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Copyright ©2014 Parliament of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana.

Budget Speech - Dr Ramsammy—2014

Hits: 3144 | Published Date: 03 Apr, 2014
| Speech delivered at: 75th Sitting - Tenth Parliament
| Speech Delivered by : Dr. Leslie S. Ramsammy, MP

Minister of Agriculture [Dr. Ramsammy]: I thought that Dr. Mahadeo, the Hon. Member, should have ended his speech like the Hon. Member, Mr. Damon, did yesterday by saying, “I rest my case.”
Dr. Norton...[Interruption] I was, for 30 seconds or so, going to say that other than Dr. Mahadeo, there is nobody in this room who has visited the National Psychiatric Hospital more than I have done, even though I am Minister of Agriculture at this time. [Laughter] I am glad about their reaction because, in fact, there are those of us who still care for people.
I listened to Dr. George Norton the other day because I was at the Ministry and at the hospital when we were reconstructing some of those buildings and the kind of facility that we built. I know Dr. Norton was not there. He heard what somebody said and, like many things said over there during the last few days, it is hearsay.    [An. Hon. Member: Inaudible]     I know because I have been there. You just laughed about the fact that I go there.
Mr. Speaker and Colleagues, in spite of the national and global difficulties that we faced in 2013, Guyana still did very, very well in comparison to the rest of the Caribbean.
The 2014 Budget Estimates are presented at a time when we have clear choices before us. The stark choices we can make are either to promote the welfare and peaceful development of Guyana or we can stall our development through misguided actions and obstructionism. These are two different and very distinct pathways before us. Too often, in the last 28 months since the last Elections, there seems confusion about the choices before us. Some of us think that our mandate in this House is to flex our muscles and score political points...   [Dr. Norton: How your muscles...]     You have come back, Dr. Norton. We think that we should flex our muscles, misrepresent, misinform, even if our country is harmed and our people’s welfare is jeopardised. When we risk international blacklisting, for example, we place our country in harm’s way. Comrades...    [Mr. Ramjattan: ...elections and...]    Mr. Ramjattan, I am not going to bother with you.
There has been much talk about a new dispensation - lots of talk. Do you remember? Our people spoke and wanted to see greater co-operation and, in truth, I have come to realise that there are different dispensations in the Tenth Parliament. There is a dispensation of blackmail politics. There is a dispensation of blacklisting as an option for our future. I am dismayed that there is even a dispensation called “scissors politics” – “the politics of the scissors”. We are often reminded of that not only in words, but in the gestures. Truly, those who remind us of the scissors remind us with glee; truly here in the Tenth Parliament there are distorted dispensations from the one people may have conjured up in their minds. Truth be told, the dispensations played out in this Tenth Parliament are perversions of the people’s hopes and aspirations. The people’s business has become the victim of horse trading, blackmail and self serving interests.
Our people, however, will decide who is guilty and many of them have already expressed their views, but such perverted dispensations that we have arrogated to ourselves in the name of our people must be rejected and must not be allowed to become the character of the Tenth Parliament of Guyana. I refuse to think that this is the best we can do. I refuse to think that this is an option. I refuse to think that we are unable to shift gears and adopt a new imperative, the imperative to accelerate development, to foster an environment of cooperation and harmony, to lift the social welfare standards of our people and of our country.
Our development, promoting the welfare in the interest of our people, must never become a game of possum on a wheeler dealer dashboard. It is not a game of trading or roulette table. Take, for example, the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry. Mr. Speaker and Comrades, it is the right thing to do. We have procrastinated for too long. Let us do it now. Let us get it over with. It is in the national interest. Our people deserve better. Our people deserve representatives who can put aside pettiness and narrow political agendas whenever an opportunity arises for us to act in unison on matters of national interest.
