s VAT is certainly not the highest in the Caribbean. I never thought it was a good idea to cut the VAT. It makes more sense to give tax breaks on the income and profit tax side. Also the issue is more one of making sure that the goods and services consumed by the very poor are exempted from VAT.

The government news agencies and Guyana Times completely ignored the other side of the IMF press release. The release calls on the government to ―promote more inclusive growth‖ and to safeguard ―more even distribution of the benefits from economic growth‖. Readers will recall that a major theme of these columns is the growing inequality in Guyana; inequality, furthermore, that is rooted in the pernicious political process. I am not here speaking about the situation in Parliament. I think the result of the November 28, 2011 election is a significant step in the right direction. I am not as pessimistic as some commentators about the election result. Without constitutional reform, a minority government is perhaps the best outcome.
One scholar, Eric Uslaner, proposed the idea of an inequality trap. It says that inequality results in diminished social trust, which in turn leads to corruption that engenders more inequality – hence the trap. This idea is cer-

tainly applicable to Guyana given its constitution that promotes ethnic distrust instead of cooperation. In-group trust takes over, while trust for the other ethnic group declines. Some people have close friends only from one ethnic or religious group. Ethnic divisions are hardened when outgroup trust is low. I have tried to model the low out-group trust with a prisoners‘ dilemma game that provides the prediction of entrenched ethnic voting, the virtual impossibility that a third party can win the election, inequality and below potential economic performance. Much of the out-group distrust stems from the constitution and electoral process that promotes ethnic competition instead of cooperation. Once one ethnic group wins the election in-group networking takes over and entrenches inequality even more. Contracts, high level jobs, and small projects at the NDC level flow in a skewed manner to mainly supporters of the ruling party. No local government election in 20 years implies that the party faithful have infiltrated the local bodies. These local bodies may very well be functioning today as a redistribution mechanism for faithful party activists. I know of a few villages in which this is indeed the case. Only last week the government signalled its position on constitutional reform, which is crucial for promoting out-group trust and cooperation. Denouncing the recent pro-democracy initiative funded by USAID, Dr Luncheon declares that he fears the project could influence constitutional reform. He is therefore providing an insight into the deep distrust the government has for a constitution that promotes equity and a better democracy. Of course, President Ramotar in the past said he sees nothing wrong with the present mildly tinkered, but pernicious, Burnham constitution. The IMF‘s press release also encourages the government to improve data collection and dissemination. The importance of data cannot be overemphasized. Only through data analysis can there be effective policy implementation. Only data can tell us who benefits and who loses from specific government policy. It appears like the population census data set is a national secret. Labour market statistics are not collected. We cannot say for certain what is the unemployment rate or the labour force participation rate. We do not have unbroken measures of inequality and poverty. Quarterly GDP is unavailable. These are just a few of the essential statistics that are needed for effective management of the economy.

Legal action among strategies in fight against arbitrary 5% increase … street protests continue next week
Kaieteur News, December 31, 2013 The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) has indicated that legal action will be among the various strategies that the body intends to use to fight the annual arbitrary imposition of wage and salary increases on public workers by the government. The public servants‘ representative has indicated further that come next week intense protest action will resume in resistance of the five percent increase that was given to state workers this year. The union‘s First Vice President Mortimer Livan, told this newspaper yesterday that following the holiday season, the union will return to the streets against the increase. He charged that the union will continue their actions until the government hears them. The union had earlier in the month declared that it would march the streets of Georgetown until the New Year in defiance of the imposed percentage. The picket marches however saw a poor turnout, thus giving way for action at the close of the holiday season. Livan added that apart from legal and protest action, the union has called on international bodies to lend their support towards public servants. The union executive said that they have petitioned these foreign bodies and will be seeking ways to aid the situation. Affiliates of the Caribbean Public Servants International (PSI) have already started to express their support of the local unions with unions in the island national of St. Lucia being the latest body to express solidarity with not only the GPSU, but also Guyana Local Government Officers‘ Union (GLGOU) which is also facing a dilemma involving public servants. Amidst the contention, Livan informed that there has been no contact or approach by the Administration in any attempt to solve or even soothe the matter. Livan opined that, that attitude displayed disregard and a lack of care for the public workers. ―They (government) just don‘t care,‖ he suggested to this newspaper. The government through the Finance Ministry has failed to provide a requested paper trail to show the purpose for the no more than five percent increase. The government has argued that monies for wage and salary increases could be no more than five percent across the board for all public servants, but the Opposition has countered that funds allocated in the budget for this specific reason should have seen the workers receiving no less than a 10 percent increase. The Opposition had also requested a paper trail of the funds spent, especially since it is their belief that the Administration may have used the public servants increase to fill areas where the Opposition would have cut funds from last year‘s budget.

Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh has stated, however, that the use of funds allocated for the public workers ―is a matter of public record‖. He said that every year the purpose and use of the funds is explained and it is voted on. It is further viewed and audited by the Auditor General, returned to the parliament, and put before the Public Accounts

Committee (PAC), where it is scrutinized, he continued. However, public servants have for more than 10 years been receiving arbitrarily imposed sums from the government. This is without the procedural collective bargaining agreement; thus sideling the union, executives have stated. Chairman and Shadow Labour Minister of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), Basil Williams, stated however, that GPSU has legal grounds to seek recourse over the arbitrary five per cent increase that was imposed on the public workers. He highlighted a challenge to the union since there is no Industrial Court to address the matter. Williams had also expressed the need for the revitalization of the Public Service Appellate tribunal and called for that body to be reconstituted so that appeals by public servants could be fast tracked. Both the Alliance for Change (AFC) and APNU have already expressed rigorous checks of sums allocated for public workers and plan to ask tough questions to ascertain what became of the funds for the increases of public workers at the next budget presentation 2014.

Kamarang schools need some attention — Teachers
Kaieteur News, December 30, 2013 Teachers operating in the small Amerindian village of Kamarang in Region Seven complain of feeling neglected. The community has two schools- the Kamarang Nursery which houses 46 children and its Primary Section with 189 pupils. According to the teachers, the two schools have needs that seem to be neglected by the relevant authorities. According to one Nursery school Teacher, it is sad that the small and active young minds at her school cannot yet benefit from any outdoor or sport facilities. ―The small children need stuff like outdoor swings and sports equipment and so. It is part of the curriculum. We talk to a couple people but nobody saying anything to us,‖ the teacher lamented. Another educator explained that teachers in the Region are not motivated to work, especially since stationary and other learning materials are limited. She expressed some amount of dissatisfaction, noting that it appears as though schools in the far flung areas are being overlooked. During an earlier interview with Kaieteur News, officials of the Guyana Teachers‘ Union (GTU) called for a level playing field for schools all across the country, since it was realized that those located in the rural areas are being somewhat ignored, while some are completely ―forgotten‖. According to General Secretary of the GTU, Coretta McDonald, teachers operating in schools located in the rural areas have been complaining of feeling as though they are being overlooked by the Ministry of Education. McDonald explained that among some of the things that may cause teachers to feel this way, is the fact that in certain parts of the country, teachers have not been receiving supplies which would enable them to execute their duties in an effective manner.

The woman added that teachers are, in some cases, faced with the challenges of supplying themselves with cardboards, pens, pencils, markers, chalks, and other materials to conduct their lessons. This, the GTU believes, is unfair, especially since most teachers are not being paid as they ought to be. ―We keep in contact with these teachers, and in some cases we ask the parents to assist,‖ McDonald said. She added too that the schools that are most in need of supplies and attention are the ones that are being particularly disregarded. She pinpointed a few areas where this is most prevalent. They included Matthew‘s Ridge, Paramakatoi, Port Kaituma, and Leguan. It was established that in the case of school counselors, they visit mostly the ―fancy‖ Georgetown schools, despite the fact that those are not the schools that are seriously in need of these visits. The Union said that the particular case of teachers not receiving adequate supplies to conduct their lessons lies with the delinquencies of Regional Education Officers, an issue that the GTU is also seeking to have the Ministry of Education address. President of the GTU, Colin Bynoe, had described these officers as being too attached to their desks and not doing any actual ground work. ―If they do more of these ground work, they would know what the teachers need, and they can provide them with these, and things would be better for them, which would then be better for the students,‖ he said. The GTU head noted also that the schools which are being strongly catered for by the various alumni should be given less preference, since there are those that are dependent solely on the assistance of the government.

