PRESS STATEMENT By The People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference, Thursday, November 18, 2004 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




Summary:
• Deaths of Mr. Patrick Denny and Mr. Rhamdial Bhookmohan
• Infrastructure Development Fund
• The role of Parliament in conflict affected countries
• Medical Outreach by the Human Services Department of the PNCR
• The elections countdown and PPP/C antics
• PNCR honours former Assistant General Secretary and former PNCR MP, Ms. Margaret Ackman

MR PATRICK DENNY
The Peoples National Congress Reform joins with the family and friends of Mr. Patrick Denny, Managing Editor at the Stabroek News in mourning this tragic and untimely loss of a great friend, gentleman and patriot. Patrick Denny has set high standards in the practice of journalism in Guyana which he executed with objectivity and skill. Patrick Denny was universally respected in Guyana. We in the PNCR noted the quality and sharpness of his questions at our press conferences and read his articles and current affairs supplement assiduously. But beyond his journalistic achievements, Patrick had a special place in the PNCR for in a previous incarnation, he was a respected and important member of our secretariat’s professional staff. In that position, he also made important contributions through his wisdom, intellect and personal integrity. We will miss him. So will the Guyana media community.

MR RHAMDIAL BHOOKMOHAN
As if Guyana had not lost enough, we also note the sad and sudden passing of Mr. Rhamdial Bhookmohan, Chairman of NBS and tireless and long standing leader in civil society. Mr. Bhookmohan has done enormous work to raise the activity and profile of local business organisations and he represented the business community very ably in many situations over the years. He was also a decent and quality person who we in the PNCR respected and admired even when we could not agree with all of his positions. Guyana has lost another stalwart. We express our condolences to his sorrowing widow and family.

INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT FUND
The PNCR returns to the issue of the Infrastructure Development Fund because the party is convinced that the instrument of an Infrastructure Development Fund could be very important to our development and we must not allow the Government to desecrate the concept.

The recent creation of a Political Slush Fund under the guise of an Infrastructure Development Fund is nothing but sacrilege because of the promise that a well conceived, well structured and well administered Fund holds for the Guyanese people.

There would be two necessary pre-conditions for the creation of such a Fund.

1. The moneys it would attract must be overwhelmingly additional to those which are currently available to the Government.

It takes us nowhere to simply siphon off moneys currently paid into the Consolidated Fund to go into another Fund and, moreover, in the process deny the National Assembly the scrutiny it now has over the use of those resources.

Here in Guyana, and in the wider international community, there are financial resources available for investment in sound projects with meaningful rates of return. Sources of such funds could be Pension and Provident Funds, Retirement Funds, Insurance Companies and Merchant, Development and other Banks.

2. Such a Fund must be private sector led and driven. Interestingly, the explanatory memorandum to the Bill passed by the Government states “It is hoped that the Government, with the establishment of the Infrastructure Development Fund can become a facilitator, even though a minor one, rather than a mere provider of funds for infrastructure project”.

Regrettably, the content of the bill submitted to, and passed by, the National Assembly is the antithesis of the aim set out in the Explanatory Memorandum.

Instead of being a facilitator the Government will be a dictator and instead of being a minor player the Government will be the dominant player.

In a working paper prepared by two staffers in the Inter-American Development Bank, it is written “We concur with the need to enhance the coverage and efficiency of the infrastructure service provision, but feel that private participation is a better alternative and one of the best investments”.

It is further stated that “Private participation in infrastructure attracts financing to the sector to increase quality and coverage and frees Government funds for use in the other areas”.

There are many effective working models of Infrastructure Development Funds from which we can draw to develop and fashion a Fund that is best suited to our own situation.

The principal objective of any serious and well thought out Fund must be to achieve long-term capital appreciation through private investment in infrastructure in Guyana and, in particular, in infrastructure investments which support a Guyana Reconstruction and Development Programme. In the absence of a programme of its own, the Government can draw on the PNCR’s Agenda for Development, the Guyana 21 Plan and the dormant National Development Strategy.

For any Fund to be acceptable to the nation and to its sponsors, it must have a framework and modus operandi that is both highly transparent and accountable.

Its Governing Board must represent the interests of those investing in the Fund and investors who have contributed a certain minimum percentage should have representation.

The Fund Manager and staff must, between them, have the required experience and expertise in infrastructure financing to function effectively.

