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Friday, August 19, 2011

UG, IAST sign MOU to collaborate on research projects

 Georgetown, GINA, August 19, 2011

The University of Guyana (UG) and Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST), today inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), for the sharing of equipment and resource, staff and student exchange and research and library access.
            The MOU which was inked between the Director of IAST, Dr. Suresh Narine and Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Lawrence Carrington will see an ongoing process of updating the databases of instrumentation on a bi-annual basis, with the databases being made available to staff of both institutions and interested stakeholders.


Director of the Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST) and Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Lawrence Carrington ink agreement for sharing of equipment and resource for science research.


            The partners, within two weeks of the signing of the agreement, are required to designate  personnel who will be responsible for the necessary information and will required to submit reports on current inventory at both institutions, as part of the annual report on progress made under the agreement.
            Dr. Narine in addressing media operatives stated that the two entities have over the years shared a close working relationship, which has proven successful.
            This, he said, has seen lecturers collaborating on several science projects which have been significantly benefiting students.
            “Apart from signing this agreement today, we have had a relatively close relationship in our everyday venture and the MOU will basically see us sharing our resources both human and equipment,” he said.
            While the institute can boast of conducting intense applied research in its curriculum, Dr. Narine however, stated that the institution currently does not have the capacity to house a large staff complement to conduct science research.


Attendees during inking of agreement for the sharing of equipment and resources for science research


            He added that since 2005, the institute has significantly improved its scientific infrastructure with a budgetary allocation of $30M compared to the $212M invested in 2011 in science and technology research.
            “While there has been a drastic increase in science and technology investment, the agreement also articulates simple methods on how IAST and the University of Guyana can utilize equipment and resources of both entities. We will also establish a single point of contact for students to also access resources,” he said.
            Dr. Carrington while expressing University’s the satisfaction for the collaboration said that it is necessary, since the future will demand careful use of resources.
Alluding to Government’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), he said that the initiative has opened a scientific engagement which fits into the fundamental research which will take the country into a low carbon future. Staff members of the University of Guyana have already discussed over 70 research projects to be undertaken.
Dr. Carrington however made it clear that the MOU does not involve any new funds being allocated to the institutions, as future research will be funded from the institutions’ current grant.
An important aspect of the MOU entails collaboration of the social services dimension. This will involve costing, marketing and negotiating with interested parties on research activities as well as multi-disciplinary research in economics and sociology.
The entities will also collaborate under the auspices of the Centre for Communication Studies to publicise and market joint initiatives and for the provision of services to attract the private sector.   
              

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President’s libel case against Freddie Kissoon commences

Georgetown, GINA, August 19, 2011

President Bharrat Jagdeo’s libel case against Kaieteur News Columnist, Freddie Kissoon, Kaieteur News Editor, Adam Harris and Publisher, Glen Lall today commenced in the High Court before Justice Brassington Reynolds.
            President Jagdeo was represented by Attorney-at-Law, Mohabir Anil Nandlall, who led the Plaintiff’s first witness, Head of the Presidential Secretariat (HPS), Dr. Roger Luncheon into evidence.
            Dr. Luncheon testified about his long service as HPS, Secretary to the Cabinet, and main Assistant to the President.
            The HPS further testified about the Head of State’s long political career starting within the Finance Ministry and a Member of Parliament and his subsequent ascendency to the Presidency.
            Dr. Luncheon’s cross-examination started but was adjourned to permit legal arguments regarding whether certain questions can be asked having regard to the state of the pleadings.
            Legal arguments continued and concluded this afternoon and the matter was adjourned to August 24 at 9:30 am for continuation and ruling.     
The matter stemmed from an article authored by Kissoon and published in the Kaieteur News on June 28, 2010 entitled, ‘King Kong sent his goons to disrupt the conference’, which refers to the Guyanese Head of State as an ideological racist. A libel case was subsequently made out against the columnist as well as the newspaper’s editor and publisher.  

