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Friday, March 28, 2008

Cabinet awards contracts for more developments in Works, Agriculture sectors

Georgetown, GINA, March 28, 2008.

Cabinet has given its approval to the award of several contracts for important projects mainly in the agriculture and works sectors, including the improvement of drainage at Moleson Creek, Region Six and river defence strengthening at La Retraite in Region Three.
At his weekly post-Cabinet press briefing today at the Office of the President, Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon announced that no-objection has been granted for a $163.6M contract that caters for construction of four pontoons for the Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB).
Also in the Works sector, a $114.9M contract was granted no-objection for the construction of approximately 300 metres of ‘rip-rap’ river defence structures at La Retraite, West Bank Demerara.
In addition, a $32.6M contract for construction of drainage and irrigation structures at 1st and 4th Canal, Moleson Creek, and another valued $34.4M for procurement of office cubicles and chairs for the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) under the Fiscal and Financial Management Programme, were both given Cabinet’s green light.

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Full-fledged investigation into telephone calls that disrupted Rodeo activities – Dr. Luncheon

Georgetown, GINA, March 28, 2008.

Government will take action against those found responsible of creating public mischief such as the telephone call that resulted in the disruption of closing activities at the Rodeo in Region Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo) over the past weekend.
            According to Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr. Roger Luncheon, Cabinet has ordered a full-fledged investigation into the matter.
            Dr. Luncheon made the remarks at the weekly post-Cabinet media briefing held today at the Office of the President.
The final activities of the Rodeo were cancelled after a telephone call was made warning of the intention of bandits to strike during the event. A similar attempt was made in Region Six to hamper kite-flying activities at Number 63 Beach, Corentyne, but it was unsuccessful.
            Dr. Luncheon stated that, “Cabinet was advised that Guyanese indulged in the five days that covered holidays for special occasions in the history of the Hindu, Christian and Islamic faiths.”
            He noted that participation at public activities during the holiday period such as the traditional Rodeo in Region Nine, Regatta in Region Seven and kite-flying along the Coastland, particularly the Georgetown seawall and Number 63 Beach were all well attended.

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Licence waiver, CET removal to assist consumers - HPS

Georgetown, GINA, March 28, 2008.

Temporary waiver of the licensing requirement to import flour and implementation of the reduction/removal of the Common External Tariff (CET) for certain basic items are expected to provide some assistance to consumers in light of the price increases affecting the entire Caribbean Region.
Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr. Roger Luncheon, at his weekly post-Cabinet press briefing today at the Office of the President, noted that the move to promote importation of poultry products was taken since falling domestic production was identified as one of the factors contributing to price increases for such products.
He added that the, the implementation of the decisions made with regard to the CET will also contribute to lessing up prices of food material, but definitely on prices of other important commodities that have created overall price increases and the cost of living increase that Caricom countries and their residents are experiencing.
Yesterday, Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Manniram Prashad announced that with immediate effect Government will be allowing the importation of flour and wheat, minus the licencing process.
Earlier this month, Minister Prashad had indicated that Government took a decision to grant licences to import chicken in the short-term to alleviate the shortage being experienced locally.
The decision was made after meetings with members of the Guyana Poultry Producers Association and representatives of the Guyana Stockfeed Limited, hatcheries and other stakeholders, who assured that there will be an adequate supply of chicken by mid-April.
            The global price increase for food items facing the world especially the Caribbean is attributed to ethanol production being pursued by several major countries including the United States where grains are being used as feed-stock.

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Insanally to retire as Minister of Foreign Affairs

Georgetown, GINA, March 28, 2008.

Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr. Roger Luncheon has announced that Mr. Rudy Insanally has indicated his intention to demit the office of Minister of Foreign Affairs based on health and other personal reasons.
            During his weekly post-Cabinet press briefing today at the Office of the President, Dr. Luncheon stated that Minister Insanally indicated his intention to President Bharrat Jagdeo to demit office as Minister, but has undertaken to continue to discharge certain other responsibilities in his engagement with Government.
However, the decision, details and timing are currently being finalised.
            Prior to his assumption of office as Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2001, Minister Insanally served as Chancellor of the University of Guyana and also represented Guyana internationally on many occasions.
            From 1966 to 1969, he served as Counsellor at the Guyana Embassy in Washington, D.C. and in 1970 was appointed Charge d’Affaires in Caracas, Venezuela.
            In 1972, he was transferred to Guyana’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations as Deputy Permanent Representative.
            Minister Insanally returned as Ambassador to Venezuela from 1972 to 1978 with concurrent accreditation to Columbia, Ecuador and Peru. During that period he participated in the work of various regional organisations such as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
           
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Executive prerogative of Cabinet to table financial matters in Parliament

Georgetown, GINA, March 28, 2008

“Cabinet resolved that the exercise of its executive prerogative in bringing matters of a financial nature to the attention of Parliament for its consideration and its enactment would not be stayed, or shared,” Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, said at his post-Cabinet media briefing today.
            Dr Luncheon was referring to an incident in Parliament on Wednesday when, while rebutting arguments by the Opposition, Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh challenged the motion, claiming that it was against the Standing Order. The Speaker had ordered him to produce evidence to support his claim or retract his statement. The Finance Minister retracted the statement but when reference was made to the statement a short while after he was disallowed from completing his address.
            The Head of the Presidential Secretariat said, “The Speaker apparently defended his act of denial of the Member of Parliament’s right to reply, by insisting that the Minister was challenging his ruling or authority.”
He said, “Cabinet examined the matter and reiterated its resolute commitment to the principle of executive prerogative in presenting legislation on financial matters to Parliament and fully supported the argumentation of the Minister of Finance.”
            He said Cabinet was taken aback by the Speaker’s fundamentally flawed position and has decided that Minister Singh’s statement would be made public.
            Cabinet in its earlier deliberations on the motion had concluded that the PNCR’s motion should be rejected since it should be a Government Minister, in recognition of executive prerogative, that should be exclusively responsible for bringing matters of a financial nature to Parliament for its resolution.
The PNCR’s motion sought to place a ceiling on debt cancellation the Minister of Finance was authorized to make.
The Motion was defeated when put to the vote.

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Government engagement with criminals only in court - HPS

Georgetown, GINA, March 28, 2008

Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon today told the media that Government has held a constant position with regards to engagements with criminals, which is that it would only be done in a court of law.
Dr Luncheon was at the time replying to a question posed to him by the media on ex-soldier Oliver Hinckson’s claim that he had met and had discussions with an emissary of the President two days after making the statement for which he is now facing sedition charges.
“None of the Government’s agencies, the Office of the President nor the President had a role in any engagement between the Attorney (Nandlall) and Mr. Hinckson,” Dr Luncheon said.
The Cabinet Secretary said, “as the President statement outlined, an engagement of that sort did not take place and at the level of the Government agencies, Regions or other wise. Government was unaware of any private engagement between Hinckson and the attorney.”
            The Cabinet Secretary said, “In terms of the Administration and our parties in Parliament, an established position has already been taken on the nature of legal work that would be considered acceptable or suitable to be undertaken by lawyers.”
            This, however, is not binding and has not been formally adopted. Many of the lawyers in the Government alliance are aware that certain engagements are frowned on as they undertake legal work, he said.
It would be unusual to have that position then turn around and encourage such an engagement, Dr Luncheon said.
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Gov’t reduces Excise Tax on diesel to zero percent- Finance Minister
- continued effort to cushion impact of high oil prices

Georgetown , GINA, March 28, 2008

The administration’s continuing effort to cushion the effects of the rising world market prices for fuel has been taken a step further with the reduction of the excise tax on diesel to zero percent.
Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh made this announcement today during an interview with the Government Information Agency (GINA).
“Today I issued approval for the excise rate on diesel to be reduced from 10 percent to zero given the recent further escalation in oil prices on the world market. This latest reduction is a further step by Government to cushion the impact of world market price developments on the domestic consumer including, particularly in the case of diesel, industrial users for whom diesel is a key input.” Minister Singh asserted. 
The acquisition cost for diesel and gasoline has been increasing steadily over the last year. In January 2007 gasoline was being imported into Guyana at US$58.83 a barrel. The last shipment of gasoline came in at US$109.55 per barrel which represents an increase of 86.2 percent.
In January 2007, diesel was imported at US$61.47 per barrel while the last shipment was priced at US$130.87, an increase of 112.9 percent.
The Finance Minister explained that by taking such a bold step, Government is foregoing its tax take on diesel so that the price that will be paid by both the individual and industrial consumers will not escalate as much as it otherwise would as a result of the drastic increases being observed on the world market.
He pointed out that it will result in a revenue loss to Government, but that the move is being made by Government taking a holistic view of the impact of oil prices on the domestic economy.
            “Clearly it has a negative impact on government revenue. Whereas we would have been taking 10 percent of the CIF value of the diesel landed in Guyana , we will now be taking zero. However, we view this not only from the perspective of revenue loss, which is clearly significant, but as a critical initiative in ensuring that the domestic consumers both individual and industrial will benefit,” Minister Singh assured.
            Guyana , like many other countries, has in recent times been experiencing an increase in prices for some commodities locally which is largely due to price increases on the world market.
            This is a global phenomenon as many countries are being affected and Governments are working to find ways of ensuring that consumers do not feel the full brunt of the price increases.
This administration has progressively reduced the rate of tax applied to gasoline and diesel. Currently gasoline stands at 17 percent and with this recent move diesel at zero percent. Meanwhile, Government has continued to maintain its policy of zero taxation on kerosene.
The Government, in the face of these global pressures and developments, continues to be proactive in exploring ways of mitigating the impact of these changes on domestic consumers. This is reflected in the opening of the market to the importation of flour and chicken to force prices down.

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HIV/AIDS Art Competition winners receive prizes

Georgetown, GINA, March 28, 2008

Primary and secondary school students were presented with their awards for participating in the Ministry of Health’s HIV/AIDS Art Competition at a ceremony held at the Hotel Tower today.
Programme Manager, National AIDS Programme Secretariat (NAPS), Dr. Shanti Singh said to reduce the spread of HIV, focus must be placed on young people in our country.
Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy handing over the prize to the first place winner of the Primary art competition.
“Early adolescents (from the age of 10 to 14) is a time when enduring patterns of healthy behaviour can be established including postponing the onset of sexual activity which can quell the spread of HIV and AIDS. Establishing healthy patterns from the start is easier than changing risky behaviours already entrenched,” she said.
            She noted that the art competition is one way of overcoming the challenge of promoting effective programmes that can engage young people in all aspects of the response to HIV and AIDS.
“Art is not just a demonstration of talent that people have, art also is a documentation of the values our society promotes, and therefore these are activities that we must see as important in our lives,” said Minister Ramsammy.
He said that as a result of the art competition a partnership between children, parents and teachers have emerged. He noted that the teachers’ role has become even more important to inculcate in young minds the values that will eventually make them leaders and productive citizens in the country.
Community Mobilisation Coordinator of NAPS, Nazim Hussain said the objective of the Art Competition was to raise awareness of the fight against HIV/AIDS and related activities such as stigma and discrimination. It was also to encourage young people to think about their role in the response to HIV/AIDS in Guyana. Another objective was to empower young people to make a difference in the HIV/AIDS epidemic in their school, community and on a national scale.
The topic for the primary school artwork was ‘Our Children, A Future Without HIV’ and for the secondary schools ‘Don’t let HIV ruin your life’.
Minister Ramsammy handing over the computer to the art teacher of Annai Secondary, which had four winners in the Secondary art competition.
The Primary school awards went to Mae’s Under 12 Primary with four of the top six places, and Clonbrook Primary with two places. The Secondary awards went to Annai Secondary School with four places, Anna Regina Multilateral and North Georgetown Secondary.
Winners received cash prizes and books, and the top three schools received computers to develop computer literacy among children. The schools will also receive more books when school reopens.
The competition saw participation from 42 schools with 235 entries. This is in comparison to 2006 when there were only 28 entries. Entries came from seven out of the country’s 10 regions.
The paintings from the 2007 competition along with those from 2006 will soon be taken to schools around the country so as to motivate other school children to join in the fight and help prevent the spread of HIV.
Meanwhile, at the award ceremony there was also the launch of the videos for the HIV jingle competition which was held in 2006, and received more than 80 audio entries. The top 10 audio pieces were then developed for television and are currently on the airwaves.

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Region Three urged to gear for CARIFESTA, spread message

Georgetown, GINA, March 28, 2008

Guyana is five months away from hosting the Caribbean’s largest cultural show, the Caribbean Festival of Arts (CARIFESTA) X, and stakeholders in various parts of the country are being urged to gear for the event.
            Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport Dr. Frank Anthony accompanied by a team of officials from the Carifesta Secretariat and the Caricom Secretariat met with Chairman of Region Three Julius Faerber, other regional officials as well as stakeholders from the Region to discuss plans for the event. The meeting was held at the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) office on the West Bank of Demerara.
Regions Two, Three, Four, Five, Six and Ten have been earmarked to host various features of the festival and will be sensitised about their roles and responsibilities so that they are well organised. 
Minister Anthony said the intention of the sensitisation campaign is for the Regions to form CARIFESTA Committees that are responsible for organising the various activities.
A number of venues in Region Three have already been earmarked and were assessed today by the Minister and team. These include community centre grounds at Uitvlugt, Cornelia Ida, Goed Fortuin and the Joe Vieira Park on the West Bank of Demerara.
Minister of Culture Youth and Sport Dr Frank Anthony officials of Region Three and the Carifesta Secretariat speaking with stakeholders of the region about CARIFESTA X

“We need to prepare these venues, to make sure that they are of good quality and standard because a number of countries will be coming and will be performing in your region. I am sure they will return with a good impression of your region,” Minister Anthony said.
The Region will also be expected to engage in a number of promotional activities in the lead-up to CARIFESTA by hosting of a mobile film show that will showcase films produced in the Caribbean.
Minister Anthony proposed that the show be presented at some of the popular locations in the Region such as car park, to heighten awareness and encourage more people to become involved.
The region was also urged to gear youths in the school system for the festival, as they too may be given an opportunity to showcase their talent. Winners of the Secondary Schools’Drama Festival which is billed for April will be part of Guyana’s presentation at CARIFESTA.
This will be among the many promotional activities that will be engaged and will also aid in the talent search which is ongoing, Minister Anthony explained.
“If you know people with good talent, encourage them to be part of the event. We want them to be part of the national and regional presentation for CARIFESTA,” the Minister said.
Folk music is one aspect of Guyana’s culture which Minister Anthony is optimistic will make an impact for CARIFESTA and which, efforts will be made to enhance its vibrancy.
He said the launching of a folk song competition will be launched to aid in this promotion and encouraged persons from the region to participate
Stakeholders of Region Three in discussion on CARIFESTA X

CARIFESTA X will be held in Guyana during the period August 22 to 31 and will be featuring more than 100 events in the performing, literary, visual and culinary arts, grand market, fashion, community festivals and symposia.
Minister Anthony said the successful hosting of the festival will augur will for culture and tourism in Guyana as it will encourage visitors to appreciate and return to Guyana.

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Opposition Parties ‘walkout’ dubbed a betrayal of National Stakeholders Meeting

Georgetown, GINA, March 28, 2008

The recent boycott of Opposition Parliamentary Parties from the government’s Motion to have the National Assembly bless the recent outcomes of the National Stakeholders Meeting has been seen as a betrayal to that inclusive process.
            During a special programme on the National Communications Network (NCN) last evening, Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee and Advisor on Governance at the Office of the President and People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Member of Parliament Ms. Gail Teixeira made these remarks.
“The behaviour in Parliament is extremely shocking….On February 19, when the political parties met they agreed that they will deal with the media in a responsible manner and so promote social cohesion.  At the meetings everyone agreed to one thing, this is what we could live with and here is the PNCR now wants to change the motion and add new things to it,” Teixeira asserted.
The Opposition was seeking for amendments to be made to include Article 13 of the Constitution which deals with inclusiveness and they also wanted to include the need for equitable access to the state media by Parliamentary parties.
Minister Rohee said it is sad to know that the Opposition members choose to make a mockery out of 22 days of hard work that resulted in a national consensus in addressing the crime situation, which is every Guyanese concern.
“We have five statements, formulated and worked on over a period of 22 days, six political parties, 43 civil organizations.  They (participants) are the owners of this process, the PNC and the Parliamentary oppositions cannot aggregate upon themselves to seek to hijack a process and to seek to amendment amendments without consulting the other 43 representatives,” Minister Rohee emphasized.
 He pointed to a statement made by Alliance for Change (AFC) Leader Raphael Trotman before his party exited the National Assembly.
“Mr. Trotman is using language like Guyana is in its darkest moment in history, and he is not ready to go down in this sinking ship.  It is really shuddering to listen to those words from a politician- the country is doomed, the Guyanese people will never come out from this hole.  What they and the PNC/R are doing is playing politics, using issues to play football,” the Home Affairs Minister said.
The ‘be it resolved clause’ of the government motion which was put forward by Prime Minister Samuel Hinds was sought for the National Assembly to take note of the engagements of the National Stakeholders meeting and accept the output as reflecting national consensus on the agreed upon actions.
            Following the walkout by the Opposition the administration maintained that the amendments which the Opposition was seeking were out of the administration’s control since it was not agreed to by the stakeholders involved.
The Opposition parties were in receipt of the Motion since March 17.

