The future is bright
It is my honour, in the exercise of my privilege enshrined in the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, as stated by the Speaker, to address you today as I have done at the commencement of every new session of the National Assembly. The Constitution, at Article 67 (1), states:
The President may, at any time, attend and address the National Assembly.
I do so today. Presidential addresses are not ceremonial events. They report on the state of the nation and the intentions of the government. They attest to the recognition of this Assembly as a supreme organ of democratic power.
Presidential addresses promote understanding between the Executive and the Legislative branches by enunciating government’s strategic vision, prioritising policies and the main elements of the Legislative agenda. They provide opportunities, also, to report to the Assembly and the nation on matters of national importance.
I restate my government’s vision for Guyana’s development and the means through which we shall achieve our objective.
The State’s principal objective is to secure the ‘good life’ for all. The ‘good life’ entails providing every citizen with opportunities to be the best that they can be. The ‘good life’ is about securing sustained economic prosperity, ensuring citizens’ access to quality public services and promoting social cohesion.
The ‘good life’ involves eliminating extreme poverty and removing social, ethnic and geographic inequalities. The ultimate indicators of the good life are happy communities, happy households and happy people.
Your government has chosen a ‘green’ pathway to guide it towards achieving a ‘good life’. The economy, for too long, has been dependent on the production and export of primary commodities, all of which are vulnerable to exogenous market shocks and natural hazards.
A ‘green’ pathway allows us to benefit from our country’s abundant natural resources. A ‘green’ development trajectory will ensure a diversified, resilient economy, promote sustainable development, social cohesion and good governance and protect the environment while generating wealth and employment.
The Green State Development Strategy is our roadmap for the transition towards the ‘good’ life. The ‘Strategy’ is being crystallized and will be tabled and debated in this National Assembly.
The social programme
The provision of social services – education, health, housing, sanitation and water – is key to ensuring happy households and happy communities.
Your government, in pursuit, of the good life, will continue to eliminate the endemic problems within these sectors.
We inherited in May 2015, a crisis in the public primary and secondary education system with over half of our students failing the National Grade Six Assessment.
Your government is creating a 21st century nation. Our educational policy aims at providing students with the knowledge, skills and values to become productive citizens in the economy of the future.
Your government has prioritized educational access, attendance and achievement. The Public Education Transport Service (PETS) (popularly known as the ‘Three Bs’ Initiative) was born out of the recognition that many parents found it costly to send their children to school. The Service has distributed 1,254 bicycles, 28 buses and 9 boats. The Service is saving parents money and, more important, it is getting our children to school without expending a dollar from the government coffers.
We are taking steps to improve the performance of all learners. A menu of measures to enhance the quality of education is being implemented. Some of these measures that have yielded the most success, especially at the primary level, include teacher training the provision of resources and targeted interventions.
Over three thousand, five hundred primary school teachers have been equipped with the necessary pedagogical skills for quality delivery of the curriculum. The Ministry of Education, recognising that the use of resources is integral to enhancing achievement of learners, has procured resources for all primary schools. These resources include textbooks, musical instruments, micro-science kits, and toolkits for mathematics, literacy and social studies.
Targeted interventions, especially in numeracy and literacy, have resulted in improved performance in the National Grade Six Assessment. The percentage passes in English moved from 42 per cent in 2016 to 60 per cent in 2018; Mathematics moved from 14 per cent in 2016 to 38 per cent in 2018; and Science from 28 per cent to 46 per cent.
Mr. Speaker, Guyana’s public health system, in the past, was plagued by inadequate infrastructure, high maternal mortality rates, weak disease prevention measures, poor emergency health response and constraints to access to health services, particularly for hinterland residents.
Your government has continued, over the past year, to address these deficiencies. Health infrastructure is being improved. A river ambulance was provided for Orealla Village to transport and provide medical interventions for pregnant mothers and other emergency cases en route to the nearest health facility.
Access to public health services is being improved. Maternity Waiting Homes have been commissioned to make accommodation for high-risk pregnant mothers, particularly those from the hinterland regions. We’ll upgrade, next year, the Maternity Unit of the New Amsterdam Hospital in order to improve maternal services further.
