Ministry of the Presidency condemns misleading Christopher Ram letter

Georgetown, Guyana – (October 3, 2017) The Ministry of the Presidency (MotP) firmly rejects and condemns as iniquitous and misleading, the contents of a letter written by Mr. Christopher Ram, headlined “What are the real curses” and published in the Stabroek News on Sunday, October 1, 2017.  The contents of that letter were then carried in an article by the Stabroek News in its Monday, October 2, 2017 edition with the headline, “Ram pillories President over ‘six sisters’ remark, diaspora ‘brains.’ President David Granger’s remarks at the Diaspora Meet and Greet on September 23, which was organised by Guyana’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Rudolph Ten-Pow and Consul General to New York, Ms. Barbara Atherly, have been skewed in Mr. Ram’s letter and do not, in any way, represent the points the President highlighted at the event in New York.

During his presentation to the attendees, President Granger said that Guyana has relied on the production of primary products in six sectors, which he referred to as the ‘six sisters’.  The Head of State pointed out that since Guyana’s Independence sugar, rice, bauxite, gold diamond and timber have sustained the country’s economy. While he acknowledged the value of those sectors, the President noted that the reliance on the production of primary products has limited the expansion and growth of the economy. The Head of State believes that Guyana must move further towards diversification, value added production and manufacturing.

“We live under the curse of the six sisters. As long as you can remember, Guyana has depended on sugar, rice, bauxite, gold, diamonds, timber and they have been faithful to us over the years but some of them tired now. We need to diversify, we need to get away from the spell of these six sisters and ensure that our children have a future other than being cane cutters, our children have a future other than felling timber… We have to go into new industries. We have to go into manufacturing and these new industries. We are going to ensure that new industries fit into our landscape and fit into the economic plans of our country and that is where I turn to you, the members of the diaspora,” the President said.

Mr. Ram deliberately used aspects of the President’s comments, without context to create the impression that the President is critical of the contribution of those sectors to Guyana’s development and economy.  In fact, the Head of State is of the view that Guyana must use those abundant resources to revolutionise those sectors, thereby increasing employment and income generation activities, rather than simply relying on the production of raw materials.  The Head of State said that the Guyanese diaspora has the technical knowledge, financial resources and skills to help change the reliance on raw resources, which has defined economic activity.

“We have the raw materials and we have the resources but we must be innovative. We welcome your investments. Guyana has the resources and the doors are opened to investment. We cannot do it alone. We need factories. We need manufacturers. We don’t want to export raw lumber; we want to export the best furniture in South America.  We don’t want to export raw gold; we want to export the finest jewellery in the region. We need investment to move our raw materials into the realm of well-manufactured products. We can do it. Other countries have done it. Other countries use our gold, timber, fish so we need your investment to help to develop these industries so that we can become an important manufacturing country and not just an exporter of raw materials,” he said.

At no time did the President seek to discredit what has been achieved in those sectors. The thrust of this presentation highlighted how much more can be achieved if Guyana were to convert its raw materials into high quality by-products for international markets. One can only wonder how it is possible for Mr. Ram to misinterpret the President’s comments unless it was a deliberate attempt to misrepresent his remarks, evidenced by that fact that specific partial quotes were carried without context.

Additionally, in the same letter in the seventh paragraph, Mr. Ram, referencing the President’s statement that “We don’t need barrels, we need brains,” writes that “…we will find that many persons with brains, who have stayed in Guyana will have to rely on barrels from abroad for their very survival.”

However, what the President actually said at the function is that Government, the private sector and members of the diaspora must work together to build capacity in the areas of education and technical expertise and technology.  He indicated that what Guyana needs, more than just ‘barrels’ is knowledge transfer and investment.

A verbatim report of his utterances is as follows, “We are going to ensure that new industries fit into our landscape and fit into our plans for the economic development of the country and that is where I turn to you; the members of the diaspora. We don’t need more barrels, we need brains. We all know about the age of the barrels where you pack stuff to send for your families, your relatives but now Guyana is ready to take off. We need your intellectual capital. We need to tap into your expertise and experience, which you have gained here in the diaspora. You have that intellectual capital and with your intellect and our resources, we can bring the two sides together.”

The Ministry of the Presidency reminds Mr. Ram that an absence of context and the selective use of quotes can only be seen as a deliberate attempt to paint a picture that is not based on fact. Instead what is presented are at best half-truths and, at worst, abject dishonesty to feed a specific agenda.

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