Guyana needs a dedicated funding partner for education – President Ali tells World Bank
…as the Bank’s regional reps commit to improving lives in Guyana
President Dr Irfaan Ali recently informed a visiting delegation from the World Bank that Guyana was looking to establish a programme that would focus heavily on enhancing its education sector.
The high-level team was led by the World Bank’s Vice President responsible for Latin America and the Caribbean, Carlos Felipe Jaramillo, and the Country Director for the Caribbean, Lilia Burunciuc.
During discussions on Guyana’s transformation agenda on Wednesday, the Head of State stressed that while the oil and gas sector was important, it would not be Guyana’s sole sector moving forward. He said that funds would be used to help strengthen other sectors, including tourism; agriculture; educational services for export; health services for export; Information Communications Technology (ICT); environmental services; industrial development and manufacturing.
President Ali outlined that the most inhibiting factors to growth and development in the country were the cost of energy and the country’s human resource capacity – which, he noted, his Government was aiming to enhance.
To this end, he indicated that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government wanted a “dedicated funding partner for education”.
“We want an international partner who will commit to the education sector: primary, secondary, technical education, even building our international capacity. And that is an area that we would like to explore in great detail. To build a funding programme with the World Bank that focuses heavily on the education sector,” the President stated.
According to a statement from the Office of the President, the visiting officials explained that they too were concerned about the strain the COVID-19 pandemic has put on the global education sector and agreed to place education at the centre of discussions.
President Ali also expounded on Government’s development framework, which focuses on an expanded Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS). This strategy, he explained, will also address issues of equality, human rights, climate change, and environmental services, among other key areas.
“We have made it very clear that we have to exploit the oil and gas resources, but to do so in a manner that does not change our standing on the environment. We have a very strong standing on the environment,” he noted.
The President further told the group that the Government was pursuing an energy mix of solar, wind, gas and hydropower to ensure energy sustainability and reliability, which in turn will also reduce the cost of energy by 50 per cent before the end of 2024.
“This will bring us closer to being very competitive in the region to support development in manufacturing,” Ali added.
He further explained that while there were opportunities in the oil and gas sector, there were also massive opportunities in other sectors such as agriculture. He pointed to the recent public-private partnership by a consortium to grow soya beans and corn with the intention of providing the local livestock sector with feed. Livestock feeds are usually imported.
This, President Ali said, will save millions of US dollars and is in line with Caricom’s 2025 goal to reduce importation in the Caribbean region by 25 per cent in the next four years.
Accompanying the Guyanese Leader during Wednesday’s high-level meeting at the Office of the President were Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo and Senior Minister with responsibility for Finance, Dr Ashni Singh.
It was reported that the visiting delegation was pleased with Government’s clarity and consistency as it relates to its developmental plans. The visit to Guyana, which was wrapped up on Thursday, has left the World Bank team impressed particularly with the country’s emphasis on the expanded LCDS, human resource capacity and educational development, the Government’s handling and response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its focus on involving the Private Sector in its progression.
In fact, a missive from the World Bank’s Latin America and the Caribbean office detailed that the visiting delegation commended the progress made by the Government of Guyana towards COVID-19 recovery, noting that over 51 per cent of Guyana’s adult population has received the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
Jaramillo and Burunciuc also discussed how the World Bank could support the Government’s plan to create a more enabling environment for the Private Sector and improved living standards for the citizens of Guyana.
“We are pleased to provide ongoing support for the COVID-19 vaccination effort in Guyana, which is critical to accelerate the recovery and for equitable growth,” said the Vice President for the Latin America and the Caribbean Region.
Adding to this, Burunciuc said: “In our conversations with the country’s leadership, we underscored our commitment to making a real impact on improving people’s lives in Guyana.”
“I look forward to continuing work with the Government on climate resilience, supporting the Private Sector, and investing in people,” the World Bank Country Director for Caribbean countries posited.
During their visit, the two officials also inspected some of the projects financed by the World Bank in Guyana including the Westminster Secondary School that was constructed and equipped under the Guyana Secondary Education Improvement Project and the water pump stations in Lusignan and Enmore, East Coast Demerara, which were built as a component of the Guyana Flood Risk Management Project. These pumps mitigate the impact of floods by reducing the time that floodwaters remain on the land.
The World Bank currently has seven active projects in Guyana that address human capital development, fiscal sustainability, disaster risk management, and governance, as well as the mitigation of the health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.