The Ministry of Public Health is in the process of mapping the proximity of health facilities to communities to ensure that, as far as possible, a health facility is located within five kilometres of a community. Plans are on stream to upgrade health centres to polyclinics, especially in large catchment areas.
Preventative treatment will be intensified. A programme for the screening and treatment of eye diseases in children and providing them with low-cost spectacles is one of the many interventions that will be undertaken.
The 2018 work programme for sanitation management includes the promotion of effective management of solid waste across communities. The Haags Bosch Sanitary Landfill Site has been upgraded to include a leachate treatment facility.
The access road at Rose Hall to the landfill facility is 40% completed. Designs for sanitary landfill sites in Bartica, Lethem and Mahdia will be completed in November this year. We propose, in 2019, to develop a landfill facility at Bel Vue in East Berbice-Corentyne to allow for the closure of the Esplanade dumpsite, in 2019.
Mr. Speaker, many new housing areas were bedevilled by low levels of occupancy and abysmal infrastructure. Poor solid waste management created insanitary conditions.
Your government will continue to expand access to housing and improve infrastructure within housing areas. The “housing solutions” model has seen the commencement, over the past year, of 250 housing units – of which 163 were completed. Development works have been carried out in both new and existing housing areas, including in Amelia’s Ward, Farm, Herstelling, No. 76 Village, Perseverance, Zeeburg and Zeelugt.
Roads have been improved in Perseverance, La Parfaite Harmonie, Westminster and Amelia’s Ward. Electrification services were expanded to Zeelugt, Covent Garden, Peter’s Hall, Barnwell (EBD), Eccles and Hope, (WCB).
A spatial development plan has been completed for Sophia and similar ones will be undertaken for Bartica, Lethem, Mabaruma and for the lower East Bank Demerara.
The Ministry of Communities proposes to undertake infrastructural works, in 2019, in nine new housing areas, the upgrading of three recreational areas, the consolidation of 18 existing areas, the installation of electricity in eight communities and the completion of 450 housing units. It will offer full-house subsidies in the Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo Region.
Mr. Speaker, your government’s programme in the water sector, for 2018, was aimed at increasing access to safe water and reducing the disparity in service between the coastland and hinterland communities. An estimated 7,903 households with more than 31,600 persons have benefitted from access to potable water for the first time. Work is being advanced on the construction of three new water treatment plants at Uitvlugt, Diamond and Sheet Anchor to provide improved access to potable water for more than 50,000 persons – a project that will be completed in 2019.
A cooperation agreement with the Federative Republic of Brazil is witnessing the installation of eight new wells to provide potable water to more than 4,800 persons in eight Indigenous communities in Shea, Maruranau, Awaruwaunau, Bashaidrun, Achiwuib, Karaudarnau, Aishalton and Chirkidnau.
The Ministry of Natural Resources, in collaboration with the residents of Nappi, Haiowa, Parishara and other villages in the Rupununi, and a local contractor constructed one of the first water catchment areas planned for that Region.
The catchment area is approximately three kilometres in length and the dam is eight hundred (800) meters and is estimated to hold approximately three million cubic meters of water at full capacity.
This Water Catchment Area will serve as a model to demonstrate how employing long-term solutions to water management can help communities to become more resilient to the effects of prolonged droughts and El Niño spells and climate change.
Mr. Speaker, your government will continue to bring relief to senior citizens. It has already increased monthly old-age pensions by 48.6 per cent from $13,125 to $19,500. It has also increased public assistance by 35.5 per cent from $5,900 to $8,000. One hundred and fourteen persons with disabilities are currently being trained in computer and other skills.
The Central Recruitment and Manpower Agency, since January 2017, has found jobs for a total of 1,869 job-seekers.
The Ministry of Social Protection, in 2019, will place emphasis on enhancing youth employment, the development of a national sexual harassment policy, reducing violence in schools and the welfare of the aged.
The economic programme
Mr. Speaker, economic growth is necessary to sustain and improve the delivery of social services. Budget 2019, which will be tabled in National Assembly next month, is expected to be based on the theme of transformation for sustainable development and green growth towards achieving the good life.