The type of projects of interest to the Fund should be clearly identified and the forms of investment and funding should be structured to match the specific requirements of the project.

There must be clear investment guidelines. Generally speaking, investments should be expected to achieve market related returns. In this regard the following factors will be important in assessing a project:

 whether the cost of the infrastructure service consumed will be affordable to the end user and whether tariffs will be sustainable in the medium to long term

 the maximisation of private sector management

 the degree to which identified risks can be mitigated

Also, strategic use should be made of concessionary finance to help in meeting target returns on investment.

Although Guyana will be the primary focus of the Fund there could be investments involving cross border projects with neighbouring countries in such areas as roads, communications and energy.

A matter of some significance that must be addressed in the execution of projects from such a Fund is that of maintenance of the projects executed. Too often public sector projects, once executed or brought on stream, are left to be run down, thereby over time losing their worth and effect to the country. The viability of Fund projects will always demand proper maintenance of them.

It should be obvious that much more thought, planning and consultations with all relevant stakeholders, both within and outside of Guyana, are necessary if Guyana is to have an Infrastructure Development Fund that can truly play a meaningful role in the development of our country.

We call upon the Government once more to scrap the political slush fund it is creating with all possible haste and to commence a process of meaningful consultations (not in the traditional sense used by the Government), of drawing upon existing models of such funds, of engaging experienced persons and institutions in relevant research to make such a Fund a reality.

Such a Fund, in both its purposes and functions, can be a powerful agent for a revolutionary transformation in the lives of the Guyanese people. There is precedent in the international community that has demonstrated that commercial returns on private sector investment in infrastructure development are achievable and that such investment has a positive effect on long term growth and development prospects.

It is not unreasonable to assume that the intent of the bill presented by the Government to the National Assembly had a devious intent from the outset since our investigations have revealed that there was no consultation at either the bilateral or multilateral levels about the creation of such a Fund and it is also obvious that no effort was made to consult existing models of such legislation that have worked successfully elsewhere.

We call upon the Government to stop playing politics with the future of the Guyanese people. Abandon the political slush fund now and give the nation an Infrastructure Fund for true Development.

THE ROLE OF PARLIAMENT IN CONFLICT AFFECTED COUNTRIES
The Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Mrs. Clarissa Riehl, M.P. recently participated in a Study Group on the Role of Parliament in Conflict Affected Countries.

The Study Group met in Colombo, Sri Lanka from Monday, 25th October to Friday, 29th October, 2004 and was sponsored by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the World Bank Institute.

Twelve Parliamentarians representing Parliaments from Fiji, Guyana, India, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Mozambique, Rwanda, and Sri Lanka were in attendance along with a number of resource persons and observers.

The central theme of the Study Group was “Parliament as medium in peace building.”

The Group explored the role of Parliaments in potential conflict and post conflict situations and spoke to topics such as participation, representation and reconciliation, dialoguing with civil society and a free media, promoting socio-economic equality, rule of law, decentralization and regional parliamentary peace-building.
The Study Group will be followed up with a Global Conference at Wilton Park next year at which conference the observations of the Study Group will be disseminated and tested.

MEDICAL OUTREACH BY THE HUMAN SERVICES DEPARTMENT OF THE PNCR
The Human Services Department of the PNCR kept a promise made to the residents of Lovely Lass and Golden Grove by Mr. Robert Corbin, M. P., Leader of the PNCR and conducted a medical outreach at Lovely Lass Nursery School on Sunday November 14, 2004.

Two hundred and eighty one (281) residents from Lovely Lass and adjoining villages from as far as Rosignol were attended to by Medical Doctors, a Dental Surgeon, Medex and Pharmacists. Residents were also given information on HIV/AIDS, Hypertension and Diabetes.

This outreach was welcomed by the residents, who asked that a return visit be made in the near future.

THE ELECTIONS COUNTDOWN AND PPP/C ANTICS
Over the last two months, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has engaged various stakeholders and the political parties in particular, in various exchanges of documents and bilateral meetings with a view of achieving consensus on election related matters, such as, the data base, continuous registration, and transmission of results.

A key document, the Commission’s Concept Paper on Continuous Registration, was circulated to the political parties for comment. The PNCR having studied the Paper submitted a response which expressed the Party’s concern about aspects of what it proposed while at the same time making concrete proposals. Issues which the PNCR addressed included:

- The creation of a new register of registrants or data base as a prerequisite to the holding of elections in 2006 and the introduction of continuous registration.