I have listened to all of the speakers. I have listened to these speeches and was I to go with the story of Guyana that emanates out of these halls, one may think that there are two different countries that we are talking about. When I listen to my Colleagues over there, I hear of a country that is going nowhere, that is not developing, that is imploding, that is falling apart. They talk about a country of hopelessness. I hear of a country where nothing is right. I even heard the Hon. Member, Mr. Bulkan, talk of apartheid.    [Mr. Bulkan: It is not me. The people in Region 8 said that.]     Okay, Mr. Bulkan. I heard the Hon. Member, Mr. Desmond Trotman, explain the growth in our country and that it is driven by drugs and all the development and construction and so on are due to drug lords and drug money. This is the country I hear about. I hear that all of our teachers are gone and all of our professionals are gone. They have all migrated; at least all of the good ones have left when I hear the story from over there, but then I leave to go back to my office or to go home or go to the villages. I enter another country, another Guyana.
Do we have problems? Yes. I hear my Friend, the Hon. Member, Mrs. Volda Lawrence, talk about alcohol. True. I hear of suicide. True. We have many problems in our country, like every other country in the world. I think the Hon. Member, Dr. Mahadeo, said, “Tell me which country is perfect.” We do have problems. We would be fooling ourselves if we think that we do not have problems. But I also see a country that is proud. I see a country that is resilient. I see a country that is demonstrating day in and day out that it has the capacity to overcome our adversities. While I see a country confronting many problems, I also see a country boldly moving forward in the trajectory of development and it is happening everyday in our country.
I see a Guyana that is growing, that is emerging as a country that offers us all better lives. You all look very nice.    [Ms. Ally: We always do.]     Yes. I see a country that is developing its infrastructure. I see a bustling country where we are trying to take better care of our children and better care of our elderly. I see a country where we do live in freedom no matter what you say. I see a country where people’s dreams are unfettered and that there is a real chance of making dreams come through in our country, and they are coming through every day. I see young people, public servants, working in the various offices, who work for a few months and then put a down payment and get a car to come to work. I see that and I see many more who want those dreams to come through. I see a country that has had eight straight years of uninterrupted growth. Never since adult suffrage in 1953 has Guyana had such a long period of sustained, uninterrupted growth.
We must be doing something right. No other country in the Caribbean, in CARICOM, has been able to do this so we must have done something extraordinary and it is time that we all be proud of it.    [Ms. Ally: You are not [inaudible]]     My Comrade, Ms. Ally, does not have to be afraid. Minister Ramsaran made sure that the ambulance is there. Eight years of growth, by any standard, is an extraordinary accomplishment and if you do not think so, then I am forced to ask, as my Comrade, Dr. Vindhya Persaud did, “What is wrong with you?”
I see a Guyana that is no longer a least developing country. We are proud that we, in the PPP/C Government, have guided our country to graduate from a least developing country to a middle income country. Yet, we will not rest because we also want, in our lifetime, to emerge as a high middle income country. That is the path that the 2014 Budget seeks to consolidate. That is the path.
The destinations that Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago have set themselves must not be elusive to us. Our ambition for Guyana is unlimited, but not unrealistic. When I hear the gloom and doom of the country that my Colleagues so gleefully describe and a country in which everything is bad and wrong, I ask myself, “What is wrong with them?”
While I do see the problems, I also see a Guyana in which our children are topping the Region at CXC because we invest in the education of our children – $32 billion this year. It is this investment that sees primary education access to all of our children in every nook and cranny of our country. It is this investment that sees secondary education coming to all of our children. I see our children completing secondary school, going to colleague, becoming doctors and lawyers and engineers and they come from every corner of our country today, from every kind of family in this country. This is the direct result of our development programme. I should take a lesson from my Comrade and Friend, Dr. Ramayya, the Hon. Member, by saying that this is a direct impact of our development.   [Mr. Ramjattan: [[inaudible] will rebut.]    Yes, you will have your time. This is the work of teachers who live and work right here in Guyana, even if our Colleagues on the other side think that their better friends have left the country. But it is those who are here that are accomplishing what we as a country...
I see a country that was recognised, in 2013, by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) as one of only 38 countries that has reduced hunger by 50% before 2015. I see a Guyana that the FAO has said is one of only 17 countries that were able to reduce malnutrition to less than 10% before 2015. It is one of few countries that were able to attain universal treatment for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and one of the few countries that have reached a stage of elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV.