This Budget will be presented in a less than favourable international economic environment. Global economic growth has been revised downwards due, largely, to the negative impact of trade tensions and higher oil prices.
Guyana’s economy has not been immune to these exogenous influences. The threat of sanctions against RUSAL, a major multinational, has created uncertainty in the bauxite sector. The spike in oil prices has impacted adversely on the production costs and on output in key sectors of our economy.
The economy, despite these risks, but thanks to government’s prudent management, is expected to enjoy moderate growth this year.
Your government will continue to place emphasis on building greater economic resilience through economic diversification, strengthening the traditional sectors and by catalysing and building capacity in new and emerging sectors such as agro-processing, information communications technology and ecotourism.
Visitor arrivals this year, as at August, showed a 15.23 per cent increase over the corresponding period for 2017, adding an estimated US$94 million to our economy for the first eight months of this year.
Agriculture and agro-processing
Agriculture is still a mainstay of our economy, constituting 16.6 per cent of our GDP in 2017. It is the largest employer, accounting for 17.8 per cent of our labour force.
Your government will continue to build a more resilient agricultural sector through various measures, including improved drainage and irrigation, the introduction of high-yield crop varieties and encouraging integrated pest management.
We intend to reduce crop losses and damage due to flooding by increasing the coastland’s drainage coefficient from 1.5 inches to 3.5 inches per 24-hour period, within the next three years.
The Ministry of Agriculture, this year, installed drainage pumps at Three Friends, Buxton, Lusignan, Enmore and Friendship-Vigilance. New pumping stations will be established at Hampton Court, Devonshire Castle, Den Amstel, Hope, Nootenzuil, Mora Point, Trafalgar and Rose Hall Town, in 2019, serving an additional 50,000 acres of land.
The Guyana Rice Development Board, this year, released 15 new high-yielding rice varieties with the potential of yielding an average of between 7 and 8.5 metric tonnes of rice per hectare or 45 to 55 bags per acre. New high-yielding, salt-tolerant and aromatic rice lines will be released in 2019.
Your government, through agro-processing is promoting increased agricultural output, reducing crops losses, stimulating village enterprises, economies and generating employment.
The Regional Agricultural and Commercial Exhibitions (RACEs) demonstrate the positive impact of this policy. Exhibitions showcase the industry of hundreds of small agro-processors and farmers engaged in producing and packaging a wide variety of products, including cashew nuts, cassareep, cassava bread and flours, cereals, chocolate sticks, coconut water, coconut oil, coffee, condiments, confectionary, copra, crab oil, dried peppers, essence, farine, fruit juices, honey, jams, jellies, pickles, peanut-butter and many others goods.
Your government inherited a sugar industry which was in dangerous decline. Unsustainable and prohibitive production costs, declining production and unsound investments had placed the industry in a perilous state.
Your government recognizes the importance of the sugar industry. We are restructuring the industry. The measures which have been taken including estate consolidation and workforce downsizing, were necessary to save the industry. We want to see a sustainable and viable industry – one that will contribute to national development and to the workers’ well-being.
The Guyana Sugar Corporation has installed a Board which met representatives of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL).
A plan is being developed between them to boost production in the remaining East Berbice, West Berbice and West Demerara estates. We have begun to provide training to sugar workers to become self-employed in various fields.
Sugar workers have not been abandoned to an uncertain future. The divestment of some of the sugar estates, which is expected to occur as early as the first half of 2019, will see some displaced workers being afforded the opportunity to regain employment.
We will continue to work diligently to ensure that displaced workers are provided with opportunities to participate actively in other sectors of the economy, such as the production and processing of rice and other crops, livestock, fisheries, construction, manufacturing, services and mining.
Mr. Speaker, youth unemployment, when my government assumed office, was pervasive and persistent. A Caribbean Development Bank study, dated May 2015 and entitled, “Youth are the Future: The Implications of Youth Employment for Sustainable Employment in the Caribbean”, estimated Guyana’s youth unemployment rate at 40%.
A recent labour force survey found that 35.2% of our young people, aged between 15-24 years, were not in education, not in employment and not in training.
Mr. Speaker, your government has launched a number of initiatives aimed at stimulating employment, including youth employment, through the promotion of entrepreneurship, self-employment and skills training.