Tripartite budget talks in limbo again…Opposition warns of increased scrutiny
Kaieteur News, December 30, 2013 Opposition parliamentarians are once again accusing the government of sidelining them from budget preparations. According to Opposition executives, next year‘s budget, which at this time is more than likely completed or is in its final stage, saw no input, advice or concerns of the one seat majority Opposition. A Partnership for National Unity‘s (APNU) front bencher, Joseph Harmon, along with Alliance for Change‘s (AFC) leader Khemraj Ramjattan have both explained that absolutely no tripartite talks were held in putting together the national budget for the upcoming year. Both parties have expressed that this move by the People‘s Progressive Party (PPP) led government is only a recipe for deeper scrutiny of budget figures and its allocations. It is against this backdrop that the opposition side has indicated that travesties like the poor increases for Public Servants exist. While the AFC, in an earlier report expressed the party‘s commitment to questioning every seemingly questionable sum earmarked in the budget, APNU has noted that given the government‘s actions in past budgets, they are in a better position to eye and point out doubtable figures. Harmon said, ―We will be giving a much harsher look at the issues in the budget. The government will be hard pressed again to deal with issues of transparency and accountability. We are going to be very, very detailed and precise about the questions we can ask now, because we have had since 2011, two budgets and I think we are in a better position now to be able to debate the government on these issues. We are going to ask for much more details as we are better prepared with questions because we have details and facts on where the Ministers have been silent and where they are trying to hide things‖

Harmon explained that, ―budget arrangements are usually completed by this time of year. The 2014 budget is presented no later than March of 2014. At this time, (December 2013), there are hardly many changes that are made. A budget cycle starts sometime within June of the old year for the new year. We are already in December and by now all Ministries and Government Departments would have submitted their budgets after meetings and so on. And there would be a fair idea by now what the 2014 Budget would look like.‖ However, Harmon stated, ―the fact of the matter is that we have actually submitted some proposals to the government in relation to the Tripartite Budget Committee, which really has not come off the mark as yet. The work which should have been done in the Tripartite Committee has not been done, and I believe Mr. Carl Greenidge, who is our Shadow Finance Minister, wrote to Dr. Ashni Singh, basically stating that ‗the commitment which we were given by the Leader of the Opposition and the President, cannot be met because you have not done what you are suppose to do and it is already late into it.‘ We are in December going on to January.‖ Following the first cutting of the National budget, Opposition Leader David Granger and President Donald Ramotar had agreed that the Tripartite Committee would be formed for the input of all sides. The Leader of the AFC Khemraj Ramjattan is also of the view that it is too late for tripartite talks. He said that he is also not convinced that any talks will be held at this time. The Opposition has noted also that before any drastic moves, they will examine what is placed into the next budget. Harmon said parliamentary members sometimes have some two weeks to peruse the budget ahead of the debate. ―What we will do, is examine all these figures when they come when estimates are presented in the National Assembly. Against this background of the Minister refusing to provide relevant information, we will be paying very close attention to all these things. When the Committee of Supply meets; where the Minister has to give explanation for things done, we definitely will seek to have more answers for unanswered questions,‖ Harmon indicated. In the past, the Opposition has given advice on the National budget, but had no real input into the spending framework and has thus resorted to cutting funds where it was felt necessary. This has landed all parties before the court where it is still to be determined what powers the Opposition has.

The ombudsman
Stabroek News, December 30, 2013 [Editorial] The announcement by the government of the appointment of former judge, Mr Winston Moore as Ombudsman is most welcome. In societies like this one, rife with a panopoly of concerns about injustices by officialdom against those marginally able to represent themselves, it is vital that there be an Ombudsman to inquire into such claims and pursue relief on behalf of the aggrieved. Mr Moore‘s appointment will be well-received across all divides on the basis of his public roles. This long-awaited appointment does not efface the stain on the government for so flagrantly disregarding this important constitutional office. The abandonment of it following the departure of Justice S Y Mohammed in 2005 – at the height of the Jagdeo administration – was an early signal of the then President‘s and his government‘s inveterate disregard for the institutional checks and balances that fledgling democracies rely on to even the chances for the ordinary person and to cultivate accountability among government officials. It has taken the Ramotar administration two years to right this egregious wrong.