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Prime Minister underscores power sector’s importance to Guyana’s development
- sod turned for US $42M, GPL infrastructure

Georgetown, GINA, August 19, 2011

Power is important for a country’s progress hence the numerous efforts and huge financial inputs by the Government have gradually been changing the power system to a more improved one. This afternoon the sod was turned for the construction of seven 69/13.8 KV substations and installation of 110 Km of 69KV overhead transmission lines at North Ruimveldt.
 Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, speaking at the event said that when infrastructural work is completed there will be equitable transmission of power into the national grid, a project that holds tremendous potential for Guyana’s development.


Prime Minister Samuel Hinds and Charge d’Affaires of Chinese Embassy Li Qin Feng turning the sod for the commencement the $8.5B GPL infrastructural development project


         “Today is a milestone for Guyana, for the supply of electricity in our country ...this programme had started a year ago with tendering of bids for Chinese construction companies,” Prime Minister Hinds said.
          The Prime Minister who is also the subject minister for the energy sector, said the PPP/C administration over the past 19 years brought about great improvement in all spheres, especially the power sector.
          “Even though today we are working and earning more from our work, since the PPP/C Government came into office in 1992 we are still not a very rich country and therefore we have to spend our money carefully…after several discussions we finally  approved and accepted the proposal for an improved project,” he  said.
           The state of electricity supply, he said, prior to 1992 left much to be desired and “where there were long uncertain periods of power outages and coming into office at that time with no money and high debts we had to carefully spend our money to satisfy the demand for power”.
            The Prime Minister boasted that the government’s prudent management of the economy has allowed citizens to benefit from an improved supply of electricity.    
              “We as a Government see the importance of electricity for development, we have not only supplied electricity to those on the coast but also those in the hinterland,” Prime Minister Hinds informed.
             Government, he said recently sealed an agreement that will see 11,000 households in hinterland communities benefiting from photovoltaic solar home systems.


Prime Minister Samuel Hinds and Charge d’Affaires of  the Chinese Embassy Li Qin Feng unveiling GPL’s new  project signboard


           In addition, he said the Government will also be installing small grids in remote areas including Lethem, Port Kaituma, Matthews Ridge and Moruca.
            “Our aim is to have every household benefiting from some amount of electrification, and we also want our people to step up for their responsibility and pay for what they use,” Minister Hinds said.
           Prime Minister Hinds said that the project was financed under a Chinese loan amounting to US $42M which will cater for the construction of substations and improvements in the transmission lines.
         The seven new substations will be constructed in Georgetown, D’Urban Backlands, Diamond, Good Hope, Mahaica, Versailles, and Edinburgh. There will be upgrades to Onverwagt and Sophia, and on transmission lines from Kingston, Georgetown to Versailles, West Bank Demerara via submarine cables, Sophia to Georgetown, Sophia to Onverwagt, and overhead cables from Versailles to Edinburgh.
          Charge d’Affaires of the Chinese Embassy Li Qin Feng who was also present at the sod turning ceremony reaffirmed his Government’s commitment to continue working with the Government and people of Guyana.
          Project Director Jin Huibao assured the Government of Guyana that the project will be completed to high standards and within the allotted time frame.
    

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Trends in international food prices, distributional effects

