Address by His Excellency Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali, President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, on the First Anniversary of his Presidency

My Fellow Guyanese,

A year ago today, we, the people of Guyana, celebrated the recovery of our democratic rights.

With the support of every well-thinking nation in the world, we stopped a force determined to steal the March General and Regional Elections, and we declared that, never again, shall we countenance in our country any attempt to deny the popular will of the people.

His Excellency Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali, President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana

It was an historic moment in our nation’s life.

We, the people, decided that the history of rigged and stolen elections, which we suffered in the past, would not be tolerated then, or at any time in the future.

We established, with resolve, that Guyana and the Guyanese people are committed to democracy and democratic principles, including respect for the decision of the majority.

The PPP/Civic was declared the winner of the elections, and I, as its candidate, was cloaked with the responsibility of the Presidency of our beloved country.

That victory was ours.

Ours, as a people longing for peace, progress, and prosperity.

It was a triumph for democracy, the rule of law and for our One Guyana.

On this first anniversary of that momentous Guyanese accomplishment, I salute all who stood firm in our efforts to defeat the assault on our institutions and our Constitution.

And, I recall that amongst those Guyanese were persons who had supported and advocated for other political parties, but whose moral sense rejected electoral theft in favour of truth, transparency, and trust.

I commend civil society, the private sector, our young people, and the media for standing up for democracy.

I acknowledge, with thanks, the important part played by members of our Diaspora who made their voices heard to spread awareness of what was happening in Guyana.

I honour the important role played by the Disciplined Services and by the Judiciary in upholding the rule of law.

I thank CARICOM, the Organization of American States, the Commonwealth and the international community as a whole, for their steadfast support and for helping us to regain our rightful place in the global family of democratic nations.

On our collective behalf, I recall with gratitude the support of Canada, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and the European Union particularly.

There were outstanding individuals who fearlessly raised their voices both here, at home and in regional, hemispheric, and international bodies.

Those countries and persons honoured us, and we, in turn, must honour them.

My sisters and brothers, I hope and pray that never again will our people have to endure the agonising and fearful ordeal that we suffered for five months, from March 2nd to August 2nd, 2020.

Never again should the air of freedom that we breathe be poisoned by the noxious fumes of electoral malpractice and fraud.

Never again should our integrity as a nation be threatened by the base motives and nefarious intrigues of those who would defy the will of the people and subvert our democracy in their lust for personal power.

It is a striking commentary on those who sought to steal the elections that, without any shame – even though they are unmasked as the culprits that they are – they continue to masquerade as paragons of virtue, and to continue to try to deceive and mislead the people whose hopes they dashed and whose beliefs they destroyed.

They remain trapped in the failed politics of race and in the flawed policies of division, offering no new ideas, no novel vision, and no creative pathways for Guyana’s future.

They have become yesterday’s shadows.

By contrast, over the past year, I have made clear – by words and by deeds – my deep and unswerving commitment to One Guyana, One people, One nation in which all races and all persons are equal with common rights, common entitlements, and shared benefits.

From the first day of my Presidency, I have insisted on – and demonstrated – a firm commitment to good governance and transparency, to upholding fundamental human rights and to advancing equitable development for all.

It is upon that platform of One Guyana for all Guyanese, in equity and in opportunity, that I will continue to carry out my duties and fulfil my obligations to all.

On this first anniversary of the government, I renew that pledge with the strength of my belief, the courage of my commitment, and the fidelity of my heart and soul.

My Fellow Guyanese,

We all know that our beloved country is on the cusp of massive socio-economic transformation that can take us to new heights of prosperity.

We have only just begun the climb.

But all of us are now imbued with the confidence that we will reach those heights if we do it together.

Never have our people been so buoyant, so positive, and so sure that economic good fortune has smiled upon us and that a real chance is within our grasp to lift up Guyana and all Guyanese.

The past year of the pandemic may have dampened the fire of our enthusiasm, but it has not extinguished the flames of our optimism.

It is no understatement to say that the past year has been difficult, and it is no exaggeration to say that it has been deadly so.

The COVID-19 pandemic did not spare us.

Of course, we were not alone in having to contend with the ravages of this virus, and we are not alone in continuing to battle to contain it, suppress it and overcome it.

