Speech by His Excellency President Bharrat Jagdeo on the occasion of Investiture Ceremony National Cultural Centre October 5, 2000.


Posted October 29th 2000

On behalf of the government and people of Guyana I congratulate all those who today received national awards. You have given selflessly to your country. And though you expected no reward in return, the nation in recognition of your efforts, pay tribute to you. We must emulate the dedication of those who have excelled in their work. While it is important that we aspire to gain the materials things that bring us comfort, this alone cannot distinguish us as a nation. Equally important are fundamental values such as honesty, honour, patriotism, and integrity.

If we follow these principles it will be much easier for us to move forward as a nation. It important that we remind ourselves of how vulnerable our young independent nation can be. Let us be on our guard lest we fall prey to the few who live off divisiveness, disrespect and dishonesty. Those who have achieved excellence have done so because they have love for the nation and people at heart. There are those among the awardees who, regardless of the lure of greener pastures, occupied their posts for decades, giving selfless public service. There are those who, in the face of great difficulties, never surrendered the principles in which they believed.

I am sure that these examples will serve to inspire the tens of thousands of young people who are working hard today to realize a better life and a strong and united Guyana. There is virtue in hard work, honesty and love for others.

Since achieving Independence in 1966, we have progressed slowly in spite of our massive resource base. We have had many problems that resulted in Guyana being left far behind our Caricom partners, especially in economic development. We need to bridge this gap in the shortest possible time. The challenges are many, but Guyanese are industrious people and I am confident that we will do it.

But is not just hard work that is needed. As a nation we have to be guided by a vision. We in the PPP/Civic have a clear vision of how to achieve national prosperity. But that prosperity cannot be measured merely by looking at statistics. It must come from an examination of how many opportunities we give to our young people and how we care for the elderly and the less privileged. Our vision is premised on the belief that the people must be the center of development. The objective of all our plans is that at the end of the day, we would have created a new Guyana of which all Guyanese can be truly proud.

The key elements of our strategy are:

Rehabilitation and expansion of physical and policy infrastructure necessary for a more conducive environment for investment and widening the scope of economic activities. These are aimed at creating more jobs for our people;

Modernisation of the social infrastructure to provide more benefits to the people in the areas of education, health, housing, culture and recreation;

Poverty reduction through a variety of programmes targeted at the vulnerable groups in the country;

Making sure tax-payers money is properly spent through good governance, efficient management and accountability; and

the accelerated development of the indigenous Amerindian people.

Our development perspective is not purely economic and therefore the following are important:

Preserving and broadening of human, civil and political rights;

Maintaining a progressive democracy at all levels;

Patriotism and preservation of our territorial integrity;

Ending all forms of discrimination;

Increasing focus on family development;

Protection of the environment;

Greater involvement of young people; and

the empowerment of the Rule of Law.

Today the entire world is being engulfed by the tide of globalisation and trade liberalization. As was pointed out by most of the leaders of the world at the just concluded Millennium Summit, this process poses severe dangers for small developing countries like Guyana. But we have to face these challenges and prepare ourselves to do business in a difficult situation. For these reasons adjustments and reforms are necessary. Reforms are taking place in many areas: the public service, the legal system, the financial sector, the productive sector, in health, and education. The aim of these measures is a more efficient management of resources and to satisfy the growing needs of the population. These are also intended to place Guyana in a more advantageous position in interacting with the global community.

Our strategy for repositioning our country in the new global environment and for achieving rapid economic growth is two-fold. The first is to restructure and make more efficient the traditional sectors of rice, sugar, bauxite, forestry and gold. The second is to develop a new range of products in areas such as tourism, fisheries, down-stream manufacturing, utilizing local resources, information technology, the service and financial sectors and the development of a dynamic small business sector. In this regard, local and foreign investment is vital to our success in job creation. The investment climate has improved in the last few years but we have to do much more. It is becoming increasingly difficult for small economies to attract investment but we have to devise ways and means to defy the odds.

In order to make Guyana a place for the investment dollar, we all have a role to play. Investors need to be provided with efficient services, a sound macro-economic climate and a stable political environment. They will not come if our country is beset with internal problems. In our democracy, differences on how to govern the nation will be there. But political rivalry and electioneering must be done according to certain rules and with responsible behaviour. In everything we do we must be conscious that the national interest comes first. Anything that harms that interest is detrimental to our very survival. Extreme actions on the part of a few could jeopardize the well being of all. The plans we are putting in place, like other national tasks, will succeed or fail depending on how much the people identify with them and actively participate in their implementation. For us to progress, we must do so together and in recognition of the role each one of us has to play. Each and every citizen of Guyana has a right to decide on the future of the country and to be involved in making that future a reality.

Concomitant with the rights of citizens are responsibilities. It is the responsibility of all of us to give a little to the nation. Dedicated service to the people is the highest service one can give. This investiture is being held on an important date. Today, October 5, marks a very important milestone in the history of our country. It was on a day like this in 1992 that democracy returned to our dear land. It was a victory for all Guyanese. I recall that event not to remind us of the outcome of the polls but to recommit ourselves to the deepening and strengthening our democracy.

As this year's national awardees have proven, there is great potential in our people and nation. For our country to be truly prosperous, each and every citizen must strive for excellence. Let us take inspiration from those who have dedicated their lives to nation building. Let us move forward together as one united people.

Thank you.

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