A  GINA feature - August 20, 2011

In both periods, 2002-2008 and 2010-2011, markets experienced a growing demand for a number of key commodities while contending with tightening supplies. Although the overall food commodity price index has risen again, the roles of various agricultural commodities differed across the two time periods.  
            Prices of rice, wheat, and vegetable oils increased the most as prices peaked in 2008. In contrast, world rice prices have hardly increased since June 2010 and are half what they were at the peak in 2008. Global 2010/11 rice production is projected to be large, and stocks are perceived to be sufficient to meet expected consumption needs.
Global wheat stocks are currently much higher than they were toward the end of the 2007-2008 spiked. Feed-quality wheat, however, accounts for a much larger share of stocks, while milling-quality wheat stocks are low due to damage caused by rain in several major wheat producing countries. As a result, world milling-quality wheat prices rose more than the prices for feed quality wheat.
Prices for vegetable oils rose sharply in both events and, since 2002, increased nearly twice as much as the overall food commodity index. World demand for vegetable oil for human consumption, for biodiesel feed-stocks, and for other industrial uses has seen rapid growth since 2002.
Livestock products, particularly beef, have taken on a more significant role in the current increases in food commodity prices. During the 2002-2008 increase in prices, livestock products did not play a significant role. Meat prices only began to increase during the final few months of the six-year upward trend in the IMF’s food commodity price index. In the current situation, however, meat prices began to increase nearly a year before crop prices started their upward trend. Between the latter part of 2009 and June 2010, meat price increases more than offset declining crop prices as the total food commodity price index rose. Then, as crop prices began to rise in June 2010, meat prices levelled off for about six months before they started to climb again.
            Dairy product prices also began to rise before crop prices. Other agricultural commodity prices also have increased significantly in the current situation. Brazil’s 2010/11 sugarcane crop was affected by weather, and sugar prices nearly doubled from May 2010 to January 2011, rising more than any other food commodity. Prices for coffee, tea, fish, wool, and palm oil have also risen dramatically since mid-2010, and all were higher in April 2011 than when they peaked in 2008. Further, cotton prices increased more than any food commodity from mid-2010 to early 2011.

Non agricultural prices are also up-again

 

Prices for commodities other than food have also been rising. Price indices for commodity categories, such as energy, metals, beverages, and agricultural raw materials have also risen, suggesting that global economy-wide factors are contributing to the current surge in prices as they did during 2002-08. All of these price indices declined after the peak in mid-2008 through the end of 2008 or the first quarter of 2009. Since then, each of these indices has risen more than the food commodity price index.

Food price trends

 

Global food prices in July 2011 remain significantly higher than their levels in July 2010. On average, the World Bank Food Price Index remains 33 percent above its level a year ago. Similarly, price levels of a number of major commodities are higher than their levels in July last year, for example, maize (84 percent), sugar (62 percent), wheat (55 percent), and soybean oil (47 percent). Crude oil prices remain 45 percent higher than a year ago and the price of fertilizers increased by 67 percent over the same period.
            Prices have declined slightly after peaking in February 2011, although prices remain volatile for specific commodities. After peaking in February 2011, the World Bank Food Price Index for the period April to July averaged 278.3, or roughly 5 percent below the price index in February. This has been accompanied by modest declines in the prices of the major components of the index in July from their February averages: grains (1 percent), fats and oil (9 percent) and the "other" food category (1 percent), which includes meat, fruits, and sugar. However, these averages conceal volatility within this period. For example, maize and wheat prices declined in June and then increased in the first half of July. The price of rice fell from February to May, but has since increased.
Since April 2011, prospects for the overall supply of food have improved. Wheat prices have been on a decline over the last quarter due to good winter yields in Europe and the United States. The Russian Federation's improved harvest and lifting of the ban on its export of wheat along with the suspension of Ukraine's export quotas have given an additional boost to supply international markets. Similarly, despite downward revisions to anticipated maize production in the United States on account of the unusually high temperatures and low precipitation in July across the maize producing region, global output of grains in 2011/2012 is projected to be 3 percent higher than estimated output for 2010/2011. Better yields are expected in Argentina and Brazil, where maize production was unusually impacted by the La Niña–induced dry spell last year.

Many factors contribute to higher food commodity prices

 

Most of the long-term factors underlying trends in agricultural production and consumption that contributed to the general rise in food commodity prices in 2002-08 continue to be important underlying factors in the recent price surge. These long-term factors include global growth in population and per capita incomes, related increases in world per capita consumption of animal products, depreciation of the U.S. dollar, rising energy prices and expanding global bio-fuel production, and slower growth in agricultural productivity.
Against this backdrop of generally rising food commodity prices since 2002, the sharp price spikes in 2007-2008 and 2010-2011 reflect short-term anomalies and shocks. Short-term factors include weather-related production shortfalls, a corresponding decline in world stocks of grains and oilseeds, and changes in trade policies and practices. In particular, underlying recent crop price increases has been a series of adverse weather events in a number of major world producing regions that occurred in a relatively compressed time period from June 2010 to April 2011. As a result, estimates of world crop production and stock levels steadily declined, tightening world supply and demand balances. Additionally, renewed economic growth and associated gains in food demand in low- and middle-income countries has contributed to recent food commodity price increases following the 2009 recession. Although many of the factors that contributed to price increases in 2002-08 and 2010-11 are the same, the timing, sequence, and relative importance of each factor varied.

