While there are naysayers trying desperately to distract us, President Irfaan Ali’s PPP Government is aggressively transforming Guyana. Already, in less than two years since becoming President, Guyana is looking very different from August 2, 2020. There are plans that changed the infrastructure and physical appearance of the country, that created hundreds of new jobs, plans to change the educational and health capacities of the country, plans that have enormous implications for the economic development of Guyana, and plans to ease the cost-of-living of citizens in the hinterland and riverine areas of Guyana. The naysayers have given up finding any real criticism; these days, they just throw up their hands in desperation, begging the Government to slow down a little bit, that the development pace is too dizzying for them.
On the economic front, two important announcements add to the President’s economic vision. First, four bidders have submitted proposals for the construction of a $1.5B sugar packaging plant at Albion. This will bring a number of new jobs to the area, and increase the visibility of the Albion Sugar Estate. This is the estate where the PPP Government before 2015 had initiated a prototype ethanol production plant that was closed during the APNU+AFC term in Government. The PPP has included ethanol production as part of the new sugar industry. For those who still question the PPP’s commitment to maintaining sugar as an important part of the economy, this development should cause them to pause for a moment.
The second announcement on the economic front that underlines President Ali’s PPP Government’s development path is that Guyana exported manganese for the first time in more than fifty years. Matthew’s Ridge was one of the few areas in the hinterland with a meaningful economic activity in the 1960s. The PNC under Forbes Burnham closed the then viable manganese industry. I was part of a team led by the then President Bharrat Jagdeo that visited Matthew’s Ridge with a team from Canada that was looking to restart the manganese industry. When it was announced in the media, the naysayers claimed this would never happen. APNU/AFC could have accelerated the plan to restart the industry. Like everything else, APNU/AFC did nothing to push the project. Less than two years after President Ali was sworn in, Guyana is again a manganese exporter.
These two above announcements together demonstrate that the President’s articulation of a diversified economy is not just talk, and clearly show the President is committed to the idea that Guyana will not allow itself to become a mainly oil-and-gas economy.
Even as this truth is becoming real for Guyanese, delegates, including several heads of states, will be in Guyana this week for an Agriculture Investment Conference, the first ever in Guyana and Caricom. Guyana wants to remain a champion for an agriculture-based economy.
This week, the Ministry of Education announced that it would henceforth require all untrained teachers to register with the CPCE, to complete their training in education and teaching. When the PPP was forced out of office in 1964, more than 20% of our teachers were trained in a teachers’ training college programme started by the Cheddi Jagan-led PPP Government. By 1992, the number of trained teachers in our schools had not meaningfully changed, more than thirty years after teachers’ training started in Guyana. Today, almost 80% of the teachers are trained, and now the PPP Government is making sure that before Irfaan Ali seeks a second term in Government, all teachers would be trained teachers. President Ali is ensuring that education in Guyana is a priority.
Together with other programmes, such as the GOAL programme which wants to ensure more than 20,000 Guyanese become trained through a scholarship programme, the announcement of an initiative to have only trained teachers in our school adds to the education DNA of the PPP Government.
Making people’s lives better has always been the core of the PPP’s governance. This week, President Ali, through the Attorney General, announced new legislation that would make causing death when driving under the influence of alcohol or other illicit drugs a crime punishable by at least ten years’ jail time. Road deaths are an epidemic in Guyana, and in countries around the world. One major cause of road accidents and fatalities is drunken driving. President Ali has had enough, and has taken a bold step. He wants to make our roads safer, and, in that regard, he is also pushing roadside cameras to capture those who speed on our roadways.
Such news these days come at a dizzying pace. As Guyanese were contemplating the announcements highlighted above, the President was adding more announcements. He announced that every family in hinterland and riverine areas would receive $25,000 support to ease cost-of-living. In addition, he announced the procurement of over $1B worth of fertilisers for free distribution to farmers around the country. In that same address, he announced the Government would remove VAT from certain building materials, such as sheetrock and concrete blocks. In a fourth announcement, President Ali announced support for those persons with house lots to build their homes with pre-designed homes at a cost of $7M, $9M and $12M. Loans would be arranged through the banks.
President Ali is working for the people of Guyana. This is what is meant by ONE GUYANA.