Budget Speech - Mr Persaud—20143258 04 Apr, 2014
Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment [Mr. R. Persaud]: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Let me join with my colleagues in this National Assembly in commending the Hon. Dr. Ashni Kumar Singh and his team for presenting to this National Assembly another budget, a budget that speaks and responds to the aspirations of the people of Guyana and a budget that certainly will take us forward as a people united.
The 2014 Budget is being presented in a political context that is unique in post-independent Guyana, a political context as some of us or nearly all of us would recognise is pregnant with both opportunities and challenges. But a political context, if not handled and if not manoeuvred sensibly, can also undo some of the developmental achievements we have made as a nation. This Budget, framed in the third year of President Ramotar’s Administration, is one that is responsive and is one that is relevant to that unique political context I have referred to earlier and, certainly, it presents another opportunity in the year 2014 for all of us, collectively, to take full use of the policies and, more importantly, the measures that have been outlined therein so that we can make this new, and, perhaps, this challenging political reality we operate within, be converted into many opportunities for our nation.
The focus of this year’s Budget, as we have heard outlined by our able Minister of Finance and many colleagues who have spoken – even some of the colleagues on the other side have recognised some of the merits therein – is about creating opportunities for our people, and I wish to say that it is not only creating opportunities for our people, but creating opportunities for all of our people, all of the people of Guyana.
We also live in a very, one can say, unique but also gifted social make up and social circumstances. We are a nation of much diversity and we are a nation in which we have to ensure that policies, programmes and projects take into account these social realities. If we look at the focus of this Budget, it is about ensuring equity. It is about ensuring fairness and it is about ensuring that all of the people of Guyana, if they live in the Rupununi, if they live in Linden, if they live in Parika, if they live in Georgetown, if they live on the East Coast, if they live in West Berbice, if they live in Kwakwani, if they live in New Amsterdam, Port Mourant, whether they live in Skeldon, Orealla, Siparuta, wherever they live, there is something for them in this 2014 Budget. It is about equity. It is about fairness. It is about opportunities for all.
More importantly, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government, now in our 23rd year, has many achievements, solid achievements, incontestable achievements, and even some of the colleagues in and out of this National Assembly and the international community, as a whole... Several speakers have referred to statements made by international financial institutions. Statements made by individuals and organisations not known to be friends of this Government have pointed to the solid, sound and transformational achievements under the PPP/Civic.
The 2014 Budget, as presented by our Minister and representing the vision of our President and our Government, is also about transforming our country, transforming our economy and ensuring that our economy is resilient not only from national circumstances, but also resilient in terms of dealing with what we can call unpredictable international developments.
The 2014 Budget is about positioning and also preparing Guyana, preparing Guyana not only for today but also positioning Guyana for sometimes the unknown and the known tomorrow.
Much has been said and due recognition has been given to the economic performance and the consistent growth of our economy that has outmatched those particularly in this hemisphere, particularly in this Region, but also countries that have faced similar histories - similar social, political and economic circumstances, near and far. If we do a comparison, we will see that Guyana has certainly outpaced many of those other similar societies. In fact, Guyana, in many regards, in recent years, has defied the critics, has defied the sceptics and continues to shine and shine very brightly.
Our Hon. Minister of Finance would have outlined, and this was reinforced by my Colleagues on this side, the performance of the various subsectors of our national economy. These have contributed to the overall growth. But in recent years, an emerging – not because I am the Subject Minister – sector, a sector that is very critical and very central to our economic growth and also to fostering social stability is that of the natural resources and environment sector. If we look in terms of the contribution of the natural resources and environment sector to our economy, we can see that this is growing and certainly expanding in many regards.
As we have heard from the Hon. Minister of Finance, we can speak about the contribution of gold. I want, on this note, to single out our small and medium scale miners who have created history in this land. I want all of us in this National Assembly to recognise their performance, whereby they have been able to produce and declare in excess of 481,000 ounces. This is the first time we have done so, even in the absence of a large gold mine. The last time we came close to that was when we had the OMAI Gold Mines in operation and then when we had the combined production in this regard, but this is the first time that we have seen our small and medium scale miners making use of the opportunity and rising to the challenge and certainly presenting our country with enormous opportunities. Last year, if we look in terms of diamond, we have seen our declaration for diamond increase by an excess of 55%.