Distributional effects of food price crises

 

In situations less extreme than a famine, different segments of the population within a country are affected differently by food price increases. In Brazil, a recent World Bank study estimates that the rural poor-including wage workers-lost less from higher prices in 2008 than middle-income groups, who are typically net food consumers in rural areas. And the rich lost little, since they spend a small proportion of their incomes on food. Ferreira et al. simulate that up to a quarter of the initial increase in extreme poverty due to food price increases may have been reversed by the benefits of higher wage attributable to food price increases. Social programs can help mitigate some of the adverse impacts on the poorest.
Other studies corroborate the benefits of food price increases for producers. Recent estimates indicated that in the very short run, increasing incomes of net food producers may reverse up to half of the total global effect of the 2010-2011 food price increases on poverty. Other estimates for Andean countries during the 2008 food price crisis found that increased producer earnings reduced the poverty impact from rising food prices by about one-third.
These effects depend on factors that are country specific and vary accordingly. The adverse impact of higher food prices on net consumers of food can be mitigated by the extent to which consumers can substitute cheaper food items, which in turn depends on the permanency or volatility of the increases. Net food producers may benefit from rising food prices by getting a higher price for what they sell to markets. Other producers may also benefit if they can switch production to commodities whose prices are increasing, which may be more likely to happen if prices are on the rise rather than being volatile.
Wages can also increase following food price rises, particularly when the agricultural sector employs salaried workers, which is more likely in emerging and advanced economies. Finally, if governments use social safety nets to mitigate the impact of rising food prices, beneficiaries of such programs may see their initial welfare loss from food price increases partially compensated. The extent to which this happens depends mainly on the pre-existing capacity of safety nets and the quality of programs.
Ultimately, an integrated agricultural, food security, poverty, and climate agenda must consider all the factors that matter for vulnerability to food price increases within a country, from drought resilience to availability of infrastructure and social protection for the most vulnerable. An improved understanding of such factors can be particularly useful to better identify countries and population groups within countries that are subject to a high and continuous risk of food insecurity

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GuySuCo, GAWU sign agreement for improved wages, working conditions

Georgetown, August, 19, 2011

Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud today joined representatives of the different Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) estates at the LBI estate to witness the signing of the agreement between the corporation and the Guyana Agriculture and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) for a 5% salary increase for the sugar workers. The agreement also provides for the improvement of working conditions at the estates.
Minister Persaud said that the agreement is unique as it was concluded without any level of acrimony, just what the industry needs to move forward. He expressed hope that the agreement would lead to a cultured partnership, whereby workers and management can sit and work to ensure that at the end of the day the sugar industry remains viable.


Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud with President of  the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) Komal Chand and CEO of GuySuCo Paul Bhim at signing of agreement for better wages and working conditions for sugar workers.

Government expects that some of the issues plaguing the industry will be overcome, Minister Persaud said. No one can question the level of Government’s commitment to the industry, he said, as seen by many investments and interventions in the industry.
Minister Persaud urged the workers and GuySuCo’s administration to remain upbeat about the industry and workers to continue and increase their level of commitment.
“It is our industry, the people of Guyana’s industry and it requires dedication, steadfastness and a higher level of commitment,” he said.
All the systems in place are meant to make the industry successful, he said, and all that is required is for every single player to get his/her act together and make the industry viable.
Embedded in the terms of the agreement is the across the board 5% increase effective January 1, 2011. The 5% one off payment granted by President Bharrat Jagdeo on December 2, 2010 has also been made permanent as per terms of the agreement.


GAWU’s President  Komal Chand signing the agreement for better wages and working conditions for sugar workers.