The Hinterland Employment Youth Service (HEYS) provides Indigenous youth with opportunities to acquire income-earning skills. A total of 3,941 youth, between the ages of 18 and 35, benefit from this programme which has created 2051 businesses over the past two years.
Your government has provided community skills training in electrical installation, food preparation, information technology, leather craft, plumbing, poultry-rearing and other skills to our youth.
The Youth Entrepreneurial Skills Training Programme (YEST), since September 2017, has trained an additional 721 youths attached to the Sophia Training Centre, the Kuru Kuru Training Centre and the Vryman’s Erven Training Centre. These programmes complement the other technical and vocational training services being provided by government and which also benefit young persons
Mr. Speaker, small and medium-scaled enterprises (SMEs) are key to sustaining growth and generating employment, particularly for young people. Your government will continue to promote initiatives aimed at strengthening the SME sector in order to stimulate entrepreneurship and promote job-creation.
Your government will continue to remove constraints to SME development and, in particular, access to government procurement, access to finance and access to business registration. We will activate the 20% minimum quota for small businesses within public procurement.
Cabinet has approved the Small Business Procurement Programme which will see mandatory set-asides for approved small businesses and set-asides for sub-contracting. All government agencies are expected to participate in the programme. Your government is proud of its efforts in providing access to finance for small businesses:
The Small Business Bureau has granted 45 loans valued at US$618,000 and given out 158 grants valued at US$237,000 through which more than 500 new jobs were expected to be created.
- The Linden Enterprise Network (LEN), the Micro- and Small-Enterprise Development (MSED) project and the Hinterland Employment and Youth Service (HEYS) – have together provided $1.2 billion in grants and loans to more than 3,000 entrepreneurs, including first-time business start-ups.
- The Sustainable Livelihoods and Entrepreneurial Development (SLED) initiative is helping to support sustainable economic ventures which boost household incomes, especially for women. The initiative has funded 49 projects valued at $230 million and has benefitted 530 households.
- The Women of Worth (WOW) and the People of Worth Entrepreneurial Resources initiatives have disbursed G$8.8 million in loans to single women, single males and couples to engage in economic ventures.
- The Ministry of Business, in 2018, established three additional business registration hubs at Lethem, Mahdia and Rose Hall Town. These hubs allow businesses in remote areas to be registered without the principals having to travel to some distant administrative centre. Seven small business enterprises help desks were set up in six regions across Guyana.
- The Hinterland Employment Youth Service (HEYS) programme will continue in 2019. The programme provides Indigenous youth with opportunities to acquire income-earning skills. A total of 3,941 youths, between the ages of 18 and 35 from 215 Indigenous communities and villages have benefitted from this programme over the past two years.
Investment and trade
Mr. Speaker, your government will continue to attract and facilitate increased investment and trade. The Guyana Office for Investment (GOINVEST), in the first half of 2018, facilitated 57 projects with a proposed investment value of $10.4 billion and which were expected to create 696 jobs.
The Guyana Trade and Investment Exhibition, held only last month, and which saw the participation of 113 buyers and 56 exhibitors, provided a platform for local export-ready firms to engage international buyers.
Mr. Speaker, your government is developing the capability to effectively manage the oil and gas sector. We established, on the 1st August 2018, a Department of Energy to ensure that a sound organizational, administrative, legislative and regulatory framework would be put in place for the management of the sector in accordance with international best practice. The ‘Department’, whose remit includes renewable energy has commenced its work.
Oil production is expected to begin in 2020 and will be the most transformative economic development in our recent history. Your government is taking steps to ensure that the revenues which accrue from the sector will not be squandered but, instead, will be invested strategically in building human and institutional capacity, addressing our infrastructural deficit and providing economic security for future generations.
Your government is committed to transparency in the management of this sector. We have made public the petroleum contracts signed between investors and the Government of Guyana.
Work is continuing, also, on the Petroleum Commission Bill which has been re-drafted and forwarded to the Department of Energy for review. Other legislation which the Department of Energy is reviewing includes amendments to the Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Act and Regulations.