If we move down in terms of the mining and quarrying sector, in terms of quarrying, we have seen quarry production has increased by as much as 40%. This speaks not only to the public works projects that are taking place, but it also speaks to the dynamic, private construction sector that is taking place in our economy.
If we look at the forestry sector too, we have seen an increase of close to 10%. That increase has taken place particularly in terms of the value-added sector because we have always recognised that in long term and in ensuring the development of our forestry resources, it is not only about the extraction of logs and the export of logs, but also ensuring that in our country we have maximum value. In fact, last year, we saw a decrease in log export in excess of 12% and increase, for the same period, in excess of 30% of value-added product, and that, again, speaks to an industry that is responding and responding to the opportunities.
We have recognised the challenges that we have had with bauxite, particularly, with the global market situation, but that did not daunt the two major companies and that is why, last year, they have invested in excess of US$17 million and this year they are poised to increase and even diversify their production and their export.
As the Budget provides and as the Minister of Finance spoke to, we are making that direct and that intrinsic link in terms of ensuring that our economic development, more increasingly, hinges primarily on how we are able to mobilise and how we are able to develop our human capital.
But that other rich capital that we possess is our natural capital and that is why this year it is about harnessing, it is about ensuring that we maximise the opportunities within the natural capital. That I speak to is the natural resources and environment sector.
The Hon. Member Dr. Roopnarine last night in his presentation posed a number of questions, and very important questions. These questions certainly speak to some of the current issues which we are confronting and which we must confront collectively if we are going to move forward the natural resources or what we call, the extractive industries in our country. Speak to the issue of how we can minimise the impact of an expanding mining sector, particularly gold. And, Mr. Speaker, if you look at the programmes and initiatives that we have launched in terms of clean and new technology, we are now a signatory to the Minamata Convention that is for the reduction and eventual elimination of the use of mercury, not only in mining but in other activities. But because of its prominent role and the use of mercury, traditionally, for recovery in the mining sector, we have committed internationally to transition out from the use of mercury.
I am happy to report to this National Assembly that since the last budget presentation we are in fact making steady, and in a way hurried progress along this direction. Through incentives provided by our Government and through support, especially technology transfer and training by the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), the regulatory agency for the mining sector, we have been able to support the sector; we have been able even to support suppliers in accessing this technology and also in making it available. At the end of last year we were able to announce a $1 billion programme to assist the industry in moving away from mercury. Just recently in discussions with the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) we have come to an arrangement whereby we will be approaching financial institutions not only in terms of managing this facility but also looking at the component of this resource in terms of us learning from our past efforts in ensuring that the right and appropriate technology is brought that meets our geological reality and conditions. So in response to that particular concern and question we have the commitment, we have the buy-in of the sector, we have the buy-in of all stakeholders, in moving in this area.
On the issue of diversification - because we do not only want the mining sector to be only focused on gold - we have started looking at other minerals. That issue is one again in which we require collective resolve, and which we do not hope that we will blow hot and cold on. Last year or earlier this year you would have been aware of the public debate on the Muri Project, and the granting of the Permission for Geographical and Geophysical Survey (PGGS) in the New River area; much has been said about that. But the underlying objective of that and other efforts is for us to understand what we have, the resources we have. The focus of that particular PGGS or the focus of that particular effort was for us to develop, as it were, rare earth elements which is a very scarce commodity, a very scarce item. It was in pursuit of diversification and understanding the geological makeup, understanding the resources we have, that we embarked on that. So the commitment is still there. In fact when we speak to our miners locally, and even when we have foreign investors, it is about ensuring that we make maximum use. In that regard we continue to work with not only operators, persons who have prospecting licences, but also with our partners, be it the United States (USA), be it the Canadians, be it the Chileans, be it the Chinese, or other friendly Governments, in terms of giving us support so we can have a comprehensive, an updated geological map, so that we understand and know the resources that will allow us as it were to pursue diversification, and also for us to engage in sensible mining, mining in which we can reduce the impact, but I will come back to that in terms of what else we are dealing on the environmental front.