GuySuCo and GAWU have also agreed to recommence a job evaluation process.
The negotiation also yielded other agreements such as amendments to the Weekly Production Incentive.
The parties also reached an unwritten agreement, to start in a couple of weeks, negotiation for the annual productive incentive for 2011 and to work to achieve a consolidated labour agreement that will comprehensively take in all the circulars and agreement made in the previous years
The results of the negotiation evolved after 11 meetings.
The 5% increase will be effective September 1, 2011 and the retroactive payment for January to August this year will be paid in October.
Human Resource Director, GuySuCo, Jai Petam said that it is historic, that now after 20 years, GuySuCo and GAWU can reach an agreement without the intervention of conciliatory process or having to move the process to arbitration.
The representatives that constitute the members of the delegation showed great discipline in the sessions, he said.
There was no haggling, and the company made an offer of 5%, and the union unanimously agreed to accept the corporation’s initial offer, Petam said.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GuySuCo, Paul Bhim thanked the union and the representatives for the diplomacy in which they conducted themselves and managed the negotiations.
President of GAWU Komal Chand said that the union would have wished a higher increase but after assessing the state of the industry it accepted the offer put forward.
He said that the union would like to see GuySuCo progress forward. Better working conditions and salary will help the industry retain the skilled workers it needs, he said.

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12 roads in Cornelia Ida/Stewartville to be upgraded- under CRIP
GINA, Georgetown, August 19, 2011

A contract valued over $117M was signed today to rehabilitate 4.04 kilometers or 12 roads in Cornelia Ida/Stewartville, Region Three, making the Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC), the latest to benefit from the US $ 18.8M Community Road Development Project.  
Government implemented CRIP under which US$13M will be spent to rehabilitate and construct 204 roads in 12 NDCs. Rehabilitation of NDC buildings and drainage works are also covered under the project.


Regional Chairman, Region 3, Mr. Julius Faeber, Manger of Dipcon Engineering Serviced Limited, Mr. Vishnu Mungal and Project Coordinator, (CRIP) Ms Karen Roopchand at the signing of the CRIP Cornelia Ida/ Stewartville road project contract signing.


The contract was awarded to Dipcon Engineering Services Limited .and was signed by Regional Chairman, Region Three, Julius Faerber and Manager of Dipcon Engineering Serviced Limited, Vishnu Mungal.
The project is expected to benefit 32,000 people directly and caters for the cleaning, reshaping and regrading and realigning, the existing road sides, and drains. Two bridges will be rehabilitated and safety features will be placed on the roads.
Faerber remarked that the residents and the NDC will have to supervise and make certain that quality work is done.


Contract for Community Road Improvement Programme (CRIP) Project Cornelia Ida/ Stewartville being handed over to Manger of Dipcon Engineering Serviced Limed, Mr. Vishnu Mungal by Project Coordinator, Community Road Improvement Programme (CRIP)  Ms Karen Roopchand.


 “I am appealing to the residents and the NDC that they ensure we get quality for our money. I am also asking that the contractors deliver to us the type of work that we the residents in Region Three require,” Faerber said.
The CRIP project also facilitates for NDC, the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) and the Ministry of Local Government workers to ensure that they have the enhanced capacity to upkeep the roads in the future.
 Regions Three, Four, Five and Six are beneficiaries of CRIP.


Some of the Residents of Cornelia Ida/ Stewartville at the Community Road Improvement Programme (CRIP) contract signing for the CRIP Cornelia Ida/ Stewartville road project


 Thus far the following CRIP projects were signed: $152M contract to rehabilitate and upgrade 4.5 kilometres or 11 roads in Enmore-Hope, Region Four; $188M to facilitate upgrading of 14 old housing scheme roads in Bath, Region Five that will benefit 13,000 residents; $13M contract for 14 roads for Rosignol and Zeelust, and $163M for rehabilitation 23 roads in the Tuschen/Uitvlugt NDC for the benefit of 35,000 residents.
Other CRIP contracts will be signed in the coming week.