This is our country. It has many serious challenges, as many of our Colleagues have pointed out, but so many good things are happening to it. I ask my Friends, why do you diminish our country and our people? In spite of all that I have heard, I am still very proud of my country, Guyana, and my people, my brothers and my sisters.
I see a Guyana where life expectancy is increasing. It is now 70 and it has a chance of being 75 by 2025, similar to most of the CARICOM countries and that is because we invest in health – $22 billion this year. I have to ask, therefore, of my Friend: what is wrong with you? It is a direct impact, Dr. Ramayya, of our development trajectory, a development programme that our budgets of the past enshrined and that the 2014 Budget builds on.
When more of our people own their own homes and when more are expanding and repairing their homes, why can we not appreciate that these are the evidence of a country moving in the right direction? Can we not see and acknowledge, even if we want more? What is wrong with that?
When more of our people own their vehicles, as the Bishop said last night – more than 15,000 registered last year – is this not a direct impact of the development of our country?
I see a Guyana in which owning and using a computer is no longer a privilege of a few wealthy people, but a right that is being fulfilled with each year of the PPP/C Government. I see a Guyana in which investment by the local private sector continues to grow. Credit to the private sector has stopped $80 billion in each of the last three years. Besides the large private sector investment, small entrepreneurs are flourishing across the country. Whole new town-like communities have developed in Lethem and Bartica, Waramadong, Mabaruma, Parika, Rosignol, Vreed-en-Hoop, Lenora, Bush Lot, Bath Settlement and dozens of other localities in all of the Regions of Guyana. Smalls stores owned by ordinary Guyanese families are springing up everywhere and beauty salons, restaurants, agro-processing facilities, other small business, owned by young people, are providing livelihoods and jobs for people in every community of Guyana. Private schools and health facilities have become serious enterprises in Guyana. This is the Guyana I see.
Guyana continues to attract the interest of the international community. It is the reason National Geographic identified Guyana as one of the top ten destinations. It is the reason Copa is interested in Guyana. We speak in this House as if we live in two different countries, but there is only one Guyana - a Guyana that we can make even better with better lives for all by working together for our country every time, any time. This is our imperative.
We have heard a lot about investments in our country. The Minister spoke of foreign direct investment, more than $300 million that year and, I suspect, that that amount of last year is more than all of post-independence up to 1992. The real story of development that I want to focus on is not the foreign direct investment, but the investment of our own people, people who live and work in this beautiful country. Do you know, Mr. Speaker, that small-scale farmers in our country are actually the largest investor in our development? Take, for instance, rice farmers; in 2013, the rice farmers of Guyana invested in operational cost – not their total investment – $28 billion - real money. This is money they invested in land preparation, in fertilisers and pesticide, in seed paddy, in water management in their fields, in harvesting and in transportation of their paddy. They invested a minimum of $28 billion cultivating 400 acres. These same rice farmers, in the last three years, invested $6 billion in just two items – tractors and harvesters. I also must mention the millers who in the last three years invested $10 billion in increasing capacity for drying, storage and milling of paddy. Many millers are now working with the Energy Research Institute of India to replace the use of fossil fuel to reduce cost and to affect greater efficiency in their operations.
These are not drug dealers. They are not using drug money. It is their hard-earned cash that they invest. The economy of Guyana is driven towards positive growth by these investors, not the drug lords that some of our Colleagues on the other side paint them as with one brush. These are the hardcore facts. When we speak loosely, we insult people like our rice farmers. These rice farmers generated income of more than $45 billion in 2013. This is the story of Guyana. This is the Guyana I see, not a Guyana that develops because of drug money but because of hardworking ordinary citizens, our brothers and our sisters.
I am saddened that the other day we had to argue, right or wrong, about grass cutters in this House but that gave me a chance to focus a little on Leguan. The rice farmers of Leguan invested, in 2013 – I am talking about a little place – $675 million. This is 0.1% of Guyana’s GDP in one little corner of Guyana. Even if they do cut grass, guess what, they contribute to the development of our country. They contribute to better lives for you and me and for all of us.
