May 12, 2017 News
Two years after entering office after a slim victory at the May 11, 2015 polls, vowing reforms to reduce corruption and waste, the Coalition Government believes it has done well.
Yesterday, the administration made it clear that it has more than 125 things that it has achieved, including lowering the Berbice Bridge tolls, a cleaner city, holding Local Government Elections in more than two decades, less piracy and more transparency.
In a two-page spread published in yesterday’s edition of this newspaper, the coalition, which comprises A Partnership For National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC), insisted that Guyana is “moving forward”.
With the region facing tough times amidst a downturn in the world’s commodity market, Guyana has not been immune from the shocks. Last year, export earnings fell by US$30M forcing the administration to release foreign currency to stabilize the rates.
Barbados, Trinidad and Suriname have been coming to Guyana for the precious US dollars. Central Bank has since halted purchases of the currencies from the first two countries.
Malaysian-owned Barama Company Limited has announced a scaling back of operations giving up its 1.6 million hectares of forests, further compounding the woes in the sector.
With the introduction of new anti-money legislation and tougher scrutiny from commercial banks, Government has been facing pressure to find ways to steady an economy that was further buffeted by the problems in the sugar industry.
Almost $33 billion has been spent to bailout out the Guyana Sugar Corporation in the last two years.
The clampdown on fuel and the drug trade have also been affecting the underground economy.
The administration itself has been under pressure for a number of things, including the parking meter project for the city, VAT on private education and the closure of a number of sugar estates.
The administration pointed out yesterday that it has introduced buses that offer free transportation to school children, paved the way for 4G internet for smartphones, rekindled pride in the country and lowered the crime rate.
There has been an increase in salaries for public servants and almost 70,000 persons are exempted from income tax.
On the labour front, collective bargaining has been restored with reduced house lot costs, better drainage and irrigation, and more pumps have been installed.
NEW TELECOMS LAWS
After a few years of being in limbo, new telecoms laws have finally been passed paving the way for new players to enter and compete in the market. More than 98,000 citizens are provided with free internet with two community radios – in Lethem and Mabaruma – launched. Several more are under construction. Also launched were three townships.
With several questionable bank accounts lying around, the coalition also gave itself a pat on the back for restoring billions of dollars from these phantom accounts to the Treasury.
Measures have been introduced to make newer cars more affordable with lesser duties being charged.
With the VAT threshold increased to $15M, several items have also been zero-rated.
On the financial side, VAT has been reduced to 14 percent from 16 percent; with the highest gold declaration met at the end of 2016.
The administration is also proud of the JOF Haynes Law School of the Americas that it has launched and the formulation of the Petroleum Commission Bill of Guyana.
In addition to the banning of Styrofoam, miners have benefitted from more lands and there is now a permanent home for the Bureau of Statistics.
The achievements also included the restoration of professionalism in the public service and government being taken to the people through more outreaches.
In the city and its environs the age-old problem of non-working fire hydrants are being fixed- more than 400 of them have been rehabilitated.
With respect to updating the country’s laws, work has started to reform the Constitution with one key report already completed.
During the two years, under the coalition, there has been a 38 percent in the minimum wage; a review of the Integrity legislation for public officials, rehabilitation of the Mazaruni prisons and a successful gun amnesty programme.
A Code of Conduct for public officials has also been completed and dozens of state boards reconstituted.
Several ICT hubs have also been launched in the hinterland with the first-ever Hackathon hosted for budding programmers.
There have been critical repairs to key highways including the East Bank, Soesdyke/Linden, and Corentyne.
Two aging ferries have been given another lease on life – Lady Northcote and MV Kimbia with the North West, Region One route now more dependable.
(Continued on page 31)
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