But going forward to in the area of gold is also looking at the opportunities. We have previously spoken about a number of large projects and again the question was asked, can we be provided with an update. And, yes, there is an update. In fact, yes, there is much progress and there is much to be said. Regarding Guyana Goldfields Inc. much activity has started already. Close to $200 million has already been invested and close to 200 Guyanese are already employed. And very soon a number of individuals will be employed in terms of construction and other activities for this very large gold mining operation. If we look in terms of ETK/Sandspring, another large mining project, much progress has been made. And, again, this investment will be in excess of US$350 million. They are still finalising the time schedule, and I do not want to commit the Company or myself, but during the course of 2015 there will be significant development in terms of the realisation of that large-scale mine.
There has been another rapid development. Some of our colleagues would have noticed in the newspapers today one of the other investors we have had out of Australia, Troy Resources Inc, in terms of developing the Cuyuni project. Already that project will see the employment of close to 300 Guyanese in the short term; immediately in terms of the construction. And, like the other large gold projects, will see a minimum coming to the State directly in excess of US$25 million in revenue per annum and indirectly that goes all the way up to US$200 million per annum. These particular investments speak directly in terms of not only providing opportunities but also in taking the sector forward in this regard.
The question was also asked about bauxite and what is taking place in that area with interest in RUSAL/BGCI in the Berbice River, and BOSAI at Linden. All of us know that we have resurrected the bauxite industry, and have brought communities that were abandoned, be it Region 10, Linden, Ituni or up the Berbice River – Kwakwani, Aroaima, Hururu. Where there was a feeling of hopelessness after the devastation that came about with the closure of bauxite we revived hope and were able to attract foreign investment and restart, rejuvenate the bauxite industry, the Linden bauxite as well the Berbice River bauxite. Today we can boast of both companies, notwithstanding a very unpredictable situation in world bauxite. If we look at world bauxite prices especially for metallurgical grade bauxite, and calcine grade bauxite that we particularly export, we are no longer have a monopoly, for the information of the Hon. Members, because China has now lifted its export restriction on calcine grade bauxite so there is competition now. Notwithstanding these realities the Guyana bauxite industry continues to be one in which there has been considerable progress and this year there is poise for expansion; not expansion in terms of investment but also expansion in terms of export as well as job creation, direct and indirect.
The question was asked about what is taking place at RUSAL in this regard, and what is happening at Kurubuku 22. And yes, Hon. Member, in this new mine significant works have been done and it is expected that in the next two months we will see greater activities coming about as a result of the work and investment done in that particular area which, again, is to give hope and ensure the continuity of that particular operation. The communities around are very enthusiastic about what is taking place.
The question was asked by one of the Hon. Members about Hururu. The suggestion is that this investment has taken advantage of an Amerindian community in the Berbice River. Several Hon. Members here would recall that in an appearance before the Natural Resources Sectoral Committee a request was made of me to table all the documentation as it pertains to that particular arrangement, as it pertains to the investment and what is taking place. And I wish to report that I have submitted same, and it will show very clearly the deliberate efforts made by the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs working with the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment and the companies, but very critical, the role played by the communities in ensuring at the end of the day the best deal, the best arrangement, was had for that community. The documents are there; they are public. I have already tabled them to the Natural Resources Sub-committee. Let us not get away that these investments are cheating, robbing and denying people of opportunities. In fact, it is the opposite; they are providing opportunities and protecting and enriching, and enshrining and expanding the rights and opportunities of people in those communities.
