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Saturday, January 10, 2009

President leaves for official visits to Libya, Qatar and Greece

Georgetown, GINA, January 10, 2009

Following invitations extended to him, His Excellency, President Bharrat Jagdeo will pay Official visits to the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (Libya), the Hellenic Republic (Greece) and the State of Qatar, over the period January 12 to19, 2009.
President Bharrat Jagdeo will be accompanied by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce Manniram Prashad, Presidential Envoy to the Middle East and Greece Ambassador George Hallaq,  and President of the Central Islamic Organization of Guyana Mr. Fazeel Ferouz.
The visits will provide an opportunity for exploring possibilities for the strengthening of relations and the expansion of cooperation programmes in the economic, social and cultural fields. President Jagdeo will also engage in discussions on matters of mutual interest and common concern on the current international agenda.


Guyana walking tall on global climate change

A GINA feature, January 10, 2009

It may not have been the best note to strike at the start of a new year but President Bharrat Jagdeo says he’s not one to sweep difficulties under the carpet or ignore them or throw his hands up in defeat.
One of the biggest problems his government faces this year is dealing with the changed weather pattern, he acknowledged at a press conference in Georgetown last week.
 In addition to grappling with ways to ease the devastating impact on Guyanese of the global financial meltdown which has led to millions of Americans losing their jobs and worse to come, the government has to urgently come up with plans to avert catastrophe from floods spawned by record heavy rains.
            And as if to drive home the warnings up close and personal of what countries like Guyana face from global warming, the rains have been pouring down and water has been sweeping along the coast at levels higher than those that triggered the disastrous floods of late 2005 and early 2006.
            The result, according to President Jagdeo, is that among other measures, the government has to find some $3B to ease the pressure on the earthen embankment of the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC) so that it will not collapse and flood huge swathes of land on the East Coast of  Demerara and Georgetown.
            This means a diversion of funds from other areas in this year’s budget to tackle this threat.
The President also noted that estimates for Regions Four and Five alone to adapt to climate change are about US$400M.
It may all seem rather depressing but it’s also a vindication of Mr. Jagdeo’s consistent position that the international community has to give top priority to what the world faces from unmitigated climate change.
 His stand has been recognized in influential international circles and the media, including exposure in TIME Magazine, the Economist and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
            TIME last September named the Guyanese President among its heroes of the environment for 2008, noting that he leads a poor country with a priceless resource: 40 million acres (16 million ha) of largely untouched rain forest.
 According to the magazine, logging firms are keen to cut it down, but Mr. Jagdeo is seeking what he regards as a better business proposal: he wants international donors and investors to pay for the increasingly tangible benefits of keeping the rain forest intact.
            "If we're serious about global warming and its consequences," he told the weekly magazine, "then the market has to address all the sources of greenhouse emissions."
            Deforestation is a major source, accounting for 20% of human-generated greenhouse gases. Still, according to TIME, President Jagdeo raised eyebrows in 2007 when he announced that Guyana would offer its entire rain forest, which covers 75% of the country's territory, as a sustainable commodity.
            The idea is that public and private organizations would pay Guyana for the right to manage and profit from untouched rain forests. They can sell the carbon credits on global markets, make money from ecotourism and pharmaceutical discoveries, and eventually create markets for "ecosystem services" such as rainfall generation and climate regulation.
 Studies suggest that such ventures could bring Guyana almost US$60 M a year, or 6% of its gross domestic product, TIME pointed out.
            President Jagdeo flew to Poland last month to advance Guyana’s model to avoid deforestation at the United Nations climate talks.
            Although it was overshadowed by other international events, Guyana managed to advance its model, he told reporters here.
            “We think we have advanced our case significantly; our paper was well received in the side event where we launched it,” he said at his official State House residence.

 President Bharrat Jagdeo and other members of the Guyana delegation at the Climate Change Conference, Poland.