We have had to mourn the loss of some 547 lives, with more than 22,619 infections.

I wish it were not so.

And I grieve with all who have lost their family and their friends.

The coronavirus and its variants continue to threaten all in our society because we all know that none of us is safe, until all of us are safe.

That is why your government has spent large sums of money procuring vaccines to inoculate everyone against this dreaded and deadly virus.

All of us should be troubled by those who refuse to be vaccinated.

The unvaccinated are now as deadly as the virus itself, for they are not only greatly susceptible to infection; they could carry it to others, crippling or killing their own families, their friends, and their co-workers.    

I appeal once again to all to protect yourselves, shelter your family, safeguard your country.

Please get inoculated.

Your government has a responsibility to defend the health of all.

That is why we have had to introduce measures lasting throughout the month of August, including a curfew, limitation on certain social activities, restrictions on public movements of unvaccinated persons, and shorter opening times for certain businesses. 

Your government would much prefer an open economy with unrestricted movement. 

It would be good for government revenues.

It would be good for businesses.

But the profit would come at the loss of many more lives and the health of the nation.

Our hospitals would not be able to cope, nor would we be able to bury the dead, if the coronavirus were allowed to infect the unvaccinated and spread throughout the country.

We are in a war with an unseen enemy.

We have no idea when and where that enemy will turn up with lethal force.

Consequently, we must fortify ourselves against penetration, deny the enemy victims, and build up our strength through vaccinations to repel the foe.

We can defeat this enemy and win this battle, returning to the life we enjoyed, but to do so, all must join the battle; all must be inoculated.

You also know that COVID-19 is not the only formidable enemy we fought over the past year.

We have had to deal with the widespread flooding occasioned by heavier than normal rainfall – a clear sign of the disastrous effects of climate change.

All of this has threatened the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of our people and placed an enormous strain on our economy.

We did not create these challenges.

But we confronted them.

We did all this while re-engineering broken systems and introducing new, innovative approaches.

That is the style and manner of your government – not to wring our hands in lamentation; not to be paralysed to inaction, but to tackle problems vigorously by finding the best solutions and implementing them- swiftly and comprehensively.

The good of the nation and the welfare of our people are always our first priority.

This first year has seen success at the International Court of Justice in its ruling that the Court has jurisdiction to entertain Guyana’s claim concerning the validity of the 1899 award.

It is the first step on our way forward to confirming Guyana’s patrimony, and we are proceeding with vigour and confidence to the next stage of the judicial Hearing on the Merits of our Case.

My Fellow Guyanese, over the past year, despite the challenges, your government has been working to implement a comprehensive plan to transform Guyana into a highly prosperous country, for the benefit of all Guyanese in the shortest possible time.

You have already witnessed the roll-out of aspects of that plan, and it is right that – on this first anniversary of the recovery of our people’s rights – that I should lay out, in some detail, the pathways to progress and prosperity that the PPP/C Government has carved out for the nation.

Based on the PPP/C Manifesto on which we campaigned for the 2020 elections and on which we were elected, we have commenced the transformative agenda in building a modern, safe, prosperous and united Guyana in which all our people can realise their dreams and aspirations.

I wish to spend some time highlighting some key areas that are essential for the future of our country.

  1. The Physical transformation of Guyana:

A rapid expansion of Guyana’s physical infrastructure has already been launched with the aims of: improving connectivity with our neighbours and trading partners, thereby expanding the economic space in which we operate; opening up new lands to unleash productive potential; and improving internal connectivity to enhance citizen and commuter convenience. To achieve this, the following key projects are already underway:

  • Construction of the Lethem to Linden Road has commenced with the Linden to Mabura section already tendered.
  • Expressions of interest have already been received for a new bridge across the Corentyne river in partnership with our Surinamese neighbours.
  • To ensure we develop enough capacity to service the oil and gas sector, the Government of Guyana welcomes private sector investment to construct multiple shore-based and deep-water facilities at the mouths of the Demerara and Berbice rivers. Works that would see hundreds of millions of U.S dollars invested by private investors have commenced.

