May 14, 2016 News
It was one year on Wednesday, May 11, since Guyanese voted in what were early general elections.
A new government, established by the A Partnership For National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC), and led by President David Granger is now in office, replacing the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) two-decade rule, but it has been anything but easy.
The coalition narrowly won office by 4,500 votes.
The administration entered office, immediately dealing with floods, the loss of its rice market in Venezuela and an icy diplomatic relation which led to that country recalling its ambassador.
The economy has been in the doldrums as a result of the depressed world commodities market.
Rice price and a poorly performing sugar sector have not been helping much.
On the positive side, the city is undergoing a major clean-up for the country’s 50th Independence Anniversary celebrations later this month.
However, there has been resistance from vendors who were displaced when the area around the iconic Stabroek Market was cleared.
On Wednesday, during a taped television programme, President David Granger, made it clear that while the dust has settled, the mud is still to be removed.
He was confident that the government has covered significant grounds over the last year.
The Head of State noted that he has in place a “very muscular Cabinet”, and was able to reduce the number of ministries to 15.
He insisted that the Cabinet members have been performing well. Earlier this year, there was the addition of the Ministry of Public Telecommunication.
There may also be some additional Cabinet adjustments shortly to deal with how Government handles the environment, the President said.
Looking back, Granger believes it has been a good year with significant progress made in reducing crime. This was especially so in the reduction of piracy which is “unheard of now”.
While there has been a perception of a crime increase, Granger dismissed these, noting that much of the murders were domestic ones, the police solving a significant number of the cases.
The administration has already sent a police commander down to Bartica, Region Seven, to take charge of the hinterland area. Before time the commander was stationed at Eve Leary, at the police’s headquarters.
A national security committee has been established and has been holding weekly meetings. The President pointed out also, that a probe has been launched to investigate the worrying prison situation.
In early March, 17 inmates were killed after a riot turned deadly at the Camp Street prisons. The administration immediately launched a Commission of Inquiry. The hearings concluded this week.
To deal with overcrowding in the prisons, the administration has started taking corrective actions to reduce the large number of prisoners on remand.
President Granger was insistent that the general feeling and the mood of the country remains good.
“There is a lot of confidence. Most people I speak with… and the feedback we got is that they are happy with the changes.”
Some of the changes include Local Government Elections. There is enthusiasm with citizens as far as Bartica and Mabaruma, and other municipalities, believing that the bad days are behind and only better can come.
So what would the Granger administration do differently if it had another shot at the past year?
According to the President, it would not be “different” but rather, much more. These include in critical areas like education and jobs for the youths.
The administration is currently considering proposals for an expansion of its hot meals programme for schools, as part of the push to keep students in classes.
“We want to keep more children in school…”
Already, there have been quite a number of donations of buses, bicycles and boats to strategic areas for students. This too will be expanded.
With regards to jobs, the President admitted that the economy just has not been producing the new ones.
The administration is pushing for more qualified citizens and at the same time, pushing investors to create more micro-enterprise, particularly in agro-processing.
Of course, there were promises by the coalition to reduce the 16 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) when it takes office.
Responding to questions, President Granger said that it is the intentions to fulfill these, but a tax reform committee is still doing work.
“And we will be advised by the tax reform committee when it presents its report. We don’t want to pull figures from the air and say bring it down to 10.5 (percent).”
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