The Economist said that in Poznan, Mr. Jagdeo made a different argument as he presented the plan for a low-carbon economy designed to suit the interests of all countries at an early stage of developing their natural resources.
 It pointed to Guyana’s argument that efforts to stop deforestation may fail unless it becomes more profitable for people who control the forest to leave trees intact than it is to cut them down.
 “Moreover, Mr Jagdeo and his advisers insist, any plan to compensate countries for keeping trees must avoid the trap of rewarding past malefactors, while penalising the virtuous. The case is not a moral one - it’s merely that rewarding ex-sinners alone could displace deforestation to pristine places like Guyana, the magazine said.
 It said that whether Mr Jagdeo’s vision ever materialises depends not just on the UN’s deliberations over punctuation, but also on the willingness of powerful players like the European Union (EU) to abide by emissions goals that keep the price of carbon high.
 Mr. Jagdeo has praised incoming United States President Barack Obama’s stand on climate change and said Senator John Kerry assured the Poznan meeting that the new White House administration “will be hitting the ground running on issues related to climate change.”
 The President said Obama has “one of the most enlightened policies currently on climate change (and) this is something that he would play a leadership role in.”
            He noted that Obama has chosen some “very high profile” people, including former Vice-President Al Gore, to lead his discussions on these issues.
In addition to lobbying the Guyana plan to avoid deforestation as a key component in the global climate change battle in Poznan, President Jagdeo had bilateral meetings with several countries including France, Norway and Japan, on the fringes of the talks.

  President Jagdeo, Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud and other members of the Guyana delegation at a side meeting of the Climate Change conference in Poland.

  The Poznan meeting was intended to help chart the path for a new global climate treaty by next December.
The President said Guyana’s expectations in Poznan were met, pointing out that the meeting did not set itself “the goal of negotiating issues of substance” and was mainly about process issues.
            He said the absence of a formal Obama team (Kerry was there in an informal capacity) and the issue of the EU settling its emission cuts by 2020 “all served to overshadow the conference and militated against having serious substantial work done”.
 Nevertheless, “from our perspective we made significant progress. We got a greater understanding, awareness of the role of the forests in the climate issue,” said President Jagdeo.
            “We have moved beyond the discussions of the traditional REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) methodology which focused on reforestation and afforestation. There is an understanding now that you have to include, as part of the formula, conservation and avoided deforestation,” he said.
 “That is a big movement forward by some NGO communities and the delegations that were there, because the primary focus so far has been reforestation and not preserving the forests and that will not benefit countries like ours,” he told reporters.
 Under the REDD scheme, rich nations would meet some of their emissions reduction targets by buying carbon credits from developing nations, whose forests soak up vast amounts of planet-warming carbon dioxide (CO2).
 Mr. Jagdeo said that because of the strong position several countries took on the need for a big enough fund to help mainly developing countries cope with climate change, “people now recognize that there will be no sustainable climate change agreement without substantial funds for adaptation”.
 “We did not move closer to an agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol but we have advanced the agenda on the components critical to the developing world and we have a greater understanding of including forestry in a global agreement and putting sufficient funds aside for adaptation for the developing world.” the President said.
 The formal tabling of the Guyana plan on averting deforestation before members of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in Poznan is to be followed here early this year with national consultations on the issue and the way forward.


Culture Ministry, Chess Federation succeed in development of chess
- efforts to continue this year – Minister Anthony

Georgetown, GINA, January 10, 2009

The dream of Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport Dr. Frank Anthony and the Guyana Chess Federation to develop the game of chess has borne fruit with the completion of the first national championship.
            Participants who competed in the championship that was held in the last quarter of 2008 were honoured for their achievements during a prize giving ceremony at Ramphal House on January 9.
            Minister Anthony along with the Chess Federation’s President Errol Tiwari and other members presented trophies and other prizes to the participants who competed at the junior and senior levels.
            During the tournament 14 games were held and were described as rigorous by Tiwari. It ended with Taffin Khan emerging as winner of the junior category and Chriskal Persaud being the senior champion.
             Khan, whom Tiwari described as a person serious about his games is from a family of chess players and may have been the reason why he won 14 games and will be moving on to the senior level for the second tournament.
            Chriscal Persaud on the other hand experienced difficulties at the start of the competition but worked his way up to the first place. Persaud hails from Port Mourant, Berbice, Region Six. Prizes were also donated to the most disciplined player.
            Sponsorship for the tournament was drawn from the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GT&T), Jumbo Jet Auto Sales, Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL), German Restaurant and Ocean Spray Hotel. 
            Minister Anthony lauded the efforts which have been made over the past year to develop chess locally.

Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport Dr. Frank Anthony hands over trophy and other prizes to junior chess champion Taffin Khan.

It first began with the establishment of an Interim Management Committee in July 2007 responsible for resuscitating the chess fraternity within three months, through membership drives, workshops and promotions in schools.
Through the efforts of the organising team, chess championships in schools were resuscitated after being dormant for two decades. Minister Anthony considers this a good initiative since youth involvement in chess has academic and other benefits.
This initiative in schools will continue this year and at least 40 schools will be targeted to be given five chess boards. According to Minister Anthony, the aim is to encourage more schools to play chess.
The Ministry has acquired chess clocks and demonstration boards and intends to donate them to the Guyana Chess Federation.
Minister Anthony believes more can be done to promote chess in Guyana although past efforts Guyana have been commendable. He suggested the formation of schools’ chess clubs and regional club formations such as a Linden and Berbice Chapter.
He also proposed that efforts be made for Guyana to be represented in Caribbean chess championships.
Chess is considered one of the many indoor sports that has proven to contribute to the development of the mind, particularly among youths who engage in the activity.