To expand access to productive lands for agricultural and other productive purposes, while creating opportunities for new investors and developers, work on major roads have commenced:

  • No. 58 to Canje Creek Road is already at the tendering stage with works expected to commence before the end of the year.
  • Parika to Goshen Road – the clearing of the alignment and surveying has commenced.
  • Timehri to Bartica link connecting Sand Hills to Makouria – clearing of alignment and surveys have commenced on this project.
  • as well as a vast array of new and upgraded roads in the intermediate savannahs and the hinterland regions.

To improve internal connectivity, the following key initiatives are being undertaken:

  • the new bridge across the Demerara River has already been tendered and is expected to open on October 3rd, 2021.
  • The new road from Schoonard to Parika- the feasibility study has been completed and we are at the design and finance stage.
  • The new highway from Eccles to Mandela Avenue has commenced and is expected to be completed long before the end of the year. Works on the further expansion of this highway from Eccles to Diamond has already commenced with designs and costings completed. To complement this, the Ogle to Eccles highway is expected to be awarded by the end of this quarter with works commencing before the end of the year. Further, efforts to secure financing for the Ogle to Diamond, and from Diamond to Timehri phases of this project have also commenced with the feasibility study already completed.
  • Pre-construction feasibility studies and efforts to secure financing for the further extension of the four-lane road on the East Coast of Demerara to at least Mahaica has also commenced.
  • Project planning and pre-design analysis for a four-lane Corentyne highway upgrade has commenced. The objective of this project is the construction of an upgraded four-lane highway from New Amsterdam to Skeldon.
  • The rehabilitation of Soesdyke to Linden highway has commenced.
  • Works on community roads, streets, and residential areas have commenced in all 10 Administrative Regions.
  • Works on aerodromes and airstrips have also commenced, with Lethem’s extended runway already completed and works to the CJIA to secure two additional air-bridges, 30 new shops in the commercial centre and completion of the front side curtain-walls. All expected to be completed by the end of the year.
  • Work has already commenced on modernising our river transport system. We have already commenced upgrading of many stellings and we expect to secure a new ocean-going ferry in 2021. This contract has already been awarded 10 months ago with a construction period of 18 months.

The platform is also being laid for new growth poles and urban centres with a planned sustainable new city. Works on Silica city are at a planning stage, with surveys and land acquisition being pursued. The physical landscape of our country is changing dramatically as a result of renewed private sector confidence in our economy. In addition, the conceptual planning for Wales development is in the final stage of completion.

Investments have already commenced that would see many new internationally branded hotels and other modern facilities synonymous with a vibrant and multi-dimensional economy already on the way.

2. Energy sector is critical

Recognising the importance of energy sufficiency, reliability, affordability and sustainability, your government has commenced investment in the energy sector, aiming for a new generation capacity of at least 500 MW in the immediate term, with the option to expand this further in the longer term. Major initiatives in this sector will include:

  • The gas-to-shore project terminating at the Wales Development Authority, which will see 250 MW of new power generation constructed.
  • The Amaila Falls Hydropower Project, which will deliver another 160 MW of new power.
  • Solar generating capacity will also be installed to deliver at least 30 MW of power.
  • Within individual remote communities and clusters of communities, stand-alone renewable solutions will also be explored, including hydropower and solar power plants as well as stand-alone solar panels.

Work in all of these areas have commenced and are at various stages of implementation. The final outcome would see energy costs slashed by at least 50 percent before the end of 2024.

3. Addressing externalities and building resilience is key to success

Since your government has had to grapple with COVID-19 and the May/June 2021 floods, we plan to ensure that our country is safely navigated through the prevailing external shocks and that our resilience to future shocks is reinforced.

