Dear Editor,Please allow me to share my thoughts on the actions of the Government of Guyana to convert the ExxonMobil signing bonus into US and Canadian Treasury Bonds. The Guyanese populace will draw their own conclusions based on the denial of the existence of the ‘bonus’ and its eventual disclosure.My issue is, however, with this new policy direction of investing in the US and Canadian economies. US$18 million is not an enormous sum by our economic standard; there can be no need to stash this paltry sum for ‘safe-keeping’: this sum is less than two per cent of our annual budget. Surely, we could put this money towards our own development. I can assure all Guyanese that we will be able to afford lawyers for the Guyana-Venezuela ICJ case without this ‘bonus’ to assist us. US$3 million of this amount has been earmarked for ‘capacity building’; how is this being achieved with the funds otherwise invested? Are we going to use the interest generated for the capacity-building programme? Guyana recently borrowed US$900 million for unspecified projects, will some of this also be ‘invested’ surreptitiously in US and Canadian bonds? Government needs to revisit this policy direction as a matter of great urgency.Editor, many see low-yield bonds as a very secure investment; however, these bonds are by no means infallible and Governments do default from time to time. US Treasury Bonds must be deemed a risky investment by any yardstick as that country continues to borrow heavily to maintain a quality of life beyond its means, continuously raising its debt ceiling and other risk factors. A fitting analogy would be of a poor man lending to his ostentatiously rich neighbour; sure, he has all the trappings of wealth – mansion, cars, flashy lifestyle that seems unreachable to the poor man, but underneath all the flash, he is mortgaged to the hilt, in debt beyond his ability to repay and playing a Ponzi scheme to keep himself afloat. Many a man has fallen for these schemes, should Guyana be investing in such a country? What place in line would we be if they default? Let us invest in ourselves and build our own nation before we prop up an ailing economic power.A timely reminder to the Government of Guyana that ‘Charity begins at home’ may be in order.Sincerely,Robin Singh
Dear Editor,The events of the past week involving the charges laid against Dr Ashni Singh and Winston Brassington should remove all doubts from anyone who still had doubts as to where the country is heading. The charges and handcuffing, fingerprinting and the ridiculous bail that they have been placed on, suggest that we are going down a very slippery slope to social and economic ruination.This regime, as the earlier People’s National Congress regime, seems unable to grasp the fact that there is a direct links between the base (economics of the country) and the infrastructure (the legal system, the various institutions). They constantly interact and affect each other.It is clear that Ashni Singh and Winston Brassington are victims of a vindictive regime that seems intent on subverting all our institutions to persecute those perceived as being unsupportive of the Granger regime.Much has already been said about the case. Singh and Brassington did absolutely nothing illegal nor corrupt.In fact, in one case they sold a plot of land way above the market value. This was in the case of the Rusal sale. The market value of that plot of land was obtained by an open tender. It was sixteen million dollars.It was sold for some thirty million dollars per acre.The regime spoke about the valuation by a valuator. However, the most important determination of the market value is the market itself. That is best obtained from public bids.Indeed, many people feel the charges are frivolous. That is why the lawyers for those two gentlemen have taken the matter to the High Court to rule on.The fact that the Magistrate refused to await the hearing of that case before proceeding with the charges against these gentlemen is most unfortunate and in the view of a large cross section of our population, unreasonable.If the regime and its investigators felt that any corrupt action took place, how come none of the purchasers were questioned about the transaction?Moreover, if they are talking about market value then they are saying that almost all of the more than one hundred thousand house lots that were sold during the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) in office below market value. Are they going to charge all those who obtained those lots which were below the market value?Clearly, the intention of the regime is to harass people whom they felt made a major contribution to the glaring successes of successive PPP/C Administrations.The negative attitude of the APNU/AFC to important projects of the PPP/C Government was seen from the time they obtained the one seat majority in Parliament.They killed the Amaila Hydro Project; they halted the Specialty Hospital project; they have drastically reduced the scope of the airport project; and we recall their determined efforts to damage the financial sector of our economy by voting against