More working hours required in commercial sector- Labour Minister
-to keep up with global competition

Georgetown, GINA, January 10, 2009

Minister of Labour Manzoor Nadir has announced that Cabinet has given the go ahead to review the working hours and the operations of workers in certain industries so as to allow for more productivity in keeping up with global competition.
Minister Nadir noted that the working hours of local industries, including businesses in the tourism industry will be reviewed by his Ministry.
Speaking on the National Communications Network’s programme ‘Close Up’, Minister Nadir said “If we are going to be a globally competitive country in terms of goods and services, we have to allow 24-hour operations of some businesses, for example, call centres cannot shut down… Some factories cannot only operate for eight hour shifts; that is only one-third capacity… If a factory is going to work we have to ensure we work for 24 hours.
The Minister assured that even though the working hours of the commercial sector will be expanded, the Ministry will address ‘worker burn out’ and exploitation.
In light of productivity, production and global competition, the reforming of laws to address working hours and operations of workers in certain industries will be confronted, in full consultation with the Tripartie Committee, Minister Nadir said.
 The Labour Ministry intends to bring legislation on this matter to the National Assembly during this year.
Only on January 8, at the first sitting of the National Assembly for 2009, the Ministry’s Trade Union Recognition (Amendment) Bill 25/2008 was passed. The Bill seeks to ensure that the ‘real voice’ of the workers is heard.
The new amendment to the bill will strengthen the laws with respect to representing workers in Guyana.


Gearing to go – new Minister Irfaan Ali

A GINA feature, January 10, 2009

Days after being inaugurated as the new Minister of Housing and Water, one of the youngest Cabinet members; and one who is  very acquainted with the sector having been a State Planner responsible for planning for the said ministry, Irfaan Ali is already gearing for his role as he seems pretty certain of the path he will steer the Ministry.
Among his focus will  be to continue building on the foundation created since the People’s Progressive Party Civic took office, and more recently the campaigns of his predecessor Harry Narine Nawbatt to regularize housing areas and to encourage occupancy of allotted houselots as the Ministry is facing tremendous challenges in this regard.

Houselot allocation to continue

The PPP/C government up to the end of 2008 allocated in excess of 79,000 houselots but, the Minister said that if one were to look around in the schemes, the occupancy rate is only about 60% and in this light, it will continue to be a priority. The principle on which the houselots are granted is that persons are in need of them, but, this is not reflected after they would have received the lots.
            Minister Ali said that some 46,000 applications are to be processed  and he has already held a meeting witch the relevant officials with a view to cleansing the list.
“We have cases where people have been applying two times and these things and so we have that 46, 000 might be an inflated number so we are looking at that too to come up what exactly is the real demand now in terms of the applications in the system.”
While regularization will continue, he said focus will also be avoiding squatting.
“We have been seeing the challenges squatting is posing on the drainage system and so it’s a national issue now it’s not only a matter for the Ministry …the  squatting issue has now spread its wings, it’s related to drainage and irrigation, public health and safety so definitely those are two of the areas that would continue to have the greatest of attention from the Ministry of Housing and Water.”

More new housing schemes, development for existing schemes

Minister Ali said that focus will also be placed on the development of new housing areas that would be made possible through the recent approval by Inter American Development Bank of the sum of US$28M for the second Low Income Settlement programme in Guyana. This second programme will also focus on developing basic services, consolidating existing housing schemes, and upgrading squatter areas, implementing pilots to attend issues of affordability and sustainability and s.trengthening the Central Housing and Planning Authority. About 115 new housing areas were established by the PPP/C government.
The first LIS programme had realized an achievement rate of 95% at the end of 2006. About $800M was spent on developing infrastructure in that year for more than 9,000 house lots .
“ We are going to ensure that  the manifesto promise of the government is realised to ensure that our people have access to housing facility,  but we are not only concerned about housing …it’s not just about opening up lands but providing quality housing and that is where the big issue of cost recovery comes in… these lots are highly subsidized,  if you add the infrastructure cost to the value of land it is far below the price that individuals pay for the lots so the emphasis is on having the occupancy rate of the existing schemes reach optimal point.”
He disclosed that attention will also be placed on enhancing existing housing schemes in terms of water supply and roads.