While this newspaper has full confidence in the ability of Justice Moore to execute the task he has been entrusted with, it is far less certain of whether he will have the wherewithal to achieve his objectives. Aside from being respectfully treated by the public offices and officers it will be engaging, the ombudsman‘s office will face the problems of re-introducing itself to the public and acquiring the requisite resources to discharge its functions. Given the absence of this office for the last eight years, the Ombudsman‘s office would have to assiduously make members of the public in all parts of the country aware of its functions and capacities. The office will also require the resources to get to the disparate parts of the country and to conduct detailed investigations of the complaints before it. The success of the office will pivot solely on its ability to produce results for those who seek its intervention. The office‘s scope is wide and is addressed on eight pages of the 247 -page constitution. In the main as set out in article 192 of the constitution: ―Subject to the provisions of this article, the Ombudsman may investigate any action taken by any department of government or by any other authority to which this article applies, or by the President, Ministers, officers or members of such a department or authority, being action taken in exercise of the administrative functions of that department or authority‖. Optimism for the optimal functioning of this office would not be high when one considers the fate of similar bodies. The Police Complaints Authority (PCA) is a classic example. Launched under the Hoyte administration this important mechanism has functioned for close to 25 years with the major defect that it is unable to conduct its own investigations into alleged abuses by the police against members of the public. Each investigation has to be conducted by the police. It is well accepted that the abilities of the police are suspect in any investigation much more in relation to their colleagues. Despite administration after administration accepting that there is a major flaw in how the PCA functions nothing has been done about it. While it has undoubtedly produced results in its many years of operation, the PCA is ultimately beholden to the police to investigate their own and its fortunes have varied depending on the Police Commissioner in office. Needless to say there have been significant delays in investigations, a lack of response in some cases and aggrieved members of the public will not have the level of confidence in the authority that they should. The police‘s own internal investigative arm, the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) has not inspired the public to believe that misbehaviour by the police will be taken seriously and there have been many shocking examples of the police letting each other off. The most glaring example of this is the forgiving of senior police officers who were involved in corruption as regards the acquisition of a boat for the police force. Numerous other investigations have been launched by the OPR without the public ever being advised of the results. Given these circumstances, it is hoped that the ombudsman‘s office will be given a budgetary allocation commensurate with the scope of its mandate and the demands on it. The appointment of the Ombudsman is but a small step on the road towards restoring credibility in watchdog institutions and making officials accountable. The Auditor General‘s Office – the premier watchdog on accountability- would now be considered a satellite of central government as opposed to a fearless champion of financial rectitude.

The government‘s hold on this constitutional office through upper level appointments has seriously eroded its independence as evidenced by its increasingly innocuous annual reports on government accounts and the lack of investigation of major and questionable expenditures by the government. The Integrity Commission which is meant to ensure that the public officials covered under its act are not engaged in illicit and corrupt acts to enrich themselves has not functioned in many years and it is clear that the Jagdeo administration had no interest in its enlivening. Its present form would be considered an embarrassment in any self-respecting democracy and there is no sign of an imminent change in its condition via the Ramotar administration. Government continues to stonewall on the Public Procurement Commission while questionable deals like the awarding of radio licences to a favoured few, the specialty hospital, the invitation for the setting up of a waste recycling plant, the Muri survey permission and the DY Patil MOU continue to advance through various artifices and shortcomings in the accountability framework. The government doesn‘t want to operate in a fully accountable framework yet wants the benefits from pretending that it is. The continuing absence of the Public Service Appellate Tribunal, an Access to Information Act that inspires confidence and whistleblower legislation further dilutes the varied mechanisms through which the public can gain confidence in government and exact answers. The appointing of the Ombudsman is a hopeful sign but one that can easily become mired in a vortex of official actions to prevent its effective functioning.