In terms of BOSAI, the question was asked has BOSAI been able to develop a new mine. And let me say for both RUSAL and BOSAI yes, there have been some adjustments to the original proposals made in investment plans. But those adjustments came about not unilaterally taken by the companies themselves. Those adjustments were dictated by the international market conditions and realities. The adjustments that were made to the investment plans of both companies were not done to the disadvantage of the people of Guyana; were not done to waste or misuse the valuable natural resource of our country, but, in fact, the adjustments took into account, first and foremost, the interest of all the people of Guyana and particularly those communities. I will give you an example, Mr. Speaker. In the original proposal for BOSAI the plan was for us, for Guyana, was that we were going to make Block 37 available, which contains significant deposits. But because of the changed business plan in investment proposal by BOSAI we decided that we will not proceed in allocating the Company the Block 37 concession. In fact, they had to look at other areas. Some of the other areas they are looking in terms of developing new mines, because of those changing realities, would be Yararibo, Aroba, upper Harokaro, East Bank, Kara Kara and the West Bank areas. I have listed those areas in direct response to the Hon. Member’s question in terms of their plans. And it is expected that these particular areas, and these new mines, will have a life in excess of 20 years with the production of close to 500,000 tonnes of [inaudible] per annum. So the prospects are good for bauxite. The investment and commitment by the company, notwithstanding the international situation, are certainly very solid in that regard.
While we focus on the big investments and have looked at the big projects I want to talk a little on what we have done in providing support to the sector. What we have done in terms of providing support to our small miners, our small operators. On that note I want to make a brief diversion. It seems that in our debate, not only in the National Assembly but in some of the public discourses, we seem to be developing a feeling or creating the impression of some sort of “Asia phobia” when it comes to investment in terms of attracting opportunities to our country. I wish to remind this National Assembly that the first large Asian investment in the natural resources sector took place under the People’s National Congress (PNC) administration and it involved Barama and Samling Group of Companies. As someone of some sort of Asian heritage, Chinese I think, you can correct me if I am wrong – but all of us, we are Guyanese... [Interruption] Yes, but he has some heritage. All of us have various forms of heritage; we come from different places. But in the debate I wish you can encourage Members, this singling out of Chinese investment, Indian investment, American investment or African or whatever investment, I think is unhelpful and does not sent the right signal because we live in a globalise environment, an environment where the competition to attract investment is very, very intensive. The fact is that due to the enabling environment the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government is creating, and due to all the people of Guyana, we have been able to attract investors. I think it is something positive and something we must celebrate. So let us ensure that in this regard that we value development, we value investment, large and small.
The question was asked about what support are we providing to small miners, small operators in the sector; a very important question too. I wish to report that the large and medium scale miners would have what you call an Investment Development Agreement whereby they are provided with various forms of concessions – duty free in terms of machinery, equipment, spares and so forth. For the small and medium scale operators who may not have an idea they themselves through a process working with the GGMC would be qualified for exemption for All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs), excavators, bulldozers and other machinery used within the mining industry, including mercury free technology and various spares and equipment that are necessary. These are the types of incentives. In fact, if we look at last year concessions granted to small operators, small miners, there were 150 excavators, 6 tractors, 190 ATVs, various pickups, a number of trucks and so forth. I wish to report that currently the Minister of Finance is examining the appropriate regulations whereby we can provide our small miners too – currently they qualify for single cab pickup vehicle for transportation – recognising we have female miners and need people to be transported, not only comfortably but safely, we are looking in terms of having double cab pickups and even cars qualified in some regards for our small miners. So I wanted briefly to address the issue of support.
Another support that we provide too is dealing with the issue of infrastructure and road. The Hon. Member Mr. Harmon would have spoken to the issue of the GGMC and the Ministry of Natural Resources working with the Ministries of Public Works and Local Government involving road works. Then the other Member Dr. Roopnarine complained that the road access for miners is inadequate. For a number of years, especially with the boom of mining industry, particularly gold, the GGMC working with the GGDMA collaborates and executed a number of road maintenance and road building projects. The GGMC would provide resources to the Ministry of Public Works in executing some of those programmes. So it is a collaborative effort. We want to ensure the miners feel the direct support too, especially our small hardworking miners, that they feel the direct support in this regard. So I want to make it absolutely clear that there is support, and we continue to look at providing more meaningful resources in this regard.
Also in terms of dealing with the unstable gold prices we have had, especially cushioning for small miners, there have been a number of measures discussed at various levels working with the mining community in terms of looking at forms of support . I wanted to reinforce that particular issue.
