PRESS STATEMENT Mr. Robert H O Corbin, MP Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform & Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition To the Press Conference on Friday, December 30, 2005 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
 We look forward to a successful and victorious year 2006 and extend an invitation to all Guyanese, the religious community, the business community and all stake holders in Guyana to join us in our efforts to make Guyana a better place for all.
 It is perhaps appropriate that we briefly review the year 2005 so that as a people we will be able to analyze our weaknesses and deficiencies and hopefully use that knowledge to make the New Year a better one.
 The manner in which the Jagdeo Administration handled the Flood disaster was symptomatic of how the entire country was managed in 2005.
 As we approach the last few days of the year it is unfortunate that the People’s National Congress Reform must report that the economic outlook for 2006 is bleak and hazy.
 Crime and criminality have become part and parcel of a sinister agenda and political expediency aimed at keeping the PPP/C in power at all costs.
 The PNCR however remains committed to Elections within the Constitutional framework and will do all in its power to continue its co-operation with the Commission to ensure that the task is accomplished.
 With the choice of the PNCR either alone or in partnership with others the people of Guyana will have an opportunity to breathe again and make Guyana a land of which we can all be proud.

THE PNCR WISHES ALL GUYANA A HAPPY NEW YEAR

The PNCR wishes to extend to all the people of Guyana best wishes for the New Year 2006. The year 2005 brought with it several challenges that tested our resolve as a people, but, we demonstrated that we have the resilience to overcome difficulties, even in the circumstances of an unprecedented national disaster. We are confident that, despite the many problems which still confront our nation, we have the capacity to work together in 2006 to build the foundations of a modern democratic 21st century state. The PNCR commits itself to this noble objective and pledges to work unceasingly with all the people of our dear land to achieve this objective.

We express our sincere thanks to members of the media for coverage of our weekly press conferences and look forward to balanced reporting and adequate coverage of our activities in 2006. Among our expectations are that equitable access to the state controlled media will become a reality and that the Managers of both NCN Radio and Television would realise that they owe a responsibility to their real owners, the people of Guyana, to adequately reflect the views of all Stakeholders and not to function as propaganda mouthpieces of the ruling party and Government. We also wish to thank all citizens and friends of Guyana overseas for their tremendous support during the year without which the PNCR would have been unable to fulfill its mandate to the people of Guyana.

We look forward to a successful and victorious year 2006 and extend an invitation to all Guyanese, the religious community, the business community and all stake holders in Guyana to join us in our efforts to make Guyana a better place for all. More particularly, we extend a special invitation to the young people of our Nation to get meaningfully involved in shaping their destiny. We urge you all to get registered so that at the appropriate time you will have an opportunity to determine the future of Guyana. The Party remains committed to the words issued in my 2004 Congress Address:

“We are concerned about making Guyana a modern 21st century state. To achieve this we need all Guyanese, irrespective of race, colour, social origin, religion or other peculiarities on board... Not for the PNCR to win but for all Guyana to win, in collaboration with the People's National Congress Reform.”

Happy New Year to all!

REVIEW OF THE YEAR 2005

It is perhaps appropriate that we briefly review the year 2005 so that as a people we will be able to analyze our weaknesses and deficiencies and hopefully use that knowledge to make the New Year a better one. There can be no dispute that our major area of weakness has been the absence of good governance. This was reflected in almost all aspects of the nations activities commencing with the devastating Floods which we faced at the commencement of the New Year and concluding with the abuse and disrespect for the Parliament by the Executive so well demonstrated in the manner the Government railroaded the passage of the Berbice River Bridge Bill yesterday, in breach of the spirit of the Standing orders of the National Assembly and with Members of Parliament not being afforded ample time to study the document they were expected to debate in the House. Poor governance has resulted in the failure of our Economy to perform at expected levels, the escalation of crime and the unhealthy security environment, the continued lack of accountability, corruption in high places, the misuse of State Institutions for partisan political purposes, especially the state media and the Finance Ministry, the attempts to interfere with the independence of the Judiciary, the abuse of workers organisations and breach of ILO conventions, especially the right to collective bargaining and the refusal of the President to honour the Constitution of the Republic. A few areas may be worth more detailed analysis.