When we seek to explain eight years of continued growth by dismissing it as a drug-driven growth, one diminishes the hard work of our people, their commitment, their dreams and their achievements. One insults them. This is the story of Guyana that I see when I leave the hallowed Halls of our Parliament. It is not a broken country with only dismal tails to tell. It is a country bravely moving forward, upwards, on a trajectory of better lives for all of our people. Comrades, Colleagues all, whichever side we belong to, we need to celebrate these successes.
Our country defied the odds of weather last year, including a full blown drought in the first quarter of 2013. Do you remember, Dr. Roopnarine, that drought in the first crop? We defied the paddy bug. When everybody thought that we were going to collapse because of bad weather and paddy bug, guess what, the rice farmers of Guyana produced 535,000 tonnes and 400,000 tonnes of that were exported. I think all of us should not be shy at giving the rice farmers of Guyana a loud applause and acknowledgment for their contributions. The country we live in can reach 600,000 tonnes this year. I remember when I was Minister of Health one of the debates when people like Mr. Robert Persaud and Mr. Seeraj spoke of a plan to reach 500,000 tonnes by 2020 and people told them that it is impossible. This year, we might make 600,000 tonnes.
Just before I came here, I looked at the latest statistics. Thirty-eight per cent of the crop has been harvested in the first crop and the production is 125,000 tonnes with 5.5 tonnes per hectare, among the best in the world. I reject outright that the $500 million in the Budget is a handout to our farmers.
The rice industry contributed 5% of GDP in Guyana in 2013 and accounts for more than US$240 million in export earnings. More than 40,000 people depend on this industry for employment and for their livelihood.
In terms of food security, rice has helped to secure Guyana’s status as a food secured country. Last year, we invested in fertiliser to reduce the cost and we saved the farmers $800 million. This year, we will again influence the market by forcing it to drop below $5,000 per bag and we expect to save the industry $1 billion in 2014.
In addition, we will procure a number of laser levellers to locate in Regions 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 to help to increase yields. Further, we will expand our research facilities to introduce higher yielding seed paddy. This year, we will spend $70 million to operationalise the No. 56 seed facility and introduce a larger storage capacity for the industry. This is how we build the industry. This is how we ensure that the industry continues to be strengthened.
I must make reference because the Hon. Member Jennifer Wade did bring up the payment to farmers. As of right now, there is no rice farmer owed any money for the last crop. [Interruption] They were paid. The Ministry ensured that all our farmers were paid for the last crop. In 2012, 70% of our export went to Venezuela. In 2013, 58% went to Venezuela. In 2014, even though the absolute amount will be about the same it will be only 38% of our exports because we are growing the markets. It is at this point that I must say that we expect the first shipment of rice and paddy to Venezuela to arrive in Caracas on 18th April. If rice tells a success story in Guyana blazing a development trail, sugar tells a story of concern. No one in this House can be more disappointed and distressed about the performance of GuySuCo than I am.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Member, before you go into GuySuCo proper, you will require an extension of 15 minutes.
Mr. Hinds: Mr. Speaker, I propose that the Hon. Minister be given 15 minutes to continue his presentation.
Question put, and agreed to
Dr. Ramsammy: Sugar, as Dr. Anthony and Dr. Gopaul stated so poignantly and rightfully, is too important an industry to fail. It is not the first timers, the Hon. Member Komal Chand told us before that sugar is in distress. I grew up in the sugar industry and I know. But GuySuCo will recover and 2014 will mark the turning point in the performance of GuySuCo. We have made major changes in management and we have identified the members of the new board that will take control from 1st July. After three years of failing to reach its target, GuySuCo is set to reach its 2014 target. In the last five weeks GuySuCo has reached 45,000 tonnes as of yesterday, and an average of 9,000 tonnes per week. But the time we get to the Estimates next week, GuySuCo would have surpassed the entire first crop of 2013 and we will still have five weeks more of production to go.   [Ms. Ally: Do you know the target?]    Yes, I know the target. Every sugar estate is performing within reach of their targets. [Interruption] It is not an understatement...
