Minister of Communities remarks at the Action Round Table on Regional Development

Georgetown, Guyana, Thursday, January 24, 2019

Theme – “Building Human Resource capacity within the Local Government Organs in an effort to enhance the delivery of services required to achieve National Development and the Good Life.”

  1. Greetings and acknowledgment. (REOs, DREOs, Principal Personnel Officers (PPOs), Senior Personnel Officers (SPOs)).
  2. I extend welcome to each of you to the 2019 Action Round Table for Regional Development. It is my pleasure to share some thoughts at this year’s roundtable under the theme “Building Human Resource capacity within the Local Government Organs in an effort to enhance the delivery of services required to achieve National Development and the Good Life.” This is an annual strategic planning forum initiated by the Ministry since 2016. The opportunity is taken at the commencement of each year to address a particular challenge confronting our regions and to address our minds to a sustainable solution. This year, as the theme alludes, we are looking at the HR challenge. Last year we did attempt to address the issue of HR among other issues affecting our regions such as financial management. One of the lessons learnt is that financial management constraint is not divorced from the HR challenges. While at the end of 2017 there were approximately 680 vacancies, this figure dramatically increased at the close of 2018 to approximately 1870. We, therefore, see it necessary to dedicate our time this year to addressing HR issues exclusively. Since our last discussion there were a number of intervening events such as the delay in the reconstitution of the Public Service Commission and the transferal of contracted workers on the pensionable establishment. On this occasion we hope to articulate in a definitive manner a plan of action to frontally address this impediment. This plan will allow us to identify deliverables so that come 2020 the alarming numbers I alluded to earlier is at minimum halved if not eliminated. This issue must be addressed bearing in mind its negative impact on the execution of the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP).
  3. It was pleased to hear from Mr Michael Somersall Chairman of the Public Service Commission and Colonel (Re’td) Lawrence Paul Director of Bertram Collins College, important stakeholders in a sustainable response to the personnel and capacity constraints of the public sector. The Ministry has raised the HR challenges encountered by the regions at a number of forums and have advanced recommendations such as delegating the authority to REOs to hire staff within the GS 1-3 salary scale. It nonetheless remains an impediment that must be addressed if our regions are to effect its mandate.
  4. Colleagues, the objective of the regional system is, among other things, to accelerate the rate of development by facilitating prompt decision making, more effective coordination of programmes and activities, and greater involvement of the people at the local level.
  5. Regional development is strategically embraced by this administration as the main catalyst for national development. The ten (10) development regions are viewed as key partners in the delivery of public services to residents countrywide.
  6. It is of importance that you as regional officials are sufficiently seized of the wisdom of this approach that is firmly grounded in constitutional provisions. As regional officials, you must understand that you share primary responsibility for improving the conditions under which residents of your region live. The archaic centralist mindset that pervaded public administration landscape for decades must be replaced if Guyana is to equitably develop. Our overarching approach to regional development has at its core reducing the disparities between the living standards (access to social goods and services) between our hinterland and coastland populations.
  7. Apart from being constitutional, the logic of a decentralised approach to governance is obvious and have started to be revealed to the ordinary person. Noticeable is the virtual elimination of the hassle in accessing immigration services at Central Passport Office through the establishment of regional offices.
  8. In the critical area of health services, for the first time residents of the Cuyuni/Mazaruni region have access to speedy diagnosis of complex conditions with the installation of a CT scanner at the Bartica Regional Hospital. Patients of this and adjoining regions no longer have to journey all the way to Georgetown Hospital to access this vital service that would aid in the institution of timely medical treatment. This also reduces the burden on the GPHC. The other three (3) regional and twenty-two (22) district hospitals have also been upgraded.
  9. On a general note, over the past 3½ years in advancing the vision of regional development we were able to:
  • Significantly strengthen the institutional capacity of both the political and management arm of regional governments.
  • Promoted regional identity and patriotism through the consultative establishment of regional flags and emblems.