The January/February Flood Disaster
The manner in which the Jagdeo Administration handled the Flood disaster was symptomatic of the way in which the entire country was managed in 2005. The flood disaster offered Guyana a unique opportunity to make a new start in working together for the good of our Nation. Instead of capitalizing on this opportunity the PPP/C saw it as time to extend political influence and indulged in partisan politics. The illegal closure of CN Sharma’s TV Station, Channel 6, the monopolizing of flood relief food distribution by PPP/C political functionaries and the absence of accountability for the monies spent during the flood, including resources provided by local and overseas donors were all indicative of a Government so obsessed with survival and self preservation that the interest of the Nation became the last consideration. It is however to the credit of the people of Guyana that, despite these bungling manoeuvres by the Government, there was a rallying call by several religious and other organisations and public spirited citizens to the cause thus preventing what could have been untold human suffering. The distribution of money to aid flood victims after the flood waters receded, was again marred by the lack of transparency resulting in some needy victims not receiving any assistance at all. The supplementary budget promised by the Minister of Finance to the Parliament in June 2005 never materialised and despite calls by the Opposition for Parliament to be informed, the Government has not had the decency to provide adequate explanation to the people’s representatives.

Despite suggestions for a permanent national task force to be established and other measures to be put in place to avoid a recurrence, the Government has failed miserably to fulfill their obligations. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that as the year comes to a close, we are yet again faced with a flood disaster in the Mahaica/Mahaicony areas with the lives and livelihood of thousands of our citizens disrupted. The approach by the Government illustrates how little we have learnt from our last disaster.

The PNCR, however, assures the nation that among its top priorities in Government after the next elections will be to establish a permanent Task Force to be the Executive arm of the Disaster Preparedness Committee in keeping with the PNCR National Disaster Preparedness Plan that will shortly be outlined to the Nation. If Guyana is to survive disasters and our people are not to be exposed to unnecessary suffering, then we have to put aside political and other differences and work together as a people to overcome our difficulties.

The Economic Outlook
As we approach the last few days of the year it is unfortunate that the People’s National Congress Reform must report that the economic outlook for 2006 is bleak and hazy, and that is until we are able to implement the PNCR programme. We would have liked, at this time, to sincerely say that our economy has grown; that there is massive investment in every sector of the economy; that there are large inflows of foreign, direct investment and our balance of payment position is heading in a positive direction. But, none of the above can be said as investors; both local and foreign continue to bitterly complain about the PPP/C government’s ambivalence to a market driven approach to development so much that foreign, direct investment in 2005 had been at its lowest point ever, since 1989.
Two of our main exports, sugar and rice, are struggling to be competitive and all our non-traditional export areas have suffered due to the penetration by drug lords who prey on fledging businesses using them as couriers to export cocaine, regionally and extra-regionally.
Our trade deficit is expanding rapidly partly because of exports not growing fast enough due to severe bottlenecks and insufficient incentives to encourage exports, and largely as a result of the increasing cost of imported oil which is by and large the only source from which electricity is generated. The trade deficit which was only US$5 million in 1992 has ballooned to over US$150 million and this situation is expected to worsen as export revenues decline and sugar subsidies from Europe are terminated.
Additionally, our domestic debt which was G$18.8 billion in 1992 has expanded to over G$60billion this year. Our multilateral debt in 1992 was G$172.6 billion and despite all the debt relief and debt write off of which the government boasts, to the extent of G$190 billion, the situation has not improved. What is clear is that the foreign debt in 2005 is larger than what it was in 1992 putting Guyana in a dependency syndrome depending on the largess of donor agencies. Yet, the government and some donor agencies claim that we have a good macro economic environment. This is a mirage and raises serious questions about the role of some donor agencies in propping up what is now being referred to in international quarters as Guyana, the narcotic State.
The bottom line in all of this is that the general cost of living continues to rise, wages lag behind; there are more poor people on the road; a greater level of unemployment among our young adult; skilled and unskilled and an unprecedented massive level of migration of our best and brightest sons and daughters of Guyana.
The People’s National Congress Reform has adumbrated its policy for national development and wishes to proffer the following recommendations.
First and foremost we would hinge our national budgeting exercise in keeping with the National Development Strategy (NDS) which all stakeholders have helped to shape and define. We would introduce a meaningful investment law which would make pellucid the areas open for investment and the incentives to be adopted by law. We would remove where appropriate, ministerial discretion in the granting of incentives that serve to impede progress in economic development. We would embrace and promote genuine private sector organisations and civil society bodies and all advisory and statutory investment bodies, and we would undertake a massive promotion of Guyana as a Brand State where prospective investors will once again feel comfortable to come and invest.
To these objectives we commit ourselves in 2006.