Kamarang residents plead for more jobs
Kaieteur News, December 29, 2013 ―We don‘t have jobs, and it ain‘t look like anybody care.‖ This was the sentiment expressed by residents of Kamarang, Region Seven recently. They maintain that the unavailability of jobs has been a major issue, and a factor contributing significantly to the rapid decline in the community‘s standard of living. In speaking with this newspaper, a teacher of the Kamarang Primary School said that the situation has been especially affecting young people, since it‘s hindering them from being able to progress into young professionals. She emphasized too that ―young people are not motivated to do much with their lives.‖ In explaining, the teacher said that ―All they know about is mining and cleaning shops, so our children are somewhat stifled from dreaming big and achieving much.‖ ―On the coastland, it is easy for young people to embark on the life of a young professional. There are avenues for them to become doctors, lawyers, journalists and so on, but not here in Kamarang. Here, the only thing our children can do is mining, become housewives, and work in dem li‘l community shops. It‘s not nice,‖ the woman stressed.

It was explained that upon completing their primary education, students are forced to leave their community to pursue a secondary education. ―After obtaining their certificates, the only hope for our children is to leave and go to the city to look for jobs,‖ the teacher said. She further noted that doing this is not always easy, since it requires teenagers and young adults moving to the city alone. ―Usually people don‘t want to send their children to the city, because many times, the troubles that they does have to face don‘t be nice, especially when it comes to our girl children,‖ the teacher said. While the boys are allowed to move and take up jobs in the city, the females usually end up being housewives and cleaners, since other key positions such as nurses and teachers have been filled.―Before, things were better, so we have a few nurses and teachers already working. But now, life in Kamarang has changed, and although the roles of women have evolved, our daughters are unable to,‖ the teacher explained. Another resident Carl Williams, complained of the high cost of living. He explained that although Kamarang is a mining community, miners are still finding it hard to make a living. ―Imagine the gold that I used to sell for $18,000, we, the miners got to sell for less than $10,000. Life ain‘t easy up here at all,‖ Williams said. He explained that ―although the prices ain‘t fair, we ain‘t get a choice but to sell, because we need to live, and transportation to leave Kamarang expensive.‖ ―Dem aircrafts expensive, and just as it ain‘t easy for us to live here, it ain‘t easy for us to leave either, so it‘s hard for us. We did ask the people at the region office already to find out if the government can help us with airfares, but nobody never tell we back nothing,‖ Williams told Kaieteur News. The small Amerindian village of Kamarang is home to about 500 persons, the majority being below the age of 14. New River Triangle debacle…Muri Brasil misled nation on amount of land available for mining Kaieteur News, December 29, 2013 Financial Analyst, Christopher Ram, has accused Muri Brasil Ventures Inc of misleading the nation with regards to the amount of land to which it will have access for mining when its exploration activities have been completed. In its statement the company said, ―Much has been made of the fact that the area covered by the PGGS is some 2 million acres. This area is for exploration not occupation or prospecting. Also the PGGS provides that the area is reduced by one quarter at the end of every year for its life of three years so that at the end of the three years only 25 percent of the original area remains.‖ According to Ram, who made his views known through his chrisram.net outlet ―That is incorrect.‖ Ram said that under a clause Relinquishment, is stated: ―On or before the first anniversary, the Permission-holder shall relinquish at least 25 per cent of the said area after the first year.‖He said that there is no commitment for any other year and only that the permission is for a period of thirty-six months. ―Where then is the Maths that 25 per cent will remain after three years? Unless the company has been given some private assurances by the Minister, after three years the concession goes under the Clause that states: There shall be no extension or renewal of the terms and conditions of this Permission.‖