the Anti-Money Laundry Bill. On taking power they have set about to destroy the sugar industry.Now, the persecution of the people who worked hard to push these projects has begun. These actions will lead us to disaster.In the first place, it would lead to greater brain drain. Many professionals will seek their fortunes elsewhere. They must know that today it is the PPP/C that is targeted and tomorrow it will be others. With the deprofessionalisation of the Police and other security forces and the subversion of the justice system, it is clear that that would impact on economic decisions. Business people would refrain from investing and taking risks. Our economy would flounder.As the bureaucracy grows bigger, as it is bound to do under such governance, revenues will decline, jobs would be lost, education; health and housing would be sacrificed to feed the bureaucracy and to satisfy the huge appetite of the corrupt.Already we see the growing deficits, the depletion of our foreign currency and gold reserves. At the same time the debt is rising.Guyana is on the road to returning to its Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) status.We have been on this road before and we know where it is taking us.That is why I am extremely disappointed at the deafening silence of the Private Sector.If they feel that by staying silent they would be spared the wrath of the regime they are sadly mistaken. Life has thought us time and again that is only a matter of time when they will be consumed. No one should remain silent by these unjust and vindictive acts. Anyone who thinks he/she is safe must remember Ashni Singh and Winston Brassington.Yours sincerely,Donald Ramotar(Former President)
Dear Editor,Over the years, there have been numerous complaints by the public about the situation at the Stabroek Market, mainly under the clock concerning the buying/selling of stolen articles (mostly jewellery, cell phones etc) and people being robbed blatantly there. Quite recently, one Minister had the audacity to go whilst someone was videoing her and question and have conversations with some of those gathered around the area of concern.During the period, the Minister’s position seemed defensive towards the men there and somewhat in agreement with the illegal activities being conducted there, while she criticised the Opposition and encouraged the gathering to talk ills at the same time.The Guyana Police Force, The City Constabulary and Government, among others, tried all methods to eradicate the sores from that vicinity to no avail. Now we see a Minister blatantly going and seemingly condoning the nefarious activities being conducted there.Her being there and being videoed only makes me come to one conclusion: that she is tired of hearing of police raiding there (which seems quite a lot recently) and decided to visit the area, ensuring that she’s being videoed to let those in authority know that she has an interest there (maybe with Government’s consent) and they must stop pressuring that area. Her action should be a cause of concern to everyone.Editor, conveniently, the late Abdul Kadir is being honoured for his contributions, which might be the right thing to do be for some, but for many, his contributions might not be that much to warrant him being honoured and there are many who accomplished more than him that should have been ahead of him, but conveniently, he comes first.Based on the recent outcome after the NFC recently, we all know that all the MP’s have to know what is going on before the sitting so that means everyone was in agreement with that motion. There are many people that deserve the award more than him and I am wondering if they will be given any consideration. One such person is Winston Murray, who was very much active in politics until his untimely demise. Ask most within the PNC about his contribution and you will hear.Like him, there are many others and some are still alive and I strongly believe that they should be honoured. Let them know that this nation appreciates their contributions towards the development of Guyana. I was privileged to interact with a few and learnt a lot from them and after listening to their works, I wonder why they are not being recognised.We have great men like Jeffrey Thomas, Oscar Clarke, Clifton Mortimer Llewellyn John, just to name a few. I have heard of the changes they made while serving this country, the impact and some are still being used to date. These men are very much alive and they should be honoured now, instead of waiting after their death. It’s comical to see a convicted terrorist being honoured. Great men being bypassed. It just shows the nature of thinking within the coalition which all members support.Sincerely,Sahadeo Bates