Your government will ensure that oil revenues are prudently managed for the present and future generations in accordance with our objective of securing the good life for all. We shall do this through a Natural Resources Fund which will be established before first oil in 2020.
Priority will be given to investments in human capital, particularly our public education system and key catalytic infrastructural projects that improve productivity and bridge the divide between the coastland and hinterland.
We laid a Green Paper on the Natural Resources Fund, before this Assembly, in August. This action was consistent with our conviction that the people should fully understand the implications of the Fund and that they would be involved in the discussions concerning its establishment and management.
The legislation, as it stands, meets 21 of the 24 Santiago Principles with the other three principles being met once the legislation comes into force. It is being reviewed by Cabinet and the revised legislation will be laid in the National Assembly next month. This legislation is comprehensive and will ensure that revenues from petroleum are managed in a transparent and accountable manner.
We have already begun to build the capacity of key agencies concerned with management of the Natural Resources Fund and have developed an implementation plan to ensure that the Fund is fully operational in 2019 prior to first oil.
Mr. Speaker, Members of the National Assembly, the mining sector is being aligned to the objectives of Guyana’s Green State Development Strategy. A 10-year strategic plan for the sustainable development of mineral resources of Guyana is being drafted and is expected to lead to a National Minerals Sector Policy Framework (NMSPF) and a National Minerals Sector Action Plan.
Your government is also improving forestry management. A new Code of Practice and Forest Regulations were introduced in the National Assembly in May this year and have enhanced the governance architecture of the forestry sector. They have allowed Guyana to move closer towards a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union under the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (EU-FLEGT) programme. A National Log Export Policy has been drafted and approved by Cabinet. Implementation is envisaged for 2019, after review and sector sensitisation.
Your government took steps to protect the local timber industry. The new import requirements for the importation of pine lumber have led to a 78.4 per cent reduction in pine lumber imports and have increased opportunities for local sawmills and loggers.
The governance programme
Members of the National Assembly, the Constitution of Guyana is supreme. Your Government has re-established and made appointments to institutions decreed by the Constitution. The Ombudsman, Police Complaints Authority, the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, the Public Service Appellate Tribunal and the Police, Public and Teaching Service Commissions have been appointed.
Your government is empowering Indigenous peoples to better manage their communities. Village Council elections were held in 116 villages, 46 satellites and 47 Community Development Councils. Toshaos from all 215 villages, communities, satellites and Councils attended the 12th National Toshaos’ Conference (NTC) in July 2018.
It was at the 10th Conference of the NTC 2016 that I made a call for the development of Village Improvement Plans which would create a roadmap for improving the delivery of public services in Indigenous communities. I am happy to note that 57 villages from the Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo Region have completed their plans.
Presidential Grants have been used to strengthen Indigenous village economies and finance community projects including rearing cattle and small ruminants, furniture-manufacturing and sawmilling.
Information communications technology
Your government is expanding ICT access across the country. The National Data Management Authority (NDMA) currently provides internet connectivity for 175 primary schools, 108 secondary schools and 34 tertiary, technical and vocational institutions. The digital divide is being closed.
Free internet access is being provided to more than 11,000 users in remote, underdeveloped and hinterland communities through 130 ICT hubs and 79 Public Internet Access Points. 116 government agencies and ministries have been connected to the eGovernment network.
The Ministry of Public Telecommunications, next year, will implement a US$37.6 million National Broadband Project which will see improvements and additions to online government services, including admissions to nursery and primary schools, old-age pension and public assistance and applications for birth and death certificates. An additional 20 hinterland communities, also, will be connected to the internet.
Mr. Speaker, Members of the National Assembly, your government has established a constellation of public broadcasting services at Aishalton, Bartica, Lethem, Mahdia, Mabaruma and Orealla which, along with Radio Paiwomak, is according citizens the right to information and to be heard. Public broadcasting services can be used to provide critical information, including warnings and alerts of the threat, or the occurrence, of natural disasters or emergencies.
Public broadcasting services can be used to summon help and relief. They can be utilised to provide advisories which can save lives and protect citizens from harm.