Ram said that by now, the company should have indicated whether it has given up ―at least twenty five percent of the said area after the first year.‖He asserts that it is ―the duty of the Minister, as well as an obligation of the company to tell the country and the security forces the precise coordinates of the area which was given up on or before November 7, 2013.‖He reminded that the company states that the area for a prospecting licence is an average of 12,000 acres so that 18 prospecting licences will extend over about 216,000 acres. According to Ram, ―This is and was no doubt meant to mislead.‖ He pointed to Section 33 of the Mining Act which clearly states that a prospecting licence may be issued over several parcels, which are themselves subject to two extensions.―There is no limit to the number of parcels over which a licence can be issued.‖ Ram also alleges that ―the company is apolitical. He said that surely, it is public knowledge that Yucatan Reis, one of its directors, worked closely with Minister Robert Persaud during the 2011 elections campaign. Ram said, too, that ―his fellow director (Dean Hassan) never misses an opportunity to boast of his connections and influence over the politicians including the Prime Minister and at least one security agency.‖ ―Guyana is a strange country in which the word corrupt seems preferable to political!‖ The Financial Analyst points out too that apart from its statement, ―we learn that the company is awaiting permission for the construction of an airstrip to facilitate its work…Perhaps the company would be good enough to state which clause in the Permission gives it a right to construct an airstrip.‖ He also called on Minister Robert Persaud to tell the nation how much it will cost the GRA, the Police Service and the GDF to effectively superintend the operation of an airstrip near the border with Brazil. According to Ram, ―Muri represents a security threat, an erosion of our border and the possibility of substantial expenditure in return for US$85,000…What makes these risks more serious is the opacity of the deal entered into but scarcely acknowledged by the Minister, the silence of the Security Forces on their duties under Article 197 A of the constitution and the self-serving and orchestrated defence of the deal.‖ He suggested that the only body with the authority to have a thorough examination of the deal is the National Assembly. ―It must have this done as a matter of urgent national interest.‖

FIU: ‘A toothless poodle’ – Whose fault?
Stabroek News, December 29, 2013 [Opinion] By Clive Thomas Introduction This is my final column for 2013 and also the last in the series on the risks of money-laundering, terrorist financing, and proliferation. In the course of this series, several readers have indicated to me that there will always be money launderers and tax evaders, even from among those who shout and scream against them, so why bother! A simple analogy might perhaps help to show why we do need to bother. Consider that there will always be accidents and people will always die; this does not mean we should have neither traffic police/regulations nor doctors/hospitals.

The realistic goal is to contain the damaging impacts of accidents, sickness and death, not to totally eradicate them, as this is impossible; by so doing we improve the quality of life for all. Today‘s concluding column will address two considerations. The first is, the Ministry of Finance‘s response to Guyana having missed the drop-dead date of November 18, 2013; and secondly, brief observations on the operations of the Financial Intelligence Unit. Ministry of Finance As would be expected the Ministry of Finance‘s statements after the passing of the drop -dead date have been more directed at the economic ramifications/implications of CFATF‘s decision, than those made by the Attorney-General‘s office, which has emphasized the political/legal aspects. Nonetheless, the Finance Ministry has endorsed the Attorney General‘s expression of ―Grave concern at the decision by CFATF to encourage its member countries to consider implementing counter measures to protect their financial system from ongoing risks of money laundering, terrorist financing and proliferation emanating from Guyana‖ (my emphasis). Alongside this supportive statement, the Ministry of Finance has identified several likely adverse economic effects. First, CFATF‘s decision would negatively impact Guyana‘s ―international marketability.‖ Presumably, the concern is that close surveillance of the economy would deter foreign investors and tourism. Second, close surveillance would raise transactions costs for all individuals and businesses operating in Guyana. These increases would flow from delays, interruptions, increased charges and processing fees. Thirdly, it would negatively impact remittances and money transfers. Remarkably, while offering no comment on the impact of this development on legal migrants the ministry‘s statement refers to the adverse impact on illegal undocumented residents who would be unable to provide proof of name and identity before conducting business with Guyana from overseas! Fourth, the ministry states that ties between foreign and local banks would be ―severed,‖ going further to claim that online, credit, and debit card transactions involving Guyana would be interrupted. All these effects would add to the overall costs of ―doing business‖ in Guyana and thus drive up the prices of all imported goods (fuel, food, medicines and so on) and services (insurance and travel), as well as discourage exportation. Readers should recall two earlier observations which I made. First, with or without CFATF‘s decision, increased surveillance of Guyana‘s financial transactions has become an absolute inevitability. CFATF is seeking to do via the Action Plan what is necessary to enable Guyana‘s anti -money laundering regime. Secondly as I indicated, under FATCA, a far more stringent US-led regime to contain tax evasion (and by implication money laundering) in Guyana and the wider Caribbean will be in effect from July 1, 2014, no matter what the Government of Guyana says or does. Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) At the centre of the public dialogue on these matters is the FIU. Until recently very little has been heard about it, reflecting I believe the level of official commitment to countering the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing. Most Guyana analysts have derided the FIU as an ineffective ―toothless poodle.‖ Even if this harsh judgment were true, I do not blame the FIU, either solely or principally, for this outcome.