The Crime and Security Situation
In 2005 Guyana became increasingly unsafe. The chances of persons being attacked at their quiet Fort Island home by marauding bandits, of houses being shot up and or pillaged, of bread winners disappearing without a trace, of their families being terrorised, brutalised, robbed or killed have never been higher than they were in 2005. In a year of unprecedented growth in crime, government stubbornly refused to implement the recommendations of the Disciplined Forces Commission (DFC) to reform and upgrade the disciplined forces including the police. The year saw a 50% increase in robbery under arms. There was a vacuum in new thinking about how to tackle the drivers of criminality or to respond to the growing threats of organised crime. This was more than a failure of political will. Quite simply, crime and criminality have become part and parcel of a sinister agenda and political expediency aimed at keeping the PPP/C in power at all costs. It is a plan that will not succeed for there is a price to be paid for treating the Guyanese people with such utter contempt, as the PPP/C had been doing.

In 2006 there will be a great deal for the PNCR to do. We intend to build on the firm foundations of the Disciplined Forces Commission’s 164 recommendations as we put them into practice across the whole of the Criminal Justice System. We are going to ensure the needs and concerns of individuals, families and whole communities are at the forefront of our Crime Reduction Plan (CRP). We will also successfully tackle the conditions where crime prospers such as unemployment; marginalised impoverished communities; dark, unlit, run-down neighbourhoods; drug dependent youth and rogue elements within the GPF. We will invest in better qualified, trained and paid staff and more modern technology so that there will be record numbers of police on the beat releasing many from desk duties as an outdated infrastructure is brought up to date. Through DFC reform, the crime reduction measures set out in our 5-year CRP, clear performance targets and better intelligence, we will place emphasis on crime prevention in the first place and when a crime is committed we will raise standards of effectiveness in bringing the criminals to justice. Full implementation of the Money Laundering Act and a co-coordinated system with the entire drug fighting agencies working together will make sure that narco-criminals are pursued and justice delivered swiftly, fairly and effectively. This will be a vital source of public confidence in strong government and the rule of law, a guarantee which a PNCR Government feels confident to give to the Nation.

General Elections 2006
During the year 2005 the PNCR intensified its representations to the Guyana Elections Commission to ensure that it delivers free fair and transparent Elections and Elections free from fear. This task has not been an easy one as the Elections Commission and particularly its Chairman remained unreceptive to suggestions made by the Parliamentary Opposition Parties and only reluctantly and belatedly responding to some proposals, thereby jeopardizing the Constitutional deadline for the holding of the Election. The arrangements for continuous registration remain unsatisfactory with the imposition of hardships on citizens to exercise their constitutional right. The Commission must ensure that adequate provisions are made in 2006 to give all Guyanese an opportunity to be properly registered. This is a matter that will be relentlessly pursued by the PNCR in 2006. We welcome the late decision by the Commission to engage the Elections Office of Jamaica (EOJ) to assist with the electronic capturing of the fingerprints of registrants to facilitate cross-referencing, but there is still more to be achieved. The decision on verification of the Official List of Electors of 2001 as the basis for use in the Continuous Registration exercise has not yet been made by the Commission. The PNCR will continue its demand for house to house verification. We will not rest until the conditions for free fair and transparent Elections are met. The PNCR however remains committed to Elections within the Constitutional framework and will do all in its power to continue its co-operation with the Commission to ensure that the task is accomplished. We will not accept any short cuts but give the assurance that once all the basic conditions are met we will willingly accept the results of the Elections as the will of the people of Guyana.

To The Future
Much more can be said of our deficiencies as a Nation in 2005 but the overriding priority is to organise to achieve greater successes in the New Year 2006. The PNCR has great confidence in the people of Guyana. We believe that the reality can escape no one. The Government has failed miserably, not only in 2005 but since 1992. It is time that Guyana is given an opportunity to breathe again. It is time that the hopes of our young people are realised; it is time for the workers to enjoy decent wages and made able to cope with the rising cost of living. It is time that we are guaranteed security in our homes and in our businesses. The answer to our difficulties lies in our hands as citizens of Guyana. With the choice of the PNCR, either alone or in partnership, with others the people of Guyana will have an opportunity to breathe again and make Guyana a land of which we can all be proud.

Let me take this opportunity, again, to wish all you members of the media and all the people of Guyana, a peaceful, productive, successful and victorious 2006.

Thank you very much!

People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Greater-Georgetown, Guyana
Friday, December 30, 2005