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, we are dealing with a very important and sensitive sector. We do well if we listen.
Dr. Ramsammy: Thank you. It is not an understatement to say that Skeldon has not functioned to expectations. Nevertheless, we continue to make progress in sorting out the issues at Skeldon. For this first crop of 2014 the factory has increased on the tonne cane per hour process; the factory has also improved tremendously with its weekly grinding hours with an average of 140 hours per week so far for this crop. There is already a 25% improvement in sugar recovery and Skeldon will meet its target this week. There is a great deal of interest. For Skeldon, let me say that I have heard Dr. Ramayya and I am not allowing Mr. Harmon and others to draw me into this. But all of you are dead wrong when you say not one kilowatt of energy comes out of Skeldon; dead absolutely wrong. Because during grinding season up to eight megawatts of energy is being given to the national grid from Skeldon.
There is a great deal of interest in the $6 billion allocation for GuySuCo. The $6 billion will be geared towards the mechanisation drive of the industry, a drive that seeks to address a small labour pool that the industry now relies on and to improve on cane yields in 2014. Land conversion cost will account for $1.1 billion with 2,500 hectares of land slated to be converted in 2014. Another $1 billion will be expended on tillage and replanting programmes this year with 9,600 hectares of land to be tilled and 9,224 hectares to be planted. Investments will also be made in legume and flood fallowing programmes to further enhance cane fields. A portion of the $6 billion will be spent on capital programmes in our factories. For example, we will be improving factory automation at Albion, works on the two pump dumpers at Skeldon, and we will upgrade the boilers at [inaudible].
I spoke of the two countries we seem to live in. Some of us see no future in sugar, but the Guyana I see is the Guyana in which sugar continues in the long term to be a sweet story. The PPP/C has no hesitation, no ambiguity; sugar will continue as a major pillar of our development. I hear the denial from several quarters that there is no plan to close the sugar industry. I am glad to hear the denial. I am glad that we are all on the same page that GuySuCo will continue to b a major industry in our country. [Interruption] We are not confused about that. Sugar is Guyana’s past, sugar is Guyana’s today, our present, and sugar is our future; very much so. We will continue to build the sugar industry to continue as a lead industry in our country and we will work with the sugar workers to ensure that their industry continues to provide employment, economic and social gains for our people and for our country. Those who harbour thoughts of the closure of the sugar industry are dead wrong.
To those who harbour any thoughts of the exchange of sugar for tilapia or ethanol, our answer to them is unequivocal that sugar in bulk and value-added forms will continue to be a primary product in this industry. We can see by-products such as rum and ethanol, but the PPP/C’s plan is sugar and not sugar or. In these difficult times, when challenges seem more than opportunities, some may feel the need to savagely attack our efforts, but the workers and managers have been sticking to the task at hand, reconfiguration of the sugar industry for another century of leading the economic growth of our country. It is true that sugar and rice have dominated any discussion on agriculture but our people have always grown enough food to feed the Nation. We are a food secure country. We produce much of the food we need.  But Guyana needs to organise its non-sugar, non-rice agriculture and formalise it so that it functions in an architecture which is similar to the formal organisation of rice and sugar.
During this debate, I heard the Hon. Member Jennifer Wade speak about an agriculture development bank. This is an ongoing discussion. When I became Minister 28 months or so ago, I put two matters on the table. But long before my time through Hon. Minister Robert Persaud, the Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with the World Bank and other partners over the last several years have been studying two important initiatives: an agri-development bank and crop insurance. These are mechanisms that can prove significant in our development, if we are serious about agriculture as a main pillar of our development these industries should be studied with a high degree of seriousness. As we implement the agriculture strategy the Ministry of Agriculture intends to submit our recommendations as a way forward for Cabinet during 2014.