- The introduction of finger printing biometrics as a means of producing an accurate voters’ list and reducing the possibility of multiple voting; and

- ensuring stakeholder participation in the house-to-house verification during the information gathering for the compilation of the list and the in-house verification of the computerised system for the production of the list.

The PNCR regards all of the aforementioned as well as the other measures, to which we referred, as essential to GECOM’s confidence building measures in addition to its ability to manage an election that would gain public acceptance. The PNCR also considers it necessary for GECOM to benefit from the views of the stakeholders so that it can build consensus and proceed unimpeded and in a timely manner with preparations for elections.

Unlike the PNCR, the PPP/C’s initial response to the Concept Paper was a two-page document seeking to vilify the staff of GECOM and raising red herrings about matters of the past, which have no bearing on the substantive aspects of the document. The current needs of Guyana require timely discussion and decisions if elections are to be held on time with an acceptable system in place. For example, all of the parties had agreed to the need for additional biometric features and continuous registration, both of which require steadfast attention if they are to be implemented. Cannot the PPP/C recognise that this is a matter that requires immediate attention? The PPP/C’s response can only be regarded as an attempt to slow up the process, and leave the Elections Commission in the predicament of not having the new system in place for 2006 and therefore left with no alternative but to propose that we resort to the old system which has been the source of controversy and about which many questions, such as voter dislocation, are still unanswered.

The PNCR will work resolutely to ensure that the PPP/C’s machinations are not realized. The PNCR’s only interest is in timely elections that are held under conditions that guarantee a fair result.

PNCR HONOURS FORMER ASSISTANT GENERAL SECRETARY AND FORMER PNCR MP, MS. MARGARET ACKMAN
PNCR Leader, Mr. Robert H O Corbin, MP, presented longtime PNC stalwart, Margaret Ackman with a plaque from the Executive and members of the Party for her dedicated service to the Party. The presentation took place last Saturday night, November 13th, at the Glen Terrace Manor on Avenue N in Brooklyn, New York where the New York No. 1 Party Group held their First Annual Presentation Dinner/ Dance. The $100.00 per plate event was a huge success as hundreds of party supporters from all parts of the Unites States turned out for this Gala Black Tie Affair. Representatives from the PNCR Groups in Washington, New Jersey, Atlanta and Miami were also in attendance.

In welcoming the patrons, Master of Ceremonies Mr. Leslie Stewart, prominent Architect in the New York area, explained the three fold purpose of the event, that is, honouring and recognizing those who helped to build the foundations of the Party and Guyana, second, fund raising to ensure that the Party successfully concludes its mission of building a better Guyana and third, social interaction where party supporters could have an opportunity to socialize in a pleasant atmosphere and share ideas for the future.

Before presenting the plaque to Mrs. Ackman, Mr. Corbin highlighted her contribution over the years from the Party’s early beginnings in 1955 as the Burnhamite PPP. He traced her role as Assistant General Secretary from 1964 to 1979, as a PNC Member of Parliament between 1969 to 1980, Government Chief Whip from 1969 to 1973, Parliamentary Secretary Office of the Prime Minister 1973 to 1980 and her continuing work overseas through the New York No. 1 PNCR Group. Mr. Corbin told the gathering of the Party’s desire to honour the contributions of all stalwarts at a time when they could appreciate it and not after they are dead and he emphasized the importance of members knowing and remembering the Party’s history and its mission to make Guyana a better place for all Guyanese. In his address, Mr. Corbin also outlined some of the PNCR plans for the development of Guyana. He emphasized that a major objective was the restoration of confidence in Guyana’s youth so that there will be renewed hope in the future of the country. For this to be achieved there must be coherent investment policies that would attract new investment, relevant educational programmes to provide the human resources for the development drive and a system of Governance that would remove alienation and stimulate all Guyanese, irrespective of ethnicity or other background, to work together for the advancement of the country.

The band, which played light music during the dinner, changed to Caribbean rhythms shortly thereafter and so stimulated the patrons that many were still in revelry on the dance floor after 3 am.

The PNCR congratulates the New York No. 1 Group on holding this successful event and wishes to convey its sincere thanks to all who supported it.

People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown