A critical project to dredge around the Demerara River in the vicinity of several city wharves may finally be gaining some traction, with a local firm indicating high interest.
Updating representatives of the private sector during Wednesday’s 11th meeting of the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) at the Office of the President, Minister of Trade, Tourism and Commerce, Irfaan Ali, disclosed that GAICO, the local firm, has offered to undertake the project. This is inclusive of the financing of all the capital infrastructure and equipment needed. The official also reported that a presentation was done on Wednesday by GAICO to a high level team of Government and private sector representatives.
The matter will now be taken to the Cabinet of Ministers level with a presentation expected there.
The NCC is the body that oversees implementation of Guyana’s National Competitiveness Strategy (NCS) and is the highest level public-private dialogue body in the nation. It is chaired by President Donald Ramotar and comprises senior Ministers, officials of the Government and senior representatives of the business sector.
According to the NCC yesterday, the meeting was statutorily convened as the first quarterly one of 2014 and included a special agenda item.
Following the National Economic Forum (NEF) held in August 2013, chairpersons of the 10 thematic working groups were invited to make presentations to the NCC based on the recommendations. The groups consist of members of the Government, Private Sector, the Parliamentary Opposition and other stakeholders who met regularly during the period June – August 2013 in preparation for the forum.
During the meeting Thursday, the Government presenters were: Tarachand Balgobin, Head Project Cycle Management Division, Ministry of Finance (Infrastructure); Professor Suresh Narine, Director of the Institute of Applied Science and Technology (Energy) and Professor Jacob Opadeyi, Vice Chancellor, University of Guyana, (Human Resources).
Presenters from the Private Sector included Ramesh Dookhoo, Michael Correia and Cpt. Gerry Gouveia.
In his presentation on non-Caribbean trade, Dookhoo outlined some of the challenges in the sector including weak public-private dialogue on international trade negotiations, significant non-tariff barriers from trade partners, poor infrastructure, outdated import/export procedures and weak institutional structures. Among the recommendations highlighted were the strengthening of trade agreements, introduction of the Single Window System at Customs, a certification laboratory for Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) standards, improved monitoring of ports for illegal drugs, investments in infrastructure, particularly the road to Lethem and the deep water harbor, re-engineering of Go-Invest and challenging consulates and embassies/high commissions overseas to identify opportunities for trade.
According to NCC, Gouveia’s presentation on tourism highlighted several areas that priority should be given to including marketing, accessibility, nation branding, product development, pricing and safety and security.
Minister Ali stressed that tourism has the capacity to be the largest contributor to GDP as well as the largest source of employment for Guyanese. He also challenged the Private Sector to come together and offer package deals and all-inclusive type events which would simultaneously benefit the local hotel, airline and entertainment sectors.
Professor Jacob Opadeyi highlighted some of the challenges to human resources development including the low level of adult literacy and numeracy, inadequate levels of performance in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, English Language and Mathematics), undertrained teachers and trainers and low internet and IT penetration due to high costs. He outlined some of the proposed initiatives which included establishment of a National Education Planning Secretariat, support for online and distance education programmes, a strategic IT penetration programme, resuscitation of the National Science Council, increasing the minimum qualification for a high school teacher to be a first degree and inclusion of more foreign languages and exchange programmes in schools, particularly in Spanish and Portuguese.
He added that the University of Guyana (UG) plans to launch four online degree programmes by March 2014 so that prospective students do not have to physically attend the University. He added that this would be particularly beneficial for prospective students who live far away from the two established UG campuses.
National aviation policy
Professor Narine in his presentation on energy, noted that all of the issues related to energy are well documented in the public domain. These included high costs for energy and the need to develop alternative sources of power generation.
According to Balgobin during his presentation on infrastructure, recommendations have been made for short term and long term actions. The key short term actions included upgrading of the Soesdyke/Linden Highway, the Bartica/Issano Road, the East Bank Essequibo Road and the Parika Backdam Road, which is to benefit from a Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Grant. The longer term actions include the Kurupukari/Mora Road, paving of the Linden/Lethem road, developing and alternative road between the East Coast and West Coast of Demerara (WCD), reconstruction of the Demerara Harbor Bridge, dredging of the Demerara River, and the establishment of a container terminal on the West Coast Demerara.
Correia, in his report of the aviation group, called for the drafting of a National Aviation Policy which should address issues of airspace, the regulatory framework, market access for foreign carriers, efficient and user-friendly airports, international safety standards and regulations governing fuel and lubricants and systems for crisis and disaster management, including search and rescue.
President Ramotar empowered the aviation group to continue their work by drafting the policy for review and adoption by Cabinet. He further lauded all groups for the work done and proposed that all recommendations by the thematic working groups be adopted across the board and that the responsibility for monitoring and implementation of these policies will rest with the National Competitiveness Strategy Steering Committee chaired by Minister Ali.
Meanwhile, Ali disclosed that the Lethem Authority had been formalized by the President and will be officially launched shortly.
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