Address of His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, to The Virtual Guyanese Republic Jubilee Awards Ceremony and Presentation, 27th December 2020

Guyana will roar again

I am extremely delighted to join you in this virtual celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana. I thank the Consulate General of Guyana in Canada for organising this event and for affording me the opportunity to participate.

National days are celebrations of the Guyanese identity. They remind us of who we are, from whence we came and, more importantly, they allow us to outline plans for the future.

This evening, I want to use this virtual celebration to broadly outline my Government’s vision and plans for the country for the next decade. Before I do so, however, I want to pause and acknowledge and congratulate all the deserving Guyanese who will be receiving awards tonight.

My Government has been in office just shy of five months. During this period much has been achieved. The groundwork for greater successes is being laid. But our plans and the actions upon which we have embarked are driven by our vision of the Republic we would like to see emerge in the next 10 years.

We are fashioning an inclusive democracy predicated upon respect for our Constitution and the rule of law and  the  will  of  the  people,  one  in  which our  sovereignty  and territorial integrity are sacrosanct. This is a Guyana that will possess a modern, robust, diversified and resilient economy capable of delivering economic prosperity which can be translated into higher levels of employment and improvements in the quality of life of our people.

Inclusion

Unity is the key to our success. We have seen just this past week how great things can be achieved when our people and our nation stand united. The International Court of Justice accepted the arguments which we made concerning the Court’s jurisdiction to hear our application to pronounce on the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award which we have always held definitely and in a definitive way set the boundaries between Guyana and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

As such, we are wholeheartedly committed to entrenching a system of political and social inclusion by forging a more participatory and consultative democracy. We have begun the process of making use of the expertise and experience of Guyanese, regardless of race or political affiliation.  We are also promoting policies aimed at ensuring greater inclusion of our youth, women, persons with disabilities, and minorities in the decision- making process.

Economic modernisation

Our Republic is on  an  upward  trajectory.  We  are  constructing  a  more modern, diversified and resilient economy. Even though Guyana is now an oil-producing state, we are not hedging all our bets on oil. The traditional sectors – rice, sugar, forestry, bauxite and gold mining are important to wealth creation, employment generation and income distribution. As such, we intend to modernise and to grow these sectors. As you have seen, we are committed to reviving the sugar industry but in a smarter manner by moving production up the value-chain and by diversifying the industry itself.

A modern economy which is capable of rebounding from internal and external shocks requires transformative infrastructure. We have begun to roll out a massive transformative infrastructure development agenda. This agenda includes:

–         the completion of the East Coast Demerara Highway; the resurfacing of the East Coast  Railway  Embankment  from  Sheriff  Street  to  Enmore;  the  remodelling  of  the Linden to Lethem Highway and work on the Linden to Mabura Hill section; the construction of a road link between Ogle and Diamond; the development of a four-lane highway between Georgetown and Timehri; and the construction of a road link will be constructed between Parika and Rockstone;

Inclusive in this transformation and transportation restructuring is also an upgrade of our maritime transportation. You will see, for example, investment in new boats, new ferries to North West along the Essequibo and also in the Barbie River. In addition to all of this, air transport is an essential part of the transportation plan. That is why recently you’ve seen we renegotiated and we were able to get back two additional bridges to the airport, more commercial space and have the contractor agree to complete a full rehabilitation of the front of the airport, all at no cost, the Government.

But more than this, we have launched an aggressive marketing campaign to ensure we get more air-lift coming to Guyana, to present Guyana as the air transport hub for South America. We have got tremendous traction.

Unfortunately, with all the work we were doing we have not been able to break in to the Canadian market or get anyone to break into the Canadian market, but I assure you, and I’m confident that within the very near future, we will have some very good news for the Canadian market and Canadians in terms of air transport to Guyana.

–     A new high-span bridge will be constructed across the Demerara River and will be completed before the end of 2024.  We’re working with the Republic of Suriname to bridge the Corentyne   River to create a corridor which will link French Guyana and Suriname to the East of Guyana and thence southwards to Brazil and other continental states.

–     A deep water habour, a new international airport at Lethem, industrial parks and free-trade zones will integrate Guyana’s economy with more powerful markets and convert the country into a major economic hub in the western hemisphere;

–     A new energy mix requires a new set of energy projects; solar, wind and natural gas will help us to ensure energy security and reduce the cost of energy by 50 percent, thereby stimulating and boosting the competitiveness of our manufacturing sector.

Quality of life and social services

Quality of life issues and social services are also an essential component of development an d advancement of life. We are doing all these things so as to improve the quality of life of our people. Our housing programme is aimed at providing 50,000 house lots for Guyanese within the next five years. We would have, just in the past week alone, distributed more than three thousand house lots.

We are creating a 21st century education system. The One Laptop per family initiative will be reintroduced in the coming year, we are providing 20,000 scholarships. We hope to provide free education at the University of Guyana by the end of 2024. In our emergency budget for 2020, we made provisions for doubling the uniform allowance and increasing by 50 percent the cash grant for every single student in Guyana. We are committed to increasing this by almost 300 percent in the coming years.

We are improving our health system with a strong focus on primary health care. Our Ministry of Human Services and Social Security will be intensifying support to the vulnerable, including our elderly, children, women and the disabled.

This is just a snapshot of the plans which are unfolding in our country. We are accelerating the pace at which we do things because we recognise that we need to ensure that the present generation benefits from development.

A Roaring Republic

Guyana will roar again. Our Republic will become stronger and more resilient.

I want to thank all of you for your interest in developments back home. I want to encourage you to play your part in the transformative process which is taking place. Guyana needs all hands on deck, including the members of the Diaspora who possess the skills and the resources which are needed to fulfil our ambitions over the next ten years.

I want to pause here and say to the diaspora, stop doubting yourselves.

Many of you call me directly and say, I want to come and do this, but what if…? Do not doubt yourself. In investment, there is an element of risk. In business, there is an element of risk. In moving from one state to another state, there is an element of risk. In moving from one country  to another country, there is an element  of risk. And, we acknowledge there are areas in which we have to improve; to make you comfortable in an environment in which you’re accustomed to, speed at which you get service, and quality of service. We are not hiding from these things. These are things that we have to fix and we’re fixing. But do not use them as an excuse that will keep you away from coming.

We’re in this together. We want you to come. We are awaiting your arrival. We know you’re committed. We know you have love for country. Take the bold step.

I hope that you will continue to be engaged in Guyana’s development and that I can count on your support in propelling this process.

I congratulate all of those who will receive the awards today. I wish you continued success and I look forward to enjoying the rest of the evening’s proceedings.

Allow me in parting to extend once again, season’s greetings to all and wish you a safe and prosperous New Year.

May God guard you and protect you throughout 2021.

I thank you and God bless you.

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