We produced more than $30 billion worth of vegetables and other foods outside of meat products that are consumed locally. This is far as our information allows to confirm. We believe that the production exceed $50 billion annually. We have never developed a proper production information system. And while it is true that most developing countries lack a true production, information system for cash crops, outside of the big export crops, this is a deficiency we must address. This is one of the major ongoing activities in 2014.
We are happy to report that we have virtually eliminated the import of cauliflower and broccoli. We are presently on the same trajectory for eliminating imports of products such as carrots, and certain spices such as beets, turmeric, ginger, black pepper and cilantro. We import presently about US$1 million worth of carrots. Why? What is wrong with us? We are therefore presently on a vigorous campaign to popularise the cultivation of crops such as carrots.
The coconut industry is a priority industry. There are major initiatives to expand the coconut industry and in the next few weeks a major coconut forum will be convened in Guyana as we roll our two major multi-country coconut projects, and as we roll out a number of local investments in value-added coconut products.
But whilst we grow a lot of food we have a hefty appetite for foreign food. Even though we produce most of the food we need we have a hefty appetite for imported food mostly in the form of processed meat products, snacks and other items. Our imported food bill has grown to more than $150 million a year or 30 billion annually. This is leaving out things like corn and soya that are imported for the stock feed industry. That is about US$200 per capita. The global average for developing countries is US$70 per capita, and the average in Latin America and the Caribbean is US$170, while Guyana’s food import bill of US$200 per capita is on the lower side. For CARICOM countries it is still unacceptable. We import wheat for the production of flower, we import corn and soya for the production of stock feed, but we also import vegetable oil, potatoes garlic, onion, and other vegetables. For example, Mr. Speaker, did you know that we imported US$32 million worth of wheat last year for flower? Did you know that we spent more than US$8.5 million last year on potatoes onion and garlic? Listen to this comrades.
A lot of people like to eat French fries. We imported frozen potatoes for French fries at the worth of G$200 million last year. We spend more than US$2.4 million in chick peas and $4.3 million on palm oil. The high cost of meat production in Guyana is because we are two dependent on imported inputs like corn and soya. For that reason we are now beginning to do commercial production of corn and soya. There is an agriculture strategy 2013-2020 and in this strategy there is a crop diversification approach. In 2013 we tried commercial production of corn. We imported 40,000 tonnes per year for the stock feed industry. We now were able to grow two varieties of corn at 8 tonnes per acre which is four times what we get presently with the local variety. We produced it at the cost of G$20 to G$25 per pound when we in fact import at a cost of between $50 and $60 per pound. We were able to grow soya with a production yield of 2.5 tonnes per acre; exactly what Brazil gets. So this year we are working with the private sector so that we can establish commercial level corn and soya production for the stock feed industry.
I do want to mention the fact that we have established an agro-meteorology section in Guyana. Agro-meteorology is a critical area of development, a support service for agriculture. Beginning this month this unit will be publishing agriculture weekly and monthly bulletins and crop specific forecast for rice, sugar and other crops. The technical support services must be developed as a priority. I will simply mention the fact that the tissue culture laboratory will now be producing 50,000 clean plate plantlets annually. We will establish a gene bank; we will in fact create germ-plasma storage for cassava, sweet potato and Black Sigatoka resistant plantain. In 2014 we expect to produce over 10,000 Black Sigatoka resistant plantain plantlets. There is a bio-control laboratory that we will commission in a few months. The veterinary laboratory will be commissioned at the end of April; the artificial insemination laboratory will be further upgraded in 2014; and for the first time we will have a national soil laboratory. We will convert the GuySuCo soil laboratory into a national soil laboratory.
I do want to mention that last year we prepared a portfolio of agriculture infrastructure investment between 2013 and 2030. This is a port folio of drainage and irrigation infrastructure, a portfolio of roads and dams, a portfolio of support infrastructure. And whilst I cannot go through all I can highlight the fact that the first phase of the conservancy adaptation programme CAP I was completed and we are now implementing a second phase of Conservancy Adaptation Project (CAP) that will include the construction Of pumping stations at Hope/Enmore, Enterprise/Paradise, Annandale/Buxton, Lusignan, Mon Repos, Ogle and Annandale. These infrastructure products for projects will be supported in part by a CAP II project with the work bank at the cost of $11 million.