  1. The COVID-19 Action Plan will continue to be implemented, including by ensuring the roll-out of vaccines to the adult population, while vaccines will also soon be made available to children between the ages of 12 and 18, starting with older children first.
  • A major programme of flood response measures is already being rolled out. This aims at getting both households and producers such as our farmers back on their feet in the shortest possible time. The assistance aims at ensuring that they are able to replant their crops and restore their livestock as a matter of the highest urgency.
  • Work will continue on reinforcing our sea and coastal defences, including the construction of three new major outfalls similar to the Hope Canal, one each in Regions 3, 5 and 6. Planning will commence soon on a massive project to relieve South Georgetown from flooding with the construction of a new drainage system and other infrastructure to facilitate this, whilst at the same time other areas of the city will also benefit from significant investment to mitigate against flooding and enhanced infrastructure. We believe strongly that future generations in Guyana and that of the world depend on sustainable development.
  • That is why we commenced work in an expanded Low Carbon Development Strategy. This strategy is already being developed. It will focus on ensuring that our vast standing forest resource is adequately remunerated for the global climate service it is providing, as well as ensuring that the vast potential of the blue economy is harnessed for national development.
    • Additionally, our productive sector will be widely diversified to ensure resilience to economic shocks. This will see a strong non-oil mining sector, including large and medium scale gold production, bauxite, manganese and diamonds, as well as possibilities for expansion into copper and rare earth.

4. Transforming the country’s human resources

The rapid structural change that the Guyanese economy will be undergoing in the immediate years ahead will have important implications for our pool of human resources. In our new oil and non-oil economy, new skills will be required and vast improvements in productivity needed. In order to address these needs, as well as to ensure that every single Guyanese person of employable age is adequately equipped to obtain gainful employment, a vast transformation in our human resources will be imperative. This will be achieved through:

  • Our 20,000 online scholarship programme, which has commenced with the first batch of 6000 Guyanese to be awarded before the end of this month.
  • Establishment of a world-class oil and gas institute to serve as a centre of excellence for the training of personnel for the oil and gas sector in Guyana, regionally and worldwide. Discussions are in the final stage to realise this.
  • Establishing centres of excellence at the University of Guyana in particular fields of study in which Guyana has a natural competitive advantage, such as tropical agriculture, climate change, and environmental studies.
  • Facilitating the rapid training of at least 3000 Guyanese to work in the rapidly expanding tourism sector.
  • Strengthening technical and vocational education delivered through all of the technical institutes and industrial training centres and promoting on-the-job training through apprenticeships, aimed at providing trainees with practical experience.

5. As a country we must develop world-class healthcare

In much the same manner, your government strives to achieve world-class health care, both for delivery to our own citizens as well as a service to be offered to international clients on a commercial basis. In this regard, ongoing efforts will see:

  • Strategic partnerships, with the private sector, to develop speciality hospitals, specialised care and to attract major international providers to develop world class medical facilities in Guyana.
  • Develop a new Maternity and Paediatric Hospital with strategic partners.
  • Resuscitate the specialist Ophthalmology Hospital in Port Mourant.
  • Upgrade the GPHC and all regional hospitals and health centres, as well as hinterland clinics and health huts.

It is important while we pursue all of this that we ensure we improve the social welfare of our people.

6. Improving Social Welfare

Throughout the rapid transformation that the country will witness, it will be important to ensure that no one is left behind, and that social welfare continues to be improved. A number of initiatives have already been implemented and others will continue to be implemented. These include:

  • Improving the provision of support to the elderly. In this regard, the old age pension has already been increased since our return to government, while the water subsidy provided to the elderly has also been restored.
  • Implementing special programmes for persons living with disabilities, with particular emphasis on training to ensure that these persons are able to engage in meaningful and gainful activity.
  • We commenced work on ensuring universal primary and secondary education, as well as early childhood education, and continuing work to raise the quality of education provided to our children at all levels.
  • We have continued to emphasise issues related to gender equality, with special emphasis on promoting full female participation in the classroom and the workplace, including by ensuring the availability of training places where needed.

7. Community development with economic growth and improved prosperity is critical.

Community development with economic growth and improved prosperity is critical. There will be a greater need for attention to be paid to community development, particularly in the most vulnerable communities. For this reason, we will promote the growth and development of strong communities. Examples of initiatives which will be implemented in this regard include:

  • Strengthening the Amerindian village economy in all villages. We have already acquired equipment (tractors and implements) for distribution to these communities.
  • Promoting social spaces and social and cultural activities in all communities with a view to promoting greater cross-cultural awareness and appreciation.
  • Promoting more event-based observances in the national calendar, thereby also promoting greater cross-cultural empathy.
  • Developing a National Cultural and Creative Industries Policy to guide the development of the sector and reinstituting the Advisory Boards for the National Gallery of Art and the National Archives.