Mr. Speaker, Members of the National Assembly, your government is proud to have restored local democracy on 18th March 2016 after a twenty-two-year hiatus. Those historic Local Government Elections have created a democratic dividend. Municipalities, including the newly-created towns Bartica, Lethem, Mabaruma and, more recently, Mahdia and neighbourhood democratic councils are being energized and revitalized. Residents are taking a greater interest in the well-being and development of their communities.
The Ministry of Communities is supporting the work of local democratic organs. The 2018 subvention programme is fully disbursed in accordance with the Fiscal Transfers Act. The local democratic organs are focused on completing their respective programmes by year’s end, 2018.
Local democracy is a means of citizens’ empowerment. Your government will ensure that respect is paid to local democratic organs and that we will strengthen their capacity to deliver effective and efficient public services. The first National Conference of Local Democratic Organs (NCLDO), held in June 2018, was aimed at fostering cooperation and collaboration between and among local democratic organs and with Regional administrations and the Central Government.
Government has signed a $26.2 million contract to execute a pilot project in New Amsterdam for the modernization of its property assessment and valuation system. This is the first part of a national assessment that will enhance the Valuation Division’s capacity to provide more effective valuation services to local democratic organs.
Local Government Elections will be held next month as due under the Constitution and will incorporate one new municipality and eight new neighbourhood democratic councils for the first time.
Mr. Speaker and Members of the National Assembly, the security of our citizens is paramount. Your government is reforming the security sector to ensure safer communities and to protect investments. We do not underestimate the seriousness of the public security challenges which we face but, equally, no one should underrate our resolve to make our country safer.
The security sector has not yet fully recovered from the damage done during the period which I refer to as ‘The Troubles’. Your government is committed, through security sector reform, to restore integrity to the Police Force.
Security sector reform, with the support of the United Kingdom, has started. A new Force directorate, established in accordance with the Constitution, is in place. A new Commissioner of Police with four Deputy Commissioners have been appointed.
Police administration is being decentralized with the alignment of divisional boundaries to regional boundaries. The Commissioner and his team will be given the support to correct the abuses which have hitherto afflicted the Force.
We have committed, thus far, close to $1.7 billion dollars for the construction, refurbishment and renovation of police stations in order to provide a comfortable working environment for policemen and policewomen, to improve services to citizens and increase crime-prevention capabilities.
The Force is being retooled with equipment and vehicles, some of which are being provided by friendly governments such as the People’s Republic of China.
Security sector reform extends to the management of our prisons. Our prison system has become unstable because of past failures to implement security sector reforms in a timely and comprehensive manner.
Your government is transforming the prison system from being primarily penal institutions to one that is correctional in character. We will promote successful offender reintegration into society and rebuild public trust in the Guyana Prison Service.
Work will continue, in 2019, to improve prison management. The expansion of the Mazaruni Prison and the reconstruction of the Georgetown Prison will reduce overcrowding and improve prison safety.
Your government will work to ensure security and safety on both land and sea. We will launch a Commission of Inquiry into the tragic incidents which occurred, in Surinamese waters during the period 27-28 April 2018 and again on 3rd May 2018, when our fisher folk were attacked and some of them murdered.
Immigration and citizenship
Your government is relieving citizens, who live outside of Georgetown, of the frustration and high costs associated with obtaining passports. The service at the Central Passport Office in Georgetown is now more people-friendly and efficient. The Department of Citizenship is decentralizing the service in order to make it more accessible to persons residing outside of the city. Passport offices have been established at New Amsterdam and Linden. We will establish additional offices in Anna Regina, Bartica and Lethem.
The Department of Citizenship, also, has been integrally involved in addressing the influx of migrants from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The crisis in that country has created challenges for our small state and has led to an estimated 2,500 Venezuelan migrants seeking refuge, mainly in our frontier communities.
Your government will provide, within its means, humanitarian assistance, including food and medical treatment and temporary settlement to these migrants. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs collaborated with the Department of Citizenship and the Ministry of Public Security on the development of new procedures whereby Venezuelan migrants, including undocumented migrants entering Guyana, would be registered and issued with a three-month permit of stay which could be further extended.
Legislative agenda, 2019
Mr. Speaker and Members of the National Assembly, your government has a packed legislative agenda to bring before the National Assembly in 2019. It is beyond the scope of this address to describe fully the legislation likely to be tabled but I would like to highlight a few.
