As Governments within the Caribbean Region seek to expand fiscal space and reduce waste, Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, is contending that accompanying this must also be the desire to always ensure taxpayers’ money is accurately accounted for.
The Minister made this and other statements during the 46th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).
There, Jordan told his colleagues that there are a number of global realities taking place which cannot be ignored.
Noting his observations in this regard, the economist said that while commodity prices and financial markets remain volatile, concerns have intensified over China’s transition to more sustainable and balanced growth.
He said that recent data and policy actions give rise to renewed hope and expectation. However, Jordan made it clear that recovery of the global economy remains disappointing. The economist said that Governments must pay attention to the fact that the growth rate is at its lowest since 2009 and future growth has been revised downwards. Jordan said that into these headwinds have sailed the Caribbean economies, whose vulnerability has been exposed by their openness – characterized by their high import dependence and narrow range of exports.
In the case of Guyana, Jordan said that a growth of three percent was recorded in 2015 and that the forecast for 2016 has been pegged at 4.4 percent. The Finance Minister said that this compares favourably with the regional forecast for Latin America and the Caribbean of less than 1 percent.
The Finance Minister said that Guyana, which is a commodity dependent country, has a narrow revenue base.
“As such, like most Caribbean countries, it is operating within inadequate fiscal space and, therefore, has restricted flexibility to re-allocate funds. To expand the fiscal space there will be need to reduce waste and stamp out corruption within the public sector among other measures,” the economist expressed.
He added, “We, as a government, have to ensure that our taxpayers’ money is accurately accounted for and spent in the most efficient and productive manner and that we create opportunities for the prosperity of our people, as crafted in our Vision 2020 manifesto. Intrinsic to this strategic trajectory to 2020 and beyond, is the theme of ‘A good life in a green economy’ underpinned by robust economic growth that is equitably distributed, good governance and environmental sustainability.”
The Finance Minister said that the Guyana Vision 2020 articulates Government’s developmental priorities. He said that central to this is linking the Coastland to the Hinterland through Infrastructural and Social and Human Development.
Jordan said that the Government is promoting greater integration between the hinterland and the coastland of Guyana. In this regard, he noted that the hinterland comprises over three quarters of Guyana’s territory.
Jordan said therefore, in order for Guyana to realize holistic, comprehensive and sustainable development, the Government is focusing on bridging the spatial and developmental divide that exists within the country.
The Finance Minister said that the Government is currently developing four new towns and is examining several other areas for township.
“They are expected to become thriving economic centres overtime. Additionally, the Government is focusing on developing infrastructure. Non-traditional economic activities, particularly value-added industries, often require more sophisticated inputs than traditional primary industries. They need reliable electricity, water, telecommunications, and the ability to transport inputs and outputs,” the Finance Minister said.
He noted that the country’s Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP) for 2016 reflects this thrust as Government is investing over 75 percent of the budgetary allocations in this area. As it relates to renewable energy, the Finance Minister said that the Government continues to pursue a comprehensive energy matrix.
It is expected that by the end of this year, one of the new towns, Bartica, will become energy self- sufficient with the construction of the first solar energy farm in Guyana, Jordan related.
Additionally, the economist said that Government has advanced dialogue with investors to establish a 25 megawatt wind farm on the Atlantic Coast of Guyana. He said, too, that the health and education sectors are being re-examined.
Furthermore, the Finance Minister said that building an educated, healthy workforce is crucial towards ensuring that businesses can find employees with the skills required to contribute meaningfully to their vision and mission.
To this end, Jordan noted that plans are underway to develop a comprehensive technical and vocational programme; modernize the primary and secondary curricula and institutions; and upgrade the educational programme and facility within the University of Guyana.
To respond to health issues of the nation including high infant and maternal mortality; pandemics such as Zika and Chikungunya; and incidences of chronic non-communicable diseases; and suicide, the Government Jordan said, is investing significant resources in expanding health care facilities.
He said that emphasis will be placed on maternal and child health; increasing the availability of drugs and medical supplies; and intensifying training, among medical professionals. To finance the Government’s ambitious programme, Jordan said that there is need to broaden the tax-base, improve tax collection, develop public private initiatives and expand the role of development partners in financing these projects.
In this regard, the government recently concluded an assessment of the current tax system. The recommendations are being reviewed with the aim of speedy implementation. Jordan added that new policy guidelines for pursuing Public Private Partnerships are being promulgated, while the business environment is being improved to attract greater foreign and domestic investment.
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