  • Crafted Plans of Actions for Regional Development (PARD) which maps out the long-term development trajectory of the region. I wish to note here that the value of these Plans will be further revealed as revenues from the oil and gas sector comes on stream. PARDs will help to facilitate the orderly development of our region. We all would appreciate that development is not ad hoc but must be shrewdly planned. The PARDs are critical in ensuring bottom-up, consultative led regional development. Communities and their desires will be accounted for by regional democratic councils in their decisions for regional development. Therefore, these plans are not ornamental and efforts will be made to ensure that a plan is crafted for each region.
  • Granted approval for the establishment of procurement and planning departments in each region to enable the efficient and effective delivery of their programmes of health, education, infrastructure and agriculture.
  • Provided a platform for improving coordination and intergovernmental relation- National Regional Development Consultative Committee (NRDCC);
  • Stimulated local economic activities through the Regional Agricultural and Commercial Exhibitions (RACE), etc.
  1. Colleagues, major strides have been made in advancing this vision of empowerment and regional development thereby reversing the wayward relegation of our regions as mere appendages subjected to the dictates of CG. Regional governments currently expend 14% of the total national budgetary allocation. Budget 2019 provides the sum of $44.7 bln for the regions, representing an increase of approx. 14% over 2018 (38.1B). There have been increases for every region.
  2. Despite these unprecedented achievements, we recognise the need for the capacities of our regions to be further strengthened so that our regions are able to deliver larger projects and programmes that will redound to the benefit of the citizenry. The Ministry will redouble its efforts to provide technical support towards the realisation of the strategic objective(s) of the core Programmes of Education, Public Health, Public Infrastructure, and Agriculture.
  3. It is our expectation that this engagement will allow us to collectively craft a response to the HR challenges of the regions and ministry, thereby enhancing the HR available to achieve the objective of efficient and effective service delivery to our citizens.
  4. Today’s Round Table has the following objectives:
  • To reassess the critical vacancies existing within the LGOs and its impact on PSIP implementation/delivery of services.
  • To create an avenue to better understand the common problems and issues regarding human resource issue and development within the LGOs.
  • To identify the main approaches that could be initiated or strengthened to address human resource issues relating to employment and retaining of staff within the LGOs.
  • To establish practical guidance policy that can be used at the national and local levels to enhance sustainable human resource management.
  1. These objectives are to allow us to dedicate time to meaningfully engage and find solutions to the HR challenge, at minimum we must design a plan to respond to this challenge to close the gaps in 2019. This Ministry has been entrusted with key responsibilities which directly impact on the quality of life of all our citizens regardless of where they may live and those responsibilities, we will and must take seriously.
  2. The increasing role for communities in the decision-making is core to our vision for development and bridging the divide between conditions on the coastland and the hinterland. By empowering all stakeholders (CDCs to RDCs) we are building their capacity to be critical partners in development and to deliver optimal benefits to residents.
  3. Colleagues, as I alluded earlier in my presentation, the core of our work program, is building the human and institutional capacity to ensure the effective delivery of public services to our citizens. It has been and will continue to be in 2019 and beyond. So that the emphasis of this Round Table on HR challenges, is the result of our prioritisation to build institutional and human capacity.
  4. Our regions must be given the requisite tools to function to its optimal capacity. Gone are the days where our regions are treated with extraordinary disrespect by central government through its dictates and domineering position.
  5. As the regions implement their programmes with greater efficiency and effectiveness, citizens will reject any attempts to return to the era of the failed centralist approach to governance.
  6. While this policy of empowerment and autonomy has it challenges due to political immaturity and the practice of ‘obstructionist’ politics this government remains unwavering in its commitment to peoples’ empowerment and development.
  7. I wish to extend gratitude to all the REOs and their team for their work. I urge that we all recommit ourselves to the task of delivering enhance public services which contribute to regional and ultimately national development.
  8. I anticipate and extend best wishes for fruitful and engaging discussions. I look forward to working with you to realise my government vision of a “Good Life” for all Guyanese.
  9. I thank you.

COVID-19 Alert!

Coronavirus disease spreads primarily through contact with an infected person when they cough or sneeze. It also spreads when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth. We urge citizens to practice good hygiene and social or physical distancing also adhere to the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health, Guyana.