- The Public Debt Management Bill, addressing reforms of our procurement system, as well as for improved expenditure planning, management and execution of the public sector investment programme, will be introduced to ensure improvements in Guyana’s financial management.
- The Natural Resource Fund Bill will be introduced. The Bill will place the administration of the Fund under the Bank of Guyana and will require parliamentary approval for withdrawals.
- The Mining Act and its Regulations are being comprehensively overhauled to ensure that mining is better regulated to ensure safety, efficiency and environmental sustainability. The Mining (Amendment) Bill and its companion Regulations will be introduced in the National Assembly in the first quarter of 2019. Amendments will also be tabled in respect of the Guyana Gold Board Act and its Regulations. New regulations to reduce the use of mercury in the mining sector and to ensure better environmental practices on land and water resources will be introduced in 2019.
- The Judicial Review Bill, aims at providing the Courts with gatekeeping functions to distinguish between frivolous and vexations applications.
- An Intellectual Property Rights Bill will be brought before the House to upgrade Guyana’s intellectual property rights legislation.
The Integrity Commission (Amendment) Bill will amend the schedule of declarants so as to more accurately reflect today’s range of senior public officers.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been in the forefront of efforts to protect our national patrimony, to secure our vital interests and to promote international economic cooperation.
The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on 30th January 2018 informed the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela that, since significant progress had not been made toward arriving at a full agreement for the solution of the controversy between the two states, he had “chosen the International Court of Justice as the means that is now to be used for its solution.”
This decision was in accordance with the view by Guyana that a judicial settlement was the best means of achieving a final and definitive settlement of the long-standing controversy.
Guyana, in accordance with this decision, filed its Application with the International Court of Justice on 29th March 2018, requesting the Court to adjudge and declare on several issues, the foremost being that the 1899 Arbitral Award is valid and binding upon both Guyana and Venezuela.
The President of the International Court of Justice convened a meeting with Guyana and Venezuela, on 18th June 2018, for the purpose of ascertaining the views of the Parties with regard to questions of procedure in the case. Venezuela, in response, issued a Communiqué which indicated that it would not participate in the case, alleging that the Court did not have jurisdiction.
Guyana, therefore, is in the process of preparing its Memorial on Jurisdiction to the Court to be submitted on 19th November this year. The Court has established 18th April 2019 for the submission of the Counter-Memorial by Venezuela.
Guyana, in the meantime, continues to sensitise the international community about the Secretary-General’s decision and actions taken thus far at the ICJ. Guyana, in so doing, has obtained the support for the judicial process from several international organisations.
Mr. Speaker, your government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has signed international cooperation agreements with a number of countries, including the People’s Republic of China, Japan, the Republic of India, Republic of Korea and the Republic of Turkey. Guyana, this year, joined the International Solar Alliance.
Your government, as you’re aware, signed the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana on Cooperation within the Framework of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative. A paved road link, between Linden and Lethem, is under active consideration as part of that initiative.
Guyana, under the Caribbean Single Market and Economy, is forging closer ties and cementing stronger economic cooperation with Barbados, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and the other states of the Caribbean.
I attended the 9th Meeting of the Prime Ministerial Sub-committee of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy in Bridgetown, Barbados in September 2018 and later held important discussions with Prime Minister Mia Mottley.
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley of Trinidad and Tobago also came to Georgetown in the same month and, together, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation on Energy and we discussed wide-ranging areas of possible cooperation.
Mr. Speaker, Members of the National Assembly, a great deal of work lies ahead of this House in this Session. You can rest assured that the government will support the Assembly in providing oversight over the work of executive and in the debate and passage of key pieces of legislation for 2019.
Guyanese could expect confidently, that by the end of 2019, they would be able to live in a State with more secure borders; communities that are safer; in an economy that is more resilient; in a society that is more cohesive; with public services that are more accessible and constitutional agencies and institutions which enjoy the confidence and respect of the public.
This is the type of country which will provide Guyanese with the good life. This is the society at which we aim. This is the future which we seek.
I thank you.