Also the prospects for oil and gas continue to be on the horizon.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Member, before you proceed into that subsector, could we have an extension of 15 minutes?
Prime Minister and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs [Mr. Hinds]: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I propose that the Hon. Minister be given 15 minutes to continue his presentation.
Question put, and agreed to
Mr. R. Persaud: Yes, Mr. Speaker, on the prospects for oil and gas, currently as we know, we have Repsol and Tullow, two companies in a joint venture, actively pursuing work and hoping to engage in exploration in the Kanuku block. Exxon is also in the process of making a key decision and, in fact, has already established its office in Guyana again to engage in exploration activities in the Stabroek block; CGX too is engaged in a number of preparatory activities to have renewed exploration both in the Corentyne and Demerara, as well as the onshore.
Mr. Speaker, as you know we had the unfortunate development whereby Anadarko had one of its seismic vessels forcibly removed by the Venezuelan navy. And that itself, I wish to report, has set back our programmes in some regard. But it points to the fact that what we require in Guyana is unity, what we require in Guyana is togetherness on this particular issue. I wish to refer to another issue where just recently our Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs has had to protest through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Sometimes the statements we make and the mixed signals we send in our country embolden others outside. We had to withdraw our participation in an oil and gas conference that Suriname was proposing to hold in June. Why did we withdraw? There were circulating the documents and part of the Suriname map they had the new River triangle area included. I point to that because we have to constantly, consistently, and stridently take a unified stand not only on our territory but also the development of our natural resources and the development of all possibilities within our 83,000 square miles. We must not in any way suggest we are surrendering or we are as it were, being ambivalent on this particular issue.
While we talk about developing our natural resources it is also about striking the balance; striking the balance in ensuring that we respond to the accompanying social as well as environmental challenges that come with an expanding natural resources and extractive industry. Particular emphasis has been placed on strict environmental monitoring and enforcement. In addition to collaborating with our international partners Conservation International (CI), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), KFWD of Germany, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and a range of other partners, we have also looked at developing our national regulatory institutions - take for instance the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - in ensuring that we boost its capacity; even the environmental division within the GGMC in ensuring there is compliance; working with communities, particularly Amerindian communities, in terms of training environmental monitors so that we can have constant monitoring. An area of particular concern is of water pollution and ensuring that we manage that and do constant monitoring, and we take necessary action if we find that we have a situation that requires attention.
Also the Protected Areas Commission is moving in terms of ensuring that the protected areas, the areas that have been defined by statutes, have the various management plans developed so these communities can also be responsive and fulfil our international commitment that we have made. So far close to 10% of our territory has been declared protected areas and we want to ensure that they are managed in such a way that we continue to be outstanding in this regard.
A particular area raised was about our commitment in terms of REDD+ and the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS). I am quite sure Hon. Members would have noted the Minister of Finance’s reference to the Low Carbon Development Strategy which provides the guide in terms of our developmental pathway in the near, medium and long term. Just recently the international panel on climate change released its report which again painted a very ominous picture, an ominous reality, of what is taking place as regards the climate, and what we need to do. That is why we see recently this hurried effort at the global level hoping that next year we can have a very serious and comprehensive climate treaty in this regard. We do hope as part of that there will be due recognition and significance give to the REDD+ Initiative that Guyana has been championing and leading in this regard.
Our commitment, notwithstanding what is taking place within the sector, yes, we have seen a decrease in deforestation as a result of mining. And the question was asked whether or not we were going to be continuing our engagement with the Kingdom of Norway and the answer to that is yes. We are currently involved in discussions on the fourth payment. Already Guyana has received close to US$115 million in this particular area and we are currently in discussion. We hope to proceed in further discussions in this regard. In the last quarter of this year we will commend the implementation of another REDD+ Initiative, working with the World Bank, that is for the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility which is valued close to US$3.8 million. This again is working with the communities because while we are the first country to develop a national monitoring, reporting and verification system, we are also trying to reinforce and build that through working with communities so that w can have accurate and much more realistic reporting. So I wish to assure this Hon. Assembly, as reference was made by the Hon. Minister in terms of commitment to the Low Carbon Development Strategy, we are committed to REDD+. We have just recently established, to assist in monitoring deforestation as well as land degradation, real-time satellite imagery whereby we can pinpoint – I am know I am not supposed to be showing placards or pictures, but I just want to aid the reference, where at any one time we can pin point or track where dredges are, where there is mining activity the specific location.