First and foremost, because the FIU is embedded in a state structure that has little, if any appetite, for disrupting criminal endeavours led by an entrenched cabal of political leaders, captains of business, and organized criminal groups. Under the pressure of recent public debates, a little more information on the operations of the FIU has been forthcoming, and it would be useful to wrap up this series by briefly indicating some of this. The FIU proudly describes itself as an ―autonomous body,‖ established and operating ―within the ambit of Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act (AMLCFTA) 2009 and its Regulations.‖ It has the broad mandate ―to facilitate the detection, prevention and deterrence‖ of financial crimes under the 2009 Act. Its broad mission is ―to help protect the integrity of Guyana‘s financial system.‖ Despite this broad responsibility, the FIU is heavily undercapacitated, in terms of its financial, technical, human, and other resources. Thus at the end of 2012 it reported it had six staff, with only two financial analysts/investigators attached to it! Under the 2009 Act reporting ―entities/international‖ travellers are required to report monthly on transactions above certain levels: for licensed financial institutions (LFIs) above US$10,000; for cambios purchases above US$2000 or sales over US$5000; for money transfer agencies (MTAs) above US$1,000, and for foreign travellers above US$10,000. For 2012 the number of reported cases respectively, was 8,807; 2,976; 29,849, and 1,003. These were comparable to the number reported for 2011. The number of reported suspicious transactions to the FIU for 2012 was: LFIs, 7; cambios, zero; MTAs, 795; and foreign travellers 3. These figures are modestly down on those reported for 2011. A suspicious transaction is defined by the FIU as one that causes a feeling of apprehension or mistrust based on its size and/or pattern. Conclusion At the end of this series of columns, the original options as posed by the Leader of the Opposition remain valid. Government and the National Assembly can either embark on producing appropriate/effective legislation to deal with financial crimes in Guyana or they can settle for version 2 of the present anaemic ineffective 2009 legislation. Happy New Year to readers all!

A project for 2014
Stabroek News, December 29, 2013 [Editorial] There can be few places on the planet where it is more frustrating to live than Guyana. Of course, everyone hopes that 2014 will usher in a new spirit of co-operation and amity in the political firmament; that miracles will be performed with the city‘s drains and trenches; that the garbage crisis in all parts of the country will be miraculously confronted; that there will be a dramatic reduction in the crime rate; and that a commendable impact will be made on any number of social perversions, anomalies and pathologies – but we all know it is not going to happen, or at least, not much of it.

There are so many things which seem obvious to the ordinary man or woman, any one of whom could say what needs to be done in a given area, but unfortunately what is straightforward for the layperson, is the equivalent of scaling Mount Everest for the authorities, whose senses are addled by all kinds of political irrelevancies. But just suppose that for the year 2014 they set themselves one primary achievable goal (if they manage others too, all well and good), and that this goal is not complicated, doesn‘t require sophisticated policy decisions or the passage of a parliamentary bill and whose results will be obvious to all when completed. There are many candidates that meet these criteria, but the most obvious is City Hall – the building, that is, not the institution, which is an altogether more knotty affair. There was a tiny pinprick of hope on the horizon last year that this heritage structure would be saved, but it vanished again on account of the sulphurous political atmosphere. It wasn‘t that certain moves in the right direction weren‘t made, it was that there was no convergence of aims or co -ordination of any kind between the groups which had the capacity to effect change. The year began with the Mayor of Georgetown calling a meeting about the state of the building which resulted in the setting up of a technical committee comprising engineers and the musician Eddy Grant, among others. Following that, two consultants paid for by generous business persons came down here to look at the decaying structure, and the report they produced made depressing reading. Apart from the fact that they said the ―greater part‖ of the deterioration was a consequence of water leaks, they also recommended the disconnection of City Hall from the grid to avoid the risk of fire because of the exposure of electrical lines to water contact. They had various other critical things to say as well, that have been reported more than once, but two of the recommendations were that an independent action committee be set up and given the authority to guide the restoration project through, and that immediate work should be done to stop the leaks and remove a water tank. Has this happened? Needless to say, it hasn‘t, for the usual labyrinthine reasons. Well, we got to the stage of the first consultants because of the efforts of the Mayor, and it was then the turn of the government. In October, the Minister of Culture announced that City Hall had been accepted for inscription on the World Monuments Watch List. Gina quoted Ms Nirvana Persaud of the National Trust as describing it at the launch as ―more of an international promotion or advertisement‖ to attract funds. Minister Anthony was reported as saying that a broad stakeholder committee was needed to push for repairs at City Hall, and that this had to be done along with the Georgetown City Council. He‘s right about that without any question, but has this happened? Needless to say, more than three months on we are still waiting. And where are the initial efforts to attract funds? Will somebody high up there in the deep recesses of government take a decision – preferably on January 1, 2014, which marks the start of the125th anniversary year of City Hall – to contact the Mayor & City Council about setting up an independent action committee. This does not need to be done in the glare of publicity; when it is done, then it can be announced. There should be no big quibbles about who should be on it; this isn‘t about politics, it‘s about heritage, and the primary criteria for inclusion are those who are knowledgeable and those who have the relevant skills. Then let the committee draw up the draft of a plan for how to proceed, identifying in the first instance the emergency work that has to be done as priority.