… Parika Health Centre to get Dental and X-ray UnitAn X-ray machine has been sitting in the crate in which it came for over five years at the Leguan CottagePublic Health Minister, Dr George Norton highlighting the substandard work done at the facilityDr Norton and the US expert Mark Giboney examining the X-ray machineHospital, in Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara) and health authorities have no idea why no attempts were made to have the piece of equipment set up and functioning.Public Health Minister, Dr George Norton was completely flabbergasted when he visited the health facility over the weekend. “I can’t understand why such a machine would be allowed to just lay up in the corner,” he expressed.With the help of the regional authorities, the Minister opened the crate to examine the machine. It was then discovered that the machine is an outdated Chinese brand and officials were unable to determine if it works and whether all parts were available.Nonetheless, the Minister charged the health authorities to have the X-ray department up and running as soon as possible.Health officials were unable to say when X-ray services will be offered to the public because of the magnitude of tasks that need to be completed.The building was constructed under the previous Administration to function as the X-ray department and laboratory. However, according to Principal Radiographer at the Public Health Ministry, Donna Bowman, the building itself needs to undergo extensive modifications and repairs before it can serve as intended.The door needs to be lined with lead, the walls need to be fortified against radiation and a protective barrier needs to be created for the X-ray machine’s control panel among other things.Bowman further explained that no one consulted her department before constructing the facility, and now changes will have to be made which will now be both costly and challenging. In light of the changes which are needed, the present Administration has allocated $5 million to modify the building which is expected to be completed by the end of June.Dr Norton stressed that every effort will be made to have the facility functioning as intended.An X-ray department is expected to greatly aid the hospital in its functioning. The hospital has had to refer cases for X-ray to the West Demerara Hospital.Meanwhile, Mark Giboney, a Biomedical Technician attached with the United States Army Reserve, accompanied the Minister on his tour with the intention of offering assistance to Guyana.Giboney said he will make attempts to organise an arrangement where the US Army can dispatch a mission to Guyana to go from site to site to examine the equipment at the various health facilities across the country and determine what ways to provide assistance.Giboney also collected a list of certain basic equipment lacking at the various health facilities and will try to mobilise a team to make donations to Guyana.Moreover, the Parika Health Centre will soon be equipped with both an X-ray and a dental unit. During his visit there, the Minister was informed that the facility is 95 per cent complete.At Parika, the installation of lead glass, a hatch and air conditioning units are all that remain to be completed.However, sourcing the glass is expected to take roughly two months.The X-ray service will become available shortly after installation of additional parts once they are obtained, Regional Health Officer, Dr Shawn Bancroft explained. There are already trained technicians to man the facility once it is up and running.The Dental Unit is also expected to be operationalised shortly.
Mr. Alfred N. Kawrel, president of the Liberian Artisanal Fishermen Association (LAFA), Inc., has called on the Government of Liberia and prominent Liberian citizens to support the Fishery Association of Liberia.He said fishermen across the country have continued to face harassment at the hands of the Coast Guard during their various fishing expeditions in Liberia’s territorial waters.Mr. Kawrel stated that at times, the Guards take the fish from the fishermen without giving any concrete reason.“This is bad and it has to stop. These people should be helping us; not harassing us. That is one of the reasons we need more support. If we are supported by government and allowed to express our grievances through the proper channels, then the Coast Guard would not misbehave towards us”, he averred.Mr. Kawrel explained since the organization of LAFA in 2010, fishermen have been playing major role in the agricultural and economic sectors of the Country.He said the public depend on fishermen to provide the nation’s main source of protein. Without that protein provided by fish, the workforce would not have enough energy to contribute to towards the nation’s goals.“We are major contributors to the agricultural sector. If we are treated unfairly, then the sector would become paralyzed because of the lack of fish in the Liberian market. We all know what that means to Liberian society,” he stated bluntly.Mr. Kawrel made these statements on Thursday in West Point when the LAFA held a meeting with its members on the challenges being faced by fishermen on a daily basis. “Our union is calling on the Bureau of National Fisheries and Ministry of Agriculture to reduce the six Nautical Mile (6NM) allowed to fishing vessels in Liberian territorial waters,” he continued.