We can also point to where there are hotspots of immediate deforestation. This type of information is very important because we can tell you every mining activity that is causing deforestation that is more than 10 hectares. Why is it important? We will be able to track where there is illegal mining.
We have already started a programme of aerial surveillance, working with the Guyana Defence Force, utilising their air assets. But not only the Guyana Defence Force, we are talking to the private aircraft operators, where we are going to fit on them monitoring equipment, so that in their flights in and out we will be able to review footage and see what is also taking place.
At the same time we are putting more boots on the ground. We are building 15 more mining stations, in addition to the 35 forestry stations that we have; already 4 have been completed. I speak to those efforts, among others, because it shows our commitment to REDD+ to managing. Whilst we are very much interested and we are promoting and expanding extractive industries, we want that to be done in a sustainable, as well as in a responsible way, so that we can continue to be in a shining light.
The Comrade is right. Also dealing with the issue of social issues, trafficking in person; dealing with issues wherever the occur, where there are children found in mining camps for one reason or another, not necessarily there for labour or other anti-social activities. It is working with the Ministry of Human Services.
The Minister of Labour has just been able to table, for the first time, Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. So it is also dealing with those other issues, in dealing with those challenges.
The centrality of the Low Carbon Development Strategy to Guyana’s development and to what we are doing, not only in the Natural Resources and Environment Sector, but also so our overall development trust, remains very prominent in this regard.
What we see taking place in this particular sector, as in other sectors of our economy, is about job creation. I referred to several projects which will see hundreds of new jobs being created. I have heard the observation and the criticism made, without any justification, by several Member of the Opposition that this budget did not speak or respond to the issue of job creation or opportunities. I wish to point the Hon. Members to the number of projects that we have and also the Budget 2014 serving as a catalyst for economic transformation, as well as growth.
Last night, on the issue of economic transformation, a criticism was levelled, stating that under the PPP/C, there has been no transformation; we have not been able to restructure, as it were, the economy over these past 22 years. The Minister of Finance’s office has been able to supply some data, which I am quite sure he will be able to share with all Hon. Members, but I will just cite a few. The size of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) when the PPP/Civic came into office was just over $37 billion. Today, the size of that GDP is in excess of $359 billion. It is not only the shared size of the economy that we are talking about; let us look at the structure of the economy, what is taking place. In 1992, we had the contribution of agriculture and fishing which was in the vicinity of 33%, today that contribution is just over 19% of GDP. In 1992, sugar accounted for 20% of the GDP because of the growth, expansion and restructuring and the need for us to diversify and to create many pillars of growth, sugar today accounts for in the vicinity 3.9% of GDP. Rice then was 2.8% we have seen a growth of 5.4%.
Let us look in terms of mining and quarrying. In 1992, it was just about 8.9%. Today, as was reported by the Minister of Finance, gold alone accounts for 9% of GDP, while mining and quarrying has hold 12.1%. But then the story gets interesting, in terms of what we are doing to restructure and diversify. Services, in terms of its contribution to GDP in 1992 was about 26% and out of that 26%, Government services accounted for 15%. Today, services, as a share of GDP, are 65%. In fact, if we look in terms of public administration, which would be the Government, it is just a mere 7%. But if we look in terms of the new activities, there are sectors which did not even exist then, take for instance, ICT, that sector today accounts for close to 6.9% of GDP. I make those references because when we talk about 2014 Budget, it is not just another year another budget. It is about an unfolding story; it is about unfolding development; and it is about transforming Guyana, transforming our country for new opportunities, diversification and ensuring that we remain resilient.
Every budget of the PPP\C can be seen as a building block; a building block of a new society, a prosperous society and a stable society. If we are going to make full use and full opportunity in terms of realising the potential of this building block, what we require in our country is a renaissance of the Guyanese spirit...