 

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Better roads for Region Four communities
-$435.5M CRIP contracts signed

Georgetown, GINA, August 19, 2011

Three contracts were signed today by Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) officials and Courtney Benn contracting Limited and H. Nauth and Sons, as implementation of the Community Road Improvement Programme (CRIP) continues. The first contract, awarded to Courtney Benn Contracting Services, will see 27 roads brought to DBTS standard, the clearing, reshaping and realigning of existing road sides drains and the construction of new drains, the rehabilitation of three culverts, the provision of safety features such as signage, road markings and speed humps within the Mon Repos/ La Reconnaissance Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC).


From Left Permanent Secretary Ministry of Finance, Neermal Rekha, Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Norman Whittaker, Minister of Housing and Water, Irfaan Ali, Project Coordinator CRIP, Karen Roopchand and Courtney Benn Contracting Services Representative at the signing of the $167.5M contract at Lusignan Community Centre

This project which will directly benefit 35,000 residents will see government spending $167.5M. Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Norman Whittaker in his address told those gathered at the Lusignan Community Centre that ,“this project is not just about the physical development or transformation of the aesthetics of the community, by reason of construction of a number of roads by which all of us in the community and those outside the community who use the roads will benefit, but it is also an opportunity for involvement of the people, more specifically, those responsible for bringing development at the community level in the neighbourhood, which is the NDC”. 


Karen Roopchand, Project Coordinator CRIP, hands over the project documents to Kiran Nauth of H. Nauth and Sons for road upgrade in Unity/ Veereniging NDC

The expectation, he said, is that there will be involvement of the people and of the NDC to ensure that what is reflected in the descriptions of the project document is what will be replicated on the ground. Minister of Housing and Water, Irfaan Ali in his address said, this is a project lead by the Ministry of Housing and Water but this is the first time, there is an inter-agency approach and collaboration where the Ministry is implementing the hard part of the project (being the construction of the road works), and the Ministry of Local Government is implementing the institutional component of the programme (which is using the resources at hand to develop the personal lives of those in the community), so at the end of the day , the gains from the involvement in the capital aspect of the project will be maintained and sustained by the institutional capacity that would have been  developed”. He said, at the end of the project, a maintenance manual will be developed that will be given to the NDCs to be used to train its workers on road maintenance.              


Some of the residents present at the signing of CRIP contracts at the Mahaica Community Centre for road rehabilitation and construction in Unity/ Veereniging NDC

         
   With the transformation that would have taken place, residents need to protect the developments by ensuring individuals do not misuse or abuse these investments, which will improve the livelihood and standards of all involved, charged Minister Ali.  Two additional contracts to be executed by H. Nauth and Sons will see a total of 22 roads being rehabilitated and asphalted, along with the; clearing, reshaping, regarding and or realigning of existing road sides drains and construction of same where necessary, the rehabilitation of one bridge and one culvert, and the provision of safety features such as signage and speed humps. Lot A of the project will see 12 roads being rehabilitated and Lot B of the project will see 10 roads being rehabilitated under the Unity/ Veereniging NDC. Together, this will benefit 13,950 residents directly and will see government spending $268M. Minister Whittaker who was also present at the signing of these contracts at the Mahaica Community Centre said that; this is not just about 22 roads being rehabilitated, but rather 22 roads spread across a number of small communities in this NDC being rehabilitated to improve the livelihood and standards of its residents. He further told the gathering that they must understand that everything cannot be done at once, nor can the needs of all be satisfied simultaneously, therefore it is important that residents care the developments government has brought to it, by informing the NDC of those who use the roadways in a manner that will damage it.                                                                                                                                                            Government as part of its ongoing efforts to modernize the transport system of the country, and improve the livelihood, and living standards of its citizens acquired a US$18.76M loan from the Caribbean Development Bank to rehabilitate community roads located in 12 NDCS in Regions 2,3,4,5 and 6. Towards this end, US$13M will be spent for the rehabilitation of 204 community roads, with the remainder being spent on the rehabilitation and upgrading of the 12 NDC buildings.                                                                                                                         

 

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