“We are not satisfied with this,” he said, adding “That is why we are asking that it be reduced to 4. It is not safe for fishermen and we are asking authorities to reconsider their decision.”Mr. Kawrel explained that if the distance was reduced, foreign vessels would have no excuse to enter the Insure Exclusive Zone and harm Liberian fishermen.The LAFA president also addressed the issue of not using rubber nets, saying “we know it is dangerous to use rubber nets but we ask that the Ministry of Agriculture please give us time to meet up with regulations as we do not have money now the buy the real nets at the moment.”He furthered announced that in November 2014, LAFA would be hosting their World Fisheries Day program, something he described as an opportunity for Liberian Fishermen to network and share ideas with their international counterparts.“This celebration is important because it offers us the opportunity to meet fishermen from other countries. That is why I will urge all fishermen on Liberian soil to take part,” he concluded.Most of the fishes caught by the fishermen are consumed right here in Liberia.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
Justice-in-Chambers at the Supreme Court, Cllr. Jamesetta Wolokollie, on Wednesday, February 26, told the complainants against the controversial amendment to the Central Bank of Liberia Act to wait until the bill meets all of the requirements of law.Just days after the bill was passed by the House of Representatives, the Citizens’ Solidarity Council of Liberia, represented by Cllrs. Theophilus Gould and Lavala Supuwood, brought the amendment before the Supreme Court of Liberia, seeking to nullify the bill and declare it void in line with Article 2 of the Constitution.In order for a bill to become law in Liberia, the legislature must have passed it; after the legislature has passed said bill, it must be signed by the President and printed into handbills.The Daily Observer has reliably learned that the recently amended CBL Act has not yet been signed by the President since the two houses of the legislature unanimously voted in favor of it — the Senate on February 13 (fifteen calnedar days ago) and the House of Representatives February 18 (ten calendar days ago).Constitutional experts believe that the Justice-in-Chambers’ decision requesting the Citizens’ Solidarity Council to wait for the President’s action on the bill is an indication that the case has merit, which creates a political dilemma for President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The President, political analysts on Capitol Hill observed, is currently judging for herself whether she should sign the bill or not.According to our Executive Mansion sources, the Liberian leader considers the bill a bad law, but fears that vetoing it would further strain the already testy relationship between the Executive and the Legislative branches of government.A majority of the lawmakers, this paper is told, are meanwhile poised to override her veto.On the other hand, silence means consent: if the President does not act on the bill within 20 working days while she is in the country, the bill would automatically become law. It has been 8 working days (excluding weekends) since the House voted for the bill, concurring with the Senate. Wednesday, March 19, would mark the twentieth working day (weekends and holidays excluded) before the bill passes into law by default. However, President Sirleaf left the country Wednesday on ‘official visits’ to Nigeria and Chad. Her absence freezes time at only six (6) days since the Legislature passed the bill. She is expected to return over the weekend.An insider from the President’s office said Thursday that President Sirleaf is currently consulting stakeholders on what to do.The Liberian leader’s Annual Message in January is still fresh on the minds of the public.In her Annual Message, the President announced that the government of Liberia (GOL) would take stringent measures against state-owned enterprises from exercising discretionary disbursements approved by their boards.“We will implement stringent guidelines relating to state-owned enterprises which will no longer be allowed to make discretionary disbursements, approved by self-serving Boards that are not in conformity with our priorities and goals,” the President said.While it is not clear that this legislation is in line with that statement, the decision by the Liberian legislature to amend certain portions of the 1999 Financial Institution Act (FIA) establishing the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) to ban the governor, his deputies and members of the board of governors from contesting political office for three successive years after the expiration of their respective tenures, has left many Liberians wondering about the actual reason behind the lawmakers’ action.Some political pundits who perceive CBL officials, mainly the governor, as harboring political interests to contest the presidency of Liberia come 2017, accused the CBL boss of engaging in political campaigning using state resources. But the governor’s supporters, who are mostly small and medium-size business owners as well as youths and students, have denied these suggestions.They clarified that the CBL’s loan scheme with the banks and non-bank financial institutions is critical to economic growth and development and poverty alleviation. Those against the bill have described it as a witch hunt since, in fact, it does not cover all public officials occupying senior government positions, including the lawmakers themselves.As proponents of the bill try to explain that it is only intended to guarantee and protect the coffers of the CBL, others are equally pointing out that the bill, as it is, does not provide any protection for the national reserves.As the two groups debate the issue, the Citizens’ Solidarity Council of Liberia, which rushed to the Supreme Court of Liberia seeking to nullify the bill and declare it void in line with Article 2 of the Constitution, .Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
…will weigh heavily on the nation’s budget – Finance MinisterIn light of recent calls for another bailout to the cash-strapped sugar industry, Finance Minister Winston Jordan said recent challenges have made sugar “not as sweet”. At a press briefing Monday Jordan explained that to sustain what he deemed an “expensive industry” the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) would have to undergo “severe structural transformation” for it to be sustained.“Sugar is not what is used to be and it is probably not as sweet and sugar has to go under severe structural transformation to survive as an industry,” Jordan pointed out.In reference to the recent announcement that the Wales Sugar Estate would convert to new enterprises including dairy production, the Finance Minister revealed that government is currently petitioning the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for a loan to aid in agricultural development.“We are talking to IDB to get an agri development loan that will look at agricultural diversification… this loan is going to target dairy and livestock development,” Jordan explained.He however cautioned that the loan is still in its formulation stages. Notably, when the media questioned him as to whether considerations are being made for Wales to be covered by this loan, Jordan declined to confirm this.“I’m not saying that [the loan] would include Wales,” he said.“Diversification of sugar was attempted in the 1970s but we have to do more than attempt, we have to be realistic,” he pointed out.The minister said sugar production is not able to compete in international markets. In this light, he explained that government has an obligation to support the ailing industry but warned the industry will weigh heavily on the nation’s budget.“We have an obligation to try to carry [the industry], given its contribution to the economy; it is clear that this cannot continue forever but in the short-term the industry will weigh heavily on our budget,” Jordan pointed out.The country’s finance manager also noted that most of government allocations to the industry has already been expended.“This year, we put in $9B… today, almost 75 per cent of that has already been transferred… El Niño reduced the first crop by 30,000 tonnes. This obviously means that the sugar industry will be coming to government again for more money… this is the reality, this is not something that government can change overnight,” he posited.He further noted that government had “stepped in” and allocated $12 billion for last year as “a matter of urgency” and was also of the view that too much was expended in the past to Skeldon Estate and the Enmore packaging plant. The minister likened the two initiatives to coloured elephants.“The last government spent tremendous amounts of money including the money spent on the Skeldon and the money spent on the Enmore packaging plant and both of these are either white, black or brown elephants at the moment to which we are expected to carry,” he observed.It was only last week that Chairman of GuySuCo Dr Clive Thomas related that the corporation would need another bailout as most of the funds were already used up. President Granger in response noted that his government might be inclined to award another bailout to the declining industry.It was on Wednesday last that Agriculture Minister Noel Holder announced that Wales Sugar Estate would be converted to into a dairy product, fruit juices processing facility.“We can see the land being used for dairy production, and we can see some land being made available to people in the area so that they could farm and provide milk, provide fruit juices, provide things of that nature, and we would want to see that replicated in other estates,” Holder is quoted by the Government Information Agency as saying.Holder explained that since the lands will no longer be used for sugar cane cultivation, it will be allocated for cattle rearing, and cultivation of myriad of crops to sustain the operations of the juice plant.“[This decision presents] an opportunity to convert the estate into a model for other areas within the sugar industry’s diversification,” he noted. However it is yet to be made clear as to how these measures will be implemented.In January, it was announced that Wales would cease sugar operations by yearend.
