Guyana president says global economic crisis “a blessing”

By RON FANFAIR

The global financial crisis could be a blessing in disguise for developing countries like Guyana, which do not have a sophisticated capital market, that country’s president, Bharrat Jagdeo, said in Toronto last weekend at the annual Guyana Day celebrations in Scarborough.

“We have been spared the worst ravages of the crisis while millions around the word have been forced into poverty or homelessness,” said Jagdeo. “We have always been arguing that small countries need a sympathetic global financial architecture which takes account of their peculiarities for them to prosper in the global economy. It’s not just adequate to preach liberalization and globalization without looking at the peculiarities of the countries.

“The multinational financial institutions never focused on small countries and the big countries always had the advantage. So, there is a possibility that that will change now and that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will be reformed, the World Bank will be reformed, the regional development banks and even the World Trade Organization (WTO) will take a better view of the needs of the small countries of the world.

“Because we don’t have large domestic markets, we rely on exports and if that export environment is not right, then we are not going to be able to create the opportunities for our people in the developing world and they will continue to migrate to the larger developed countries.”

Jagdeo, who also attended the celebrations last year, said Guyana’s economy is stable despite unprecedented spending in the education and health care sectors. Nearly 700 students are pursuing medical studies in Cuba and they will return home over the next five years to work at the eight new hospitals now being built.

The President recognized Milton-based Nadira Jagan-Brancier whose deceased parents, Dr. Cheddi and Janet Jagan, co-founded the People’s Progressive Party (PPP). Janet Jagan resigned as Guyana’s president in 1999 because of poor health, clearing the way for Jagdeo to become her successor. She passed away last March.

“Her death marked the end of an era in our country because the two of them formed the first political party in Guyana and they led the fight for independence,” said Jagdeo. “Much of the dignity that we have and the dignity that our people have been able to attain can be traced back to their struggles…They set clear goals that are focused around people and their improvement and it’s up to us and future generations to ensure these are met.”

Jagdeo spoke for several minutes about the low carbon development strategy that he launched earlier this month, which is viewed as an investment in low carbon infrastructure, employment in low carbon economic sectors and in communities with human capital.

While most forest countries have high rates of deforestation with their heavily forested areas in decline, Guyana has over 80 per cent of its land area (37 million acres) covered in forest. The plan – under Jagdeo’s new strategy – is to extract resources to secure much needed revenue to aid the country’s growth and development.

“We have come up with a model where we are saying, from trading carbon services provided by our tropical forests, we could present a huge abatement solution to the world and it could fund a low carbon growth trajectory for Guyana,” he said. “A ton of carbon sequestered in our forest will cost the world about $4.

“In Europe, they are paying $30 dollars a ton more than they were paying before the financial crisis. So it’s a very cost-effective way of addressing climate change because one ton of carbon emitted in Guyana and Canada has the same impact on climate change. That presents an opportunity for us to use our forest differently.”

The Guyana Day event is part of the Guyana Heritage celebrations launched last year to mark the country’s Independence anniversary. Guyana attained independence on May 26, 1966. Beginning last month, close to 30 events took place in five Canadian provinces to mark the occasion.

CARICOM Consular Corps representatives Michael Lashley of Trinidad & Tobago, Leroy McLean of Barbados, John Allen of St. Kitts & Nevis and Jorge Soberon of Cuba, federal Member of Parliament Jim Karygiannis, Ontario MPP Bas Balkissoon and Ontario Health Minister Margarett Best attended last Saturday’s opening ceremony.

“Canada and Ontario’s strengths lie in their communities and each community is a door to the world,” said Best. “The Guyanese community’s door is wide open for trade, cultural and bilateral relations.

“Because of our strong ties, Guyana and Canada have had a long history of helping each other. I trust that this history of supporting each other will continue as we look for support from Guyana when we bid to host the 2015 Pan American Games.”

Guyana’s Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Manniram Prashad and chairman of the Private Sector Commission of Guyana, Gerry Gouveia, accompanied Jagdeo on the trip.

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