Exactly what kind of mechanisms will be necessary to achieve a comprehensive restoration with a minimum of local friction will have to be worked out, but once the government commits to the project in principle then it behoves the two parliamentary opposition parties to give their unequivocal support. To date, neither has had a word to say on the subject, despite the fact that one of them is led by a historian. While some money for specific areas could be raised locally, the larger sums will have to come from international agencies, and approaching these institutions comes definitely within the ambit of the government. And nobody wants to be belaboured with diatribes from the government about the Mayor & City Council; the latter will not be executing the larger project, although clearly their cooperation will be necessary. However, from all the evidence to date, this will be forthcoming. Where immediate repairs are concerned, then a more critical person would be the current Town Clerk Carol Sooba. She, of course, answers to the ministerial duo in the Ministry of Local Government, so whoever in the higher echelons of the deep recesses of government sets all of this in motion, would have to give the two Ministers – and by extension, the Town Clerk – a detailed explanation of its importance and urgency. She should also be asked about the $15M left over from the $20M allocated by former President Jagdeo in 2011 for City Hall‘s immediate rehabilitation, and which could be pressed into service now. On the night of January 31, 2013, President Ramotar will address the nation in his usual avuncular style; talk vaguely about unity; possibly take a swipe at the opposition in relation to parliament; and maybe even mention the words ‗local government elections.‘ But will he commit his administration to ensuring that City Hall is saved? Don‘t hold your breath. PNCR HOSTS SPIRITED CHRISTMAS CONCERT Guyana Times, December 30, 2013 The People‘s National Congress Reform (PNCR) headquarters was the scene of a lively and spirited Christmas concert just over a week ago. The event, which was hosted by the Central Executive Committee of the PNCR, attracted a wide cross-section of citizens, including A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) members of Parliament (MPs); members of the diplomatic corps; the Private Sector Commission; regional democratic councillors from surrounding regions; and rank and file members of the PNCR. According to a release from the party, several well -known artists and groups entertained the capacity crowd. There were performances from the Linda Griffith Dance School, the Success Elementary School Choir, Circle of Love, the Woodside Folk Group, Steel Pan music, as well as a violin solo by Chee Clark.

PNCR Chairman and parliamentarian Basil Williams expressed greetings on behalf of the party; MP Christopher Jones delivered Christmas greetings on behalf of the Guyana Youth and Student Movement (GYSM), the youth arm of the PNCR; and Cheryl Sampson brought greetings on behalf of the National Congress of Women (NCW), the women‘s arm of the party. APNU leader, retired Brigadier David Granger thanked all the performers and wished all present a Merry Christmas. In extremely brief remarks, Brigadier Granger said it was his wish that good things would come their way from the National Assembly in 2014. The event was held in the Hall of Heroes at the PNCR Secretariat, Congress Place, Sophia, Georgetown.

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