8. Youth and Sports are also critical. An essential pillar of our strategy will be to ensure that young people are able to enjoy a well-rounded life in Guyana, including through access to world-class sporting facilities. In this regard:

  • The existing sports infrastructure will be overhauled, to include the establishment of three new multi-purpose centres to accommodate a wider range of sporting facilities and events.
  • Upgrading all public sports facilities, including the sports grounds in rural and hinterland areas.
  • Working closely with the sports federations to strengthen sports administration in Guyana.

9. Improving competitiveness is also critical in moving our country forward. Your government will ensure that Guyana’s competitiveness as a destination for investment, as well as a producer of goods and services in the global marketplace is strengthened. To ensure this, many new initiatives have already started, which include:

  • Restoring and maintaining a favourable macroeconomic environment to ensure that potential investors are unaffected by either policy unpredictability or weak macroeconomic fundamentals.
  • Reducing the cost of doing business in Guyana, first and foremost must be on the top of the agenda by addressing the challenges in respect of the availability and cost of energy.
  • Providing investment incentives for new investments, retooling, and technological improvements.
  • Partnership with the private sector in strategic sectors, e.g., the BPO/call centre sector, agro-processing. To achieve this, we have already liberalised the telecommunication sector and created new opportunities for fibre optic cables, reduce cost of bandwidth, reduce cost of data so that our ICT environment will also become competitive.
  • Reducing the cost of bureaucracy and red tape is also critical. That is why we have commenced work on the implementation of a Single Window Approval System, where there is predictability, transparency, and accountability.

It is important that our legal and institutional architecture to support the development aspirations of a modern Guyana also be transformed.

10. Transforming the Legal and Institutional Architecture

The new, modern Guyana we envision will be one that has a world class legal and institutional architecture. This will involve overhauling many of our laws and regulations to make them more relevant to the realities of the Guyana of the future.

  • Some of this will be driven by ongoing law reform, with a newly elected, constituted Law Reform Commission just appointed.
  • Some will also be driven by sector-specific reviews of the legal frameworks while others will be of a more cross-cutting nature. For example, the use of electronic transactions, and electronic means of settling transactions, will unavoidably become a reality in tomorrow’s Guyana. So, your government will ensure the relevant legal frameworks are in place.
  • Our institutions will also be strengthened, including for the purpose of ensuring accountable and transparent stewardship of our national patrimony. For example, in the case of our sovereign wealth fund (the Natural Resources Fund which is slated for reform), we will ensure a modern legal framework is in place to ensure openness and transparency.

Security

All of these developments can only take place in a secure environment and rest assured; no efforts would be spared in creating a stable and secure Guyana. To this end, we have already commenced a programme that will see the modernisation of the sector, improvement of the welfare and working conditions of those in the sector, and the institutional strengthening to aid transparency, efficiency and accountability have begun. Also, work has commenced on the building of three new prison blocks that will house 900 prisoners in Lusignan; the acquisition of vehicles, and crime-fighting equipment have also been accomplished.

Whilst we have laid the foundation for the transformative agenda, we have also transferred billions of dollars directly to the people of Guyana. Examples of a few initiatives are:

