PRESS STATEMENT By the People's National Congress Reform To the Press Conference on Thursday, November 10, 2005 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia
The PNCR Administration of 1985 to 1992 made its mark in Guyana’s development history for reversing years of decline with its Economic Recovery Programme which generated growth rates of between 6 and 8.5% per annum;
The PNCR continues to insist that GECOM moves quickly to improve the on-going continuous registration process;
The PNCR in government will take immediate steps to increase Police remuneration significantly.
THE PNCR POSITION ON INVESTMENT AND GROWTH
The PNCR administration of 1985 to 1992 made its mark in Guyana's development history for reversing years of decline with its Economic Recovery Programme which generated growth rates of between 6 and 8.5% per annum.
The Economic Recovery Programme was successful because it mobilised the resources, innovations and energies of the domestic private sector, the Guyana and Caribbean Diaspora, the foreign based investor and the International Financial Community. It is essential that the goodwill and enthusiasm of all of these players be recaptured in a new dispensation.
For this to happen, local investors must be given a key role, not only in terms of local knowledge, patriotism and motivation, but also as partners to foreign investors and as beneficiaries of business and investment linkages. The Guyana Diaspora is also vital for restoring confidence in our economy, since they can bring the commitment of emotive connections with their homeland as well as the technology and managerial expertise of success in the developed world. Foreign investors must be encouraged to contribute the resources, technology and international credibility essential for the successful implementation of the PNCR Investment Policy and its attendant Programme.
We, in the PNCR, believe that Guyana can recover from its current economic decline and benefit from an era of rapid growth and development under a PNCR led economic and social reform and development oriented Government.
The PNCR will encourage investors through the creation of an Investor-friendly environment, including many of the opportunities which characterised the 1989-1992 period of the Hoyte Administration. It would be recalled that, during that period, more major investment completions were recorded than ever before in Guyana's economic history as an independent Republic.
Guyana is one of the countries selected by the G8, at their Gleneagles Conference this year, for special debt forgiveness. As a Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC), despite the various generous Debt Relief benefits which have been received by the Government, the record of growth, over the last eight years, has been abysmal. Nevertheless, the PNCR recognises that we are a country with almost unlimited potential for growth and investment.
Guyana represents an unusual opportunity for investors to participate in the re-launching of an economy characterised by a wide range of underutilised natural resources, strategic advantages and a myriad of investment opportunities. Put simply, Guyana's poor economic record has been the result of a number of known factors, including bad governance and incoherent economic policy signals. Primarily, however, it has been the result of the current Administration's deep distrust and ambivalence towards private sector investment, both domestic and foreign.
Guyana has many strategic and resource advantages which make it an attractive investment destination:
1. We are a key member of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy of the Caricom grouping (CSME). This makes the investor in Guyana open to utilise the entire Caribbean market with many high growth and middle income economies.
2. We are strategically located in terms of access to and export from the Northern states of Brazil and the growth centres of the Amazonian countries.
3. We are the only English speaking country on the South American continent and strategically placed to provide a gateway between the North American markets and business opportunities and growth areas of South America.
4. We have universal primary education, relatively high secondary coverage and a vibrant and resourceful tertiary education sector.
5. We have vast and still relatively untapped and underutilised natural resources.
Cognisant of the fact that, around the world, Direct Foreign Investment and a dynamic private sector combine to create the engine for economic growth and job creation, the PNCR sees private sector investment, both domestic and foreign, as the necessary and sufficient conditions for the creation of new employment, incomes, wealth and improved living standards for all of our people.
The incoming PNCR administration:
1. Will welcome and facilitate foreign direct investment in our economy;
2. Will drastically eliminate the current regime of bureaucratic regulations and political patronage which makes doing business in Guyana so difficult at present. In particular, we will completely eliminate the political regime of incentives and investment approvals and put in place a professional approval and facilitating system free from political manipulation;
3. Will encourage and facilitate links and partnerships with local investors and institutions;
4. Will reduce the impact of discretionary and arbitrary incentives to investors by reducing the tax burden on business thus creating a more business friendly environment, strengthening the enforcement of the tax system and widening the tax-base while, at the same time, eliminating the irregularities and corruption associated with discretionary incentives;
5. Will create a regime of additional incentives for 'early bird' investors that come on board our development programme in the early years;
6. Will drastically revise and liberalise our investment regulations and statutes;
7. Will give urgent priority to a comprehensive reform of our legislative framework in order to modernise our commercial and economic legislation to bring them in line with modern requirements; and
8. Will radically restructure the public sector to bring it in line with modern best practices of Administration including greater transparency, accountability and consumer friendliness.
The PNCR is fully aware that the whole world is opening up and other Governments and business leaders are eagerly lining up to attract private investors, therefore, we are prepared to work twice as hard to convince prospective investors and to implement the necessary judicial and other needed reforms to make Guyana a competitive environment for investment.
The PNCR Urges All Those Who Have To Register To Do So:
The PNCR continues to insist that GECOM moves quickly to improve the on-going Continuous Registration process. In this regard, we have called for GECOM to:
1. Launch a public education and awareness campaign to inform all Guyanese of the requirements and other modalities for registration; and
2. Significantly increase the number of registration centres.
The low turnout of Registrants is a reflection of the perceived and actual difficulties many persons have in getting to the limited number and sparsely located Registration Centres.
The PNCR will continue to pressure GECOM to address these essential issues; however, we urge all those who have to register to make the effort to do so. In particular, we urge the young people among us to take the registration process seriously. We know that to travel to many of the inconveniently located centres does impose some financial cost on potential Registrants but registration is necessary to obtain a national ID card, which is useful for the conduct of personal business as well as enabling the Registrant to vote at the 2006 National and Regional Elections and other elections. The Registration Centres are also responsible for processing those persons who have changed their addresses or names (through, for example, marriage) since the 2001 National and Regional Elections. We encourage such persons also to approach these centres.
The PNCR has noted that GECOM has invited experts from the Election Office of Jamaica (EOJ) to prepare their proposal for enabling GECOM to introduce fingerprint biometrics in time for the 2006 National and Regional Elections. The Party is reliably informed that the experts from Jamaica are expected to be in Guyana by the middle of next week.
GECOM has already wasted several years on this matter. We, therefore, expect that the Commission would now hasten to do all that is necessary to get the fingerprint biometrics system introduced in time for the 2006 Elections.
Verification of the List of Electors:
The PNCR has repeatedly made its position known on the necessity to verify the existence of the persons now appearing on the 2001 Official List of Electors (OLE) and its Addenda. We have pointed to the fact that the 2001 OLE and its Addenda may contain as many as 100,000 names that ought to be removed for reasons of death, migration or multiple registrations. Our initial assessment of the 2002 Census results suggests that the 2001 OLE and its Addenda may have been padded. Our arguments for the conduct of a house-to-house Verification approach cannot and have not been successfully rebutted. Accordingly, we are now more convinced that our call for the house-to-house Verification, of the persons remaining on the OLE and its Addenda, is justified. GECOM must make a decision now on the methodology to be used for the cleansing of the 2001 OLE and its Addenda.
SECURITY OF CITIZENS – A PNCR PERSPECTIVE
The PNCR lauds the efforts of the Police Commissioner and the Guyana Police Force and appreciates the difficult circumstances under which the Police work.
Most of them earn slightly more than the minimum wage but are expected to work as though they are among the best paid people in the country. For years the hierarchy of the police force has been making appeals to the government for a better pay package for policemen and policewomen. For years their appeals have been ignored by the callous Jagdeo Regime. It can not be that the President does not understand the importance of paying salaries that reflect the level of responsibility and good practice expected of professionals. It is a matter of public record that Jagdeo pays his Economic Advisor responsible for the PRSP a monthly tax free salary of US$16,500 or G$3.3 million. This equates to the monthly salary of 110 policemen and women based on an average pre-tax salary of $30,000 (Guyana). Is the President saying that based on a calculus of social benefit and community well being a single Economic Advisor has much value as 110 policemen and women risking their lives on a daily basis to prevent crime and enforce the law?
The PNCR in government will take immediate steps to increase Police remuneration significantly. There will also be financial incentives for enforcement staff for good performance. A reviewed emphasis on crime prevention rather than law enforcement will go hand in hand with the reintegration of policing with the community especially in the vulnerable villages on the lower East Coast. The isolation of the Police from those they are supposed to serve often produces a siege mentality, since the Police have little regular contact with ordinary citizens. Operation “Stiletto” as an example of ham-fisted policing may be unrivalled in terms of alienating a community in need of regeneration and collaborative policing. Professional policing involves intelligence gathering – a painstaking exercise which requires a level of public confidence in the Police Force that may be diminishing rather than improving where Buxton is concerned. With four confirmed kidnappings or disappearances of sugar workers in almost as many months it beggars belief that there are no individuals out there with knowledge of these occurrences which may be of use to the Police in solving these mysteries. It is easier to believe that those holding this information place little trust in Police confidentiality and witness support systems.
High crime rates and a significant increase in violent crimes are of concern to all Guyanese with few exceptions. In this context the GPF is the most valuable asset law enforcement and criminal justice have. It is only through them that we will reduce crime, bring more offenders to justice and improve overall confidence in the Police Force. A good employer attracts and retains high quality staff and inspires its workforce to succeed by creating the best environment with which to deliver its aims and objectives. In this regard the PPP/C government has failed miserably and continues to do so.
In general terms there are major recruitment problems not helped by low remuneration, increased workload and dangers of policing. All of this is compounded by the fact that many in the Police Force are not properly equipped or empowered to do their job efficiently, nor focused on delivering organisational outcomes.
In government the PNCR will begin to channel more resources into law enforcement while arresting the decline in police numbers:
There will be funding to allow the police to recruit the numbers of law enforcement officers required.
We will modernize pay and conditions
A huge investment in technology will aid working practices.
Co – ordinate training packages, workshops, seminars, secondments and attachments regionally and further afield, exchange programmes and formal lectures will facilitate greater understanding of the role police are expected to play in fair and effective law enforcement.
We will provide alternative career paths, including a legal training scheme.
People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Thursday, November 10, 2005
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