Aggressive year planned for water sector
-National Water Council to come on stream 

He noted that there are indeed challenges in this sector but a lot of work is being done to strengthen the system.
“I won’t say that everything is bright and rosy but …we are going to work around those issues; we are going to try and ensure that our people are given a good supply of water at a very good quality,” Minister Ali said.
The Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) is on a very forceful campaign and that many-fold campaign speaks to the issue of reducing leakages, reducing the practice of breaking mains, illegal connections and non revenue water, the Minister explained.
            “GWI will be focusing heavily on rates collections and of course we are continuously expanding the service of GWI… you know there is a misconception and I want to make it clear that the role of GWI and the Ministry is to deliver the best quality of service to the people; that is our mandate in terms of the water sector as you know we have coming on stream very shortly the national water policy and we are going to be discussing that very, very shortly.”
The new Minister said the hinterland water supply will be boosted this year and he revealed that at his first meeting with the senior management of GWI on Friday, the way forward for the entity was discussed.

Removal of Lamaha embankment squatters

By the end of February 28, the squatters are expected to remove, having been granted houselots by the Ministry to facilitate expansion of Guyana Power and Light.   
  “We’ve fulfilled all of our promises; we’ve made the lots available for these persons free of cost, we’ve also delivered 50% of their relocation package that was agreed upon… in that package they’ve also been given electricity and water free of cost basically, ” he said.
 Minister Irfaan Ali was sworn in as the Minister of Housing and Water by President Bharrat Jagdeo on January 7 at the Office of the President.



Media visits East Demerara Water Conservancy - dams remain intact

Georgetown, GINA, January 10, 2009

Conservancies are huge reservoirs as they store water that is used in the dry season mostly for irrigating agricultural lands.  Here in Guyana, the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC) holds over 100 billion gallons of water and because of this huge volume, much focus is placed on this vital storage facility during the rainy season.
Since this current rainy season commenced early in December 2008, the staff complement monitoring the EDWC to ensure that the integrity of the dam is maintained has increased significantly. Workers conduct checks constantly in light of the high level of the conservancy caused by torrential rains over the past weeks.

Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud, NDIA CEO Lionel Wordsworth inspecting the new pump at Belfield, ECD folloeing a Conservancy visit.

Today the media were taken on a tour of a 23 - mile stretch of the EDWC aback of Mahaica which runs up to Ogle where they were able to see that the integrity of the dam has been maintained.
Samuel La Fleur, EDWC Secretary, today confirmed that there were no breaches at the conservancy contrary to reports that had emanated in the press.
            He explained that even before the rainy season the conservancy level was lowered to facilitate more storage capacity. On the question of erosion, he said that when the conservancy is full there is no fear of erosion since water is required to keep the dam intact.
             Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud, who also paid a visit to the EDWC, said that a lot of the emphasis was on maintaining the integrity of the dam and constant monitoring to ensure that it is secure thus making use of the discharge.

  Personnel working on the East Demerara Water Conservancy.

The Minister said that prior to the rainy season a tremendous amount of work was done on the conservancy including lifting and buttressing of dams, clearing 27 miles of channels and providing more equipment in case of emergency to enlarge the storage capacity. He added that five excavators were working round the clock as well as personnel who were monitoring the dams looking for seepages. Aerial reconnaissance, he said, was also done.
            He said that the proposal to provide an additional outlet would give a better discharge option than into the Mahaica and Mahaicony creeks since it is a worrying situation in these communities. However, he noted that was a very last resort.
Minister Persaud stated that the technical work to be done has been advertised as well as the procurement process.

Media operatives in the conservancy.

The Agriculture Minister remarked that some projects were not done earlier because of the lack of resources and planning.
However, he stated, with the investments made and an active rainy season, a large scale disaster was prevented.
Minister Persaud said he was happy to see Government’s commitment to divert budgetary allocations.
Also, he disclosed that through an Indian line of credit, approximately US$4 would be used to procure more pumps.

An excavator at work on the East Demerara Water Conservancy.

There is a comprehensive plan on the table, he said, that would be reworked and the services of local and international experts would be engaged.
The Minister added that measures have been put in place for affected farmers since $100M has been allocated by the President. He said that today there would be final documentation and verification of affected farmers who would receive a package so that the could return to the fields. This programme will come into effect in the next two to three weeks.
Minister Persaud said that through the Secretary of the Defence Board he has asked for the engagement of the joint services in patrolling the dam because of its vulnerability and the threat it could be to national security. That, he stated, was under consideration.





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