The Cunha Canal reconstruction will also have direct benefit outside of its benefit to the east Demerara water conservancy to approximately 4,500 acres of farmlands at Sarah/Johanna, Pearl, Badrima, Coverden, and the lower reaches of Kuru Ku-ruru. This project is expected to be funded through the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF) arrangement. There will be for the first time a pump station at Gangaram and a pump station at Pine Ground. I mention Pine Ground because it will be the first dual drainage and irrigation pump station in Guyana.
The Mahaica/Mahaicony/Abary (MMA) Stage II, is not in the 2014 Budget, but we are working with this and we mobilised partners. It is a $34 million Euro Project and this will complete Stage II of the MMA with the damming of the Mahaicony River creating a conservancy between the Abary and the Mahaica River, and bringing in 200,000 acres of new land in the Mahaicony and Mahaica blocks.
The investment in the livestock industry will continue. I do need to mention a major project this year establishing a dairy industry. This year we will establish a dairy farm at Mon Repos with an imported nucleus of milk breed. In addition, we are talking with our Canadian partner to establish a public/private partnership for a milk processing plant in Region No. 5. This is all with the aim of increasing milk production - which is presently at 46 million litres - and to reduce the milk imports which is presently at $7.1 billion annually.
The sustainable environments in agriculture are not separate pursuits. And even though I cannot go in details on this, I do need to announce that through partnership with our international partners, and through international chemical arrangements, support will be obtained to dispose six tonnes of obsolete pesticide, and achievement which will be a major goal set out under the Dubai Declaration on strategic approach in international chemical management 2020 goals. This year we will also obtain Marine Stewardship Council Certification that will allow our trawler operation to export their products to Europe and North America. We will also complete the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS). In 2013, 21 VMS units were installed; in 2014 we will install 96 more.
I wish I can relate the whole agriculture story but time does not permit me to do so. The truth is that agriculture in Guyana is the lifeline for a better Guyana and better lives for all. There are constraints and there are things we need to do, but in looking at agriculture we in this House see different things. Some of us see only bad things. We on this side of the House see both the challenges and the opportunities. We see the achievements of our farmers and these are not trivial achievements; they drive the development of our country. These are the people and families that feed us but also ensure that our economy remains robust. The PPP/C is proud that the farms that were abandoned not so long ago are fully occupied today. We are proud that new lands are being brought under cultivation and more food is being produced, consumed locally and exported.
We must find a way for a dispensation of harmony and cooperation, even when our differences seem overwhelming. We must in 2014 avoid the unnecessary calamity of blacklisting. In this dispensation of harmony and cooperation I ask that we pass the anti-money laundering and counter terrorism act because it is the right thing to do. The anti-money laundering countering terrorism bill must not be a battlefield to leave the scar of war with a wounded nation. We must get on with the business of building Amaila because, with all we might see as ills, Amaila has the potential of propelling Guyana directly into a high middle income country, a place that we would be better off, and a place we deserve to be in. We must ensure that the Marriott Hotel is added to the landscape of Guyana, because it is good for Guyana. We must complete the Cheddi Jagan International Airport modernisation and expansion, because it is good for Guyana. Let us accelerate the Lethem road, the Corentyne River Bridge, the new Demerara Harbour Bridge. Let us put our heads together to improve the Demerara Harbour. Let us build the deep water harbour on the Berbice River. Let us build the Specialty Hospital because, it is good for you, it is good for me, it is good for all of Guyana, and it is good for our neighbours. This is our imperative as patriots, as responsible citizens. A better Guyana, better lives for all, is a destiny we must not abandon.
Thank you all very much. [Applause]

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Profession: Medical Doctor -Microbiologist
Date Became Parliamentarian: 1998
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Related Member of Parliament

Date Became Parliamentarian: 1998
Speeches delivered:(7)
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