Govt will invest heavily in social sector – Finance Minister tells World Bank Ministerial Conclave
– says boosting delivery of education among priorities
Assurances have been given by Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government fully intends to invest heavily in the social sector and human capital over the next few years.
Dr Singh made these pronouncements during a recent World Bank Ministerial conclave, in which he represented Guyana among the Finance Ministers of other countries, senior executives of the Bank and World Bank Group President David Malpass.
According to a statement from the Finance Ministry, the Minister used the opportunity to explain that notwithstanding the other competing areas for Guyana’s resources, investing in human capital and the social sector will be a priority for the Government. In fact, he noted that they are already in the process of this investment.
“For example, in education, we are investing heavily in early childhood education, universal primary and secondary education, improving access to and quality of tertiary education, strengthening technical and vocational education, improving learning outcomes at all levels, and ensuring lifelong learning – supported with the use of information and communication technology based on lessons learnt during COVID-19 – and all with the aim of improving production and productivity as well as individual and household well-being.”
“On many of these initiatives we are collaborating with the Bank, and we expect the education sector to dominate our portfolio of projects with the Bank in the next programming cycle… this will be in keeping with our emphasis on human capital development both as an input to, and an outcome of, sustainable economic growth,” Dr Singh informed the grouping.
In his address, the Minister highlighted Guyana’s economic prospects as well as the country’s vulnerabilities and development challenges. He also emphasised that Guyana is rich in natural resources, including oil, minerals, and forests that cover 85 per cent of the country’s territory, making its economic prospects currently very promising despite COVID-19 and domestic political issues which caused a sharp contraction in non-oil GDP in 2020.
He reminded that even with the many challenges, Guyana is still the fastest growing economy in the world as a result of its production of oil, and will remain amongst the fastest growing economies in the next few years.
“But we also face extreme vulnerabilities to climate change, as well as significant development challenges. We are well aware of the magnitude of these challenges. They include avoiding the resource curse, promoting a strong and competitive non-oil economy, addressing our infrastructure gap, and improving human development outcomes,” Dr Singh added.
On the issue of environmental sustainability, Minister Singh highlighted the role of both the original Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) which was the product of the previous PPP Administration, as well as the soon to be expanded LCDS.
He stated that “Guyana’s commitment to low carbon or green growth is longstanding. In 2008, we published what we believe was the first low carbon development strategy for a developing country. The LCDS reflected that Guyana is at the intersection of many different aspects of the climate challenge. On the one hand, our low-lying coast means we are heavily impacted by climate change.”
“In 2005, floods caused economic damage equivalent to 60 per cent of GDP. On the other hand, our forests make a very substantial contribution in the global fight against climate change. The LCDS paved the way for us to join with Norway in 2009 in the world’s third-largest international forest partnership under which the climate services provided by our forests were remunerated for the first time – making available US$250 million of performance-based payment for climate services to finance climate-friendly investments.”
Minister Singh also chaired the Eighth Special Meeting of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Council on Finance and Planning (COFAP). The meeting, held virtually, brought together several Prime Ministers and Finance Ministers, as well as Central Bank Governors and other senior finance officials.
“Thursday’s meeting involved Ministers of Finance exchanging views on joint advocacy positions that they may wish to adopt during the upcoming International Monetary Fund (IMF) – World Bank Spring Meetings 2021,” a statement from the Ministry said.
“The meeting also addressed and reached agreement on a number of longstanding issues related to the CSME, including the Caricom Policies on Credit Reporting, Deposit Insurance, Development and Regulation of the Regional Securities Market, as well as the Caricom Financial Services Agreement and the intra-Caricom Double Taxation Agreement.”
In his opening remarks at the meeting, Minister Singh also pointed out that the meeting was taking place at a time when the region was facing unprecedented economic challenges, resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which have brought into sharp focus the importance of speaking with a single unified voice on issues of shared interest at the upcoming IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings.
He also highlighted the urgency with which progress is needed on many of the long outstanding issues that need to be addressed to advance the supportive architecture for the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), and urged that these matters be dealt with conclusively and in a timely manner.