  1. Recognising the devastating impact of Covid-19 on families, we have introduced a Covid-19 cash grants, which by the end of the second phase will put more than $8B into the hands of families across the country.
  2. Recognising the devastating impact of Covid-19 on families, we have introduced a Covid-19 cash grants, which by the end of the second phase will put more than $8B into the hands of families across the country.
  3. Recognising the devastating impact of Covid-19 on families, we have introduced a Covid-19 cash grants, which by the end of the second phase will put more than $8B into the hands of families across the country.
  4. Recognising the devastating impact of Covid-19 on families, we have introduced a Covid-19 cash grants, which by the end of the second phase will put more than $8B into the hands of families across the country.
  5. Recognising the devastating impact of Covid-19 on families, we have introduced a Covid-19 cash grants, which by the end of the second phase will put more than $8B into the hands of families across the country.
  6. Recognising the devastating impact of Covid-19 on families, we have introduced a Covid-19 cash grants, which by the end of the second phase will put more than $8B into the hands of families across the country.
  7. Recognising the devastating impact of Covid-19 on families, we have introduced a Covid-19 cash grants, which by the end of the second phase will put more than $8B into the hands of families across the country.
  8. Recognising the devastating impact of Covid-19 on families, we have introduced a Covid-19 cash grants, which by the end of the second phase will put more than $8B into the hands of families across the country.
  9. Recognising the devastating impact of Covid-19 on families, we have introduced a Covid-19 cash grants, which by the end of the second phase will put more than $8B into the hands of families across the country.
  10. Recognising the devastating impact of Covid-19 on families, we have introduced a Covid-19 cash grants, which by the end of the second phase will put more than $8B into the hands of families across the country.
  11. Recognising the devastating impact of Covid-19 on families, we have introduced a Covid-19 cash grants, which by the end of the second phase will put more than $8B into the hands of families across the country.
  12. Recognising the devastating impact of Covid-19 on families, we have introduced a Covid-19 cash grants, which by the end of the second phase will put more than $8B into the hands of families across the country.
  13. Recognising the devastating impact of Covid-19 on families, we have introduced a Covid-19 cash grants, which by the end of the second phase will put more than $8B into the hands of families across the country.
  14. Recognising the devastating impact of Covid-19 on families, we have introduced a Covid-19 cash grants, which by the end of the second phase will put more than $8B into the hands of families across the country.
  15. Recognising the devastating impact of Covid-19 on families, we have introduced a Covid-19 cash grants, which by the end of the second phase will put more than $8B into the hands of families across the country.
  16. Recognising the devastating impact of Covid-19 on families, we have introduced a Covid-19 cash grants, which by the end of the second phase will put more than $8B into the hands of families across the country.
  17. Recognising the devastating impact of Covid-19 on families, we have introduced a Covid-19 cash grants, which by the end of the second phase will put more than $8B into the hands of families across the country.
  18. Recognising the devastating impact of Covid-19 on families, we have introduced a Covid-19 cash grants, which by the end of the second phase will put more than $8B into the hands of families across the country.

Some may believe that this is a report of a government five years in office, I, however, humbly remind every Guyanese that these accomplishments are just in our first year in office, and the foundation has been laid for a rapid take off.

With a positive mindset and a determined spirit, we assure all Guyanese that together our future will be better.

My Fellow Guyanese,

A wise person once said that a vision without a plan is nothing but a mirage.

Clearly, the plans that I have outlined to you is both visionary and strategic.

In addition, given Guyana’s growing geo-economic and geopolitical importance as an emerging major player in the energy sector in the Caribbean and the Americas, your government will continue to work towards maintaining a diversified portfolio of international relations.

With our abundant natural resources, we can anchor the energy security and prosperity of our Caribbean Community.

With our vast agricultural capacity, we can realise the long-standing promise of being the breadbasket of the Caribbean.

And, given our geo-strategic location, we can turn our gaze south, to be a bridge between the Caribbean and Latin America.

In all this, we will continue to tap into the huge reservoir of skills and other resources in our dynamic Diaspora, and work with our regional and international partners and investors, to pursue the objectives of the plan. 

Moreover, we will do so never losing sight of the paramount imperative of maintaining our sovereignty and securing our territorial integrity.

And we commit, to guaranteeing the security of all our people in all its dimensions, including physical, socio-economic, health and environmental security.

My Fellow Guyanese,

One year ago, in my inaugural address to the nation, I promised to be the President for all the people of Guyana.

I pledged my government to pursue certain strategic lines.

Those pledges remain firm.

Their fulfilment is my personal ambition for all my Guyanese brethren, as your President.

With this plan, your government will strive tirelessly for the transformation of our country, the creation of a knowledge-based economy and accelerated, sustainable and equitable development for all.

No Guyanese will be left out, none will be overlooked, and none will be abandoned.

I look to the young people of our One Guyana particularly, to put their energies into participating in implementing our plan in which they have a stake, and which can give them opportunities for their personal growth and development that no other generation had.

On this first anniversary of the recovery of our nation from the snatch of those who sought to steal our rights, subvert our democracy, and blight our future, I recommit to leading the work that will consolidate our democracy, build our country, and secure the future for this generation and generations to come.

God bless you and God bless our beloved Guyana.

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