Traditional chiefs in Liberia have vowed to curtail their age old practices which are among the main causes of the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in the country.The chiefs from the fifteen counties made the pledge recently in Gbarnga, Bong County during a ceremony marking the ongoing cross border Ebola sensitization of the Mano River bordering countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire.The cross border initiative is being implemented by the Liberia Crusaders for Peace (LCP) with sponsorship from the United Nations Children‘s Fund (UNICEF).LCP, in partnership with UNICEF, on Monday held a one-day stakeholders and traditional leaders’ forum in support of Ebola prevention in the bordering counties of Bong, Lofa, Nimba and Grand Cape Mount.On behalf of the three counties, Chief of Lofa LCP County, Musa Kamara welcomed the initiative by the , describing it as wonderful.“We will stop bathing dead bodies, eating bush meat, put a stop to Poro and Sande activities until Ebola can go,” Chief Musa pledged.The traditional leader said with the level of education being provided by the LCP to people in the counties that border Guinea and Sierra Leone, the total eradication of the virus from the region would be achieved.Chief Musa, who hails from one of the hardest hit counties, Lofa, stressed the need to cast out the virus by engaging the people and putting aside all of the traditional practices. He asserted that the right message to fight the virus came late, saying, “The virus killed most of our people before we got the right message to fight it.”The chiefs called on NGOs to provide more support and training, which will empower them to keep up the fight.“As chiefs we will make sure Ebola goes forever and we will celebrate the country’s July 26 Independence in good health,” said Chief Musa.Bong County Health Officer, Dr. Samson Arzoequoi, stated that the health team in Liberia at the start of the outbreak made a mistake by not providing the right information to the public.If the right information had been provided to the people as it is being done currently, he said, the virus would not have killed the number of people it did.He thanked the people of Bong County for following the guidelines given them by the county health team and disclosed that Bong County has been free of Ebola since December 21 of 2014.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
The Liberia Crusaders for Peace (LCP) and its partners on Tuesday conducted an assessment tour of Mercy Corps Ebola Community Action Projects (ECAP) and also pre-tested its ‘Ebola Must Go’ jingoes to be used as an effective way to create awareness in Ebola affected countries.The tour, video pre-testing, distribution of Anti- Ebola supplies and community engagement program were held in the Borough of New Kru Town with the aim of spreading Ebola awareness through Jingoes and active community engagement to fight the virus.During the occasion, Liberia Crusaders for Peace executive director, Amb. Juli Endee, said community engagement is crucial to ensure that people in all corners of Liberia remain vigilant and know what to do in the case of an outbreak, especially by listening to the music, drama and watching the movies. She informed the gathering that partners working on the project include Shalom in Grand Bassa, EQUIP Liberia, ADII in Bong, Bomi and Montserrado and RHG-L in Bong and Montserrado.Although there has been a massive decline of infections in the country, there is need to work together to ensure that the virus is totally eradicated from our country, said Amb. Endee.She encouraged the residents of New Kru Town to work assiduously for the protection from and prevention of the virus in their community.Also speaking, the program manager of EQUIP Liberia, Emmanuel N. Kemen, said the fight against the EVD is a national, international, family, community and individual issue that needs active community engagement. This is the best approach to eradicate the Ebola virus from the country, he advised.The EQUIP executive said “Ebola is our common enemy, no matter who you are and where you come from.”Mercy Corps communications manager, Laura Keenan, said Liberians are showing energy and creativity in the fight against the Ebola virus.She encouraged Liberians to continue the fight as complacency will lead to the recurrence of the virus.She thanked LCP for producing the jingoes which she described as an easy means to communicate with citizens.“Some of our people don’t read and write, but through the drama, movies and songs, they understand the meaning and do their best to keep safe,” the Mercy Corps boss asserted.For her part, the executive director of SHALOM Inc. Mrs. Pate K. Chon, said community initiative is very important because it helps residents to carry on the fight in their own communities.“Ebola is leaving Liberia with good sanitation habits. Let us continue to abide by the preventive measures by washing our hands frequently, refraining from touching and engaging in traditional practices,” she admonished.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
ATHENS: Figures released by the Greece Shipping Cooperation Committee (GSCC) show that Liberia has further strengthened its position as the undisputed leading open registry of choice for Greece ship owners and operators.The GSCC statistics show that, in the year to end-March 2015, the number of Greek-controlled ships in the Liberian Registry increased by a net total of 61 vessels, more than any other registry in the world. In the process, the Liberian Registry moved closer to the Greek flag, which recorded a net total of 20 new registrations in the 12-month period.The GSCC figures show a total of 739 Greek-controlled ships, aggregating 54.03m deadweight terms (dwt), registered with Liberia, compared to 678 vessels of 49.05m dwt at end-March 2014. Eighteen per cent of Greek-controlled ships are now registered under the Liberian flag. This is an increase on the corresponding figure for the previous year and positions Liberia second only to the Greek national flag in this respect.Almost 16 per cent of the world fleet in deadweight terms is now controlled by Greek interests, and the average age of that fleet is 2.5 years below the world average. The total amount of Greek-controlled ships in the world fleet is now at its highest level since 2008 / 2009, and the fact that Liberia has played such a leading role in this quality growth is testament to the mutual trust and respect which exists between the Greek ship owning community and the Liberian Registry.”Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)