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Agri Ministry launches “grow more” food campaign
-  to ensure sustainability of  food supply in face of rising prices

Georgetown, GINA, March 28, 2008

Government continues to advocate the importance of growing more local produce  as this has become an even more significant issue for the sustainability of food supply in the regions and in dealing with the rising cost of food prices.
            At a press briefing held today at the Ministry of Agriculture, Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud said the Ministry today began the “Grow More” food campaign across Guyana. This will be led by the New Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC) which is working with other departments and agencies of  the Ministry to lead the effort.
Minister Persaud said the rising price for food internationally has resulted in unprecedented demand on Guyana to supply food to the Caribbean region. Guyana was once termed the ‘bread basket’ of the region.
The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) reported that food prices have increased by 40 percent in 2007alone.
Minister Persaud said due to the increasing demand for export produce such as fruits and vegetables, the Ministry is encouraging farmers to produce more.  Last year exports of agriculture produce, except sugar grew by over 30%.
            Meanwhile, the implementation of the US$20M Agricultural Export Diversification Programme will contribute significantly to the increase in Guyana’s export growth rate and reduce its volatility.
            The implementation of the Rural Enterprise and Agriculture Development programme will cost US$6M and will focus on increasing market opportunities available to small-scale producers. It would also increase the capacity of rural producers to efficiently and effectively produce and market non-traditional products and develop small scale enterprises.
            Minister Persaud said this is also directed at increasing their productivity and reducing their vulnerability.
            The national budget allocation for increased investment in drainage and irrigation is US$5M annually and is supported by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for expansion of drainage and irrigation networks and vital rehabilitation. Additionally it will cater for restoring drainage to areas abandoned by farmers and for training farmers to manage the operations and maintenance of the rehabilitated structures.
            Enhanced extension services is another aspect the Ministry is working on to ensure all mechanisms are in place in support of this goal and by continuing to modernize extension services through the use of technology and access to more practical demonstration material.
In 2008, production of planting materials at the National Agricultural Research Institution (NARI) reached in excess of 300,000 units with construction of 20 improved seedling houses countrywide to ensure a reliable and continuous supply of vegetable seedlings.
At present GMC is in the process of finalizing arrangements to become a distributor of vegetable and fruit seeds due to high-prices being charged by others.
Other measures that will be looked into are the development and promotion of efficient water management techniques such as drip irrigation to promote year round production of crops.
Promoting greenhouse cultivation to combat the effects of climate change, the introduction of improved livestock breed to increase meat production such as cattle, sheep, duck, swine and goat are other areas that the Ministry has placed focus on.
Aquaculture and apiculture development, integrated rice and fish cultivation, introduction of improved crop cultivation, higher yielding and more adaptable crops  to the effects of climate change are also being addressed.
Meanwhile to ensure that farmers do not have to compete with products coming into the country illegally and to guard against diseases, the Ministry of Agriculture is taking serious action against those persons who were recently found importing and selling illegal citrus fruits in Guyana.
Minister Persaud said this is a serious issue that will not be tolerated and advised that the importation of citrus material including fruits from countries including the Commonwealth, West Indies and the United States is prohibited.

 

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Health Minister addresses UG students, journalists at HIV/AIDS workshop

Georgetown, GINA, March 28, 2008

Today, Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy delivered the feature address at the opening of a media and HIV/AIDS three- day workshop for University of Guyana final year Communication students and journalists. 
            Present were University of Guyana lecturer, Dr. Paloma Mohamed,
The workshop, which is being held at the CIDA building, is hosted by Information for Life and Artistes in Direct Support.
The University final year students were selected as the primary target audience so as to enable them to report correctly on HIV/AIDS when they enter the media.
Minister Ramsammy said that based on coverage of HIV in the media, it is evident that the capacity of the media needs to be enhanced. “The difference is not always clear about HIV and AIDS. Our coverage contributes to stigmatization of the disease which leads to discrimination,” he said.
Head table at the media and HIVAIDS workshop. From left to right (University of Guyana lecturer, Dr. Paloma Mohamed, Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, Head of Information for Life, Neaz Subhan, and Head of Artistes in Direct Support, Desiree Edghill.

Head of Artistes in Direct Support, Desiree Edghill said that the media has an important role to play in the fight against HIV, especially in terms of curbing stigma and discrimination.
She noted that media personnel will be tested on their knowledge of HIV, and they will be informed of ways in which they should report on the disease which should not include the use of discriminatory terms. 
Information for Life is an organisation that was started in 2001 and has become a major part of the information and awareness strategy of the Ministry of Health. The project officially started in 2007, and to date has produced 21 one - hour television programmes.
 Artistes in Direct Support is an NGO which focuses on HIV education using the performing arts.

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