Mr. Speaker: You have five minutes within which to begin wrapping up, Sir.
Mr. R. Persaud: Thank you Mr. Speaker. The renaissance would require us to develop a new political culture. This new political culture is not the burden or should not be only the onus of one side of this House, but building this new political culture requires all of us working together in terms of building cooperation, and also the issue of genuine trust.
Mr. Speaker, you had a front row seat, recently, to the issue of this matter of trust and seeking corporation, I refer to your involvement to broker some sort of accord, some sort of understanding on coming to an agreement on the Anti- Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Bill. Mr. Speaker, you would have had a front row seat to show the efforts that were made and what led. I will not stand here and distribute the blame in this regard, but it requires genuine cooperation; it requires trust in this regard.
That is why, also, there are talks by different Members. Lt. Col. (Ret’d) Harmon, Hon. Member, referred to the PPP/C as sometimes acting as a school yard bully, sometimes making the claim that we are contemptuous and that we are not doing enough for cooperation. Then the Hon. Member, last night said that we should provide more information on GuySuCo and more information on what we are going on the Amaila Falls Hydro-Power Project. There are Members here who would recall the invitation by His Excellency and the number of meetings that were had and presented, all the relevant documentations. In fact, the head of the Presidential Secretariat would describe it as the Government undressing itself for the Opposition, figuratively speaking, but undressing itself. Doing and providing all the information. We have seen this happen from time to time Hon. Member Dr. Roopnarine. All the information we were providing on the Amaila Fall Hydro-Project. The Hon. Member Mr. Benn took Lt. Col. (Ret’d) Harmon and others – flew them to the road in the Amaila Fall Hydro Power Project and then flew them to the Cheddi Jagan International Airport. We saw all the favourable comments, the number of sessions that were held on the Marriot and on the Airport project. And what happened? We turned up here and saw the true picture. So if we are talking about cooperation, if we are talking about trust, if we are talking about us working together, it requires a new political culture. It requires cooperation, it requires genuine trust... [Interruption]
Mr. Speaker: Okay Members, can we settle down please. Proceed.
Mr. R. Persaud: Mr. Speaker... [Interruption]
Mr. Speaker: Come on Lt. Col. (Ret’d) Harmon, let us settle down please.
Mr. R. Persaud: Mr. Speaker, we all recognise that we need a new political architecture - new governance architecture. But this new governance architecture will not come about if we act in a way that does not do good to our country’s development. That does not take into account the future of this country. It requires us taking important small steps for us to achieve what we are seeking to build and develop.
I do believe that there are genuine and well meaning Guyanese on the opposite side and it is in our duty. But we must ensure that we inspire our people to do good; that we inspire our people to build our country; that we inspire our people to live in unity. Let us not conspire to cause division, let us not conspire to sabotage; let us not conspire to under-develop because we will be doing the people who we represent an injustice.
Lt. Col. (Ret’d) Harmon in his presentation said that he went out to the communities and he looked into the eyes of his constituents. I am happy he did that. But it is not only about looking into the eyes of Guyanese; it is about warming their hearts. It is also about lifting their hopes and giving them that confidence and giving them some sort of future so that they can want to live and build our country.
We are meeting here at this time, at a very auspicious time too, where we have our Christian brothers and sisters observing the Lenten season and as well our Hindu brothers and sisters observing Navratri. I do hope that we will make full use of this auspicious occasion at this auspicious time to show the true Guyanese spirit; to bring about this renaissance that we are quarrelling about in this regard so that we can inspire our people to build a better Guyana and we can inspire greatness out of our land.
As I conclude my presentation, this unique Tenth Parliament has so far can be described as a situation where we have a troika of bitterness, but it is not too late. With this 2014 Budget we can convert this troika of bitterness into a troika of togetherness. On that note I wish to commend the 2014 Budget to the National Assembly. [Applause]
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Statement to the National Assembly on Thursday December 14th, 2017 by the Hon. Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Carl B. Greenidge on the Exxon “signing bonus”
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