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Godard asserted that “police reform is key to getting crime under control but that and other key reforms can only succeed if there is cooperation between the country’s two major political forces.”
Moreover, the ambassador declared that “political stability is essential for economic progress.”
He contended that the general economic slowdown has certainly hurt Guyana, but the crime wave and the political stalemate have served to undermine the investment climate and discourage investment. The result of this is that there has been only limited economic growth - 1.2% in 2002, Godard said.
Highlighting his country’s assistance to Guyana to get things back on track, Godard pointed that the U.S. has joined with others in the international community, notably the British and the Canadians, “to urge a resumption of high-level talks between President (Bharrat) Jagdeo and new leader of the opposition Robert Corbin.”
The ambassador said that jointly they have strongly supported the naming of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s special envoy Sir Paul Reeves, a senior statesman from New Zealand. “Sir Paul and his staff stand ready to play a helpful role as a facilitator. As such, he is fully prepared to support the so-called Social Partners Initiative that seeks to broker such discussions.” In addition, the U.S. is providing funding for electoral reform, and for the legislative and judicial branches.
Looking to the future
But looking to the future, Godard said that “Guyana stands to benefit tremendously from its geographic location once the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas comes on line in 2005.” The embassy’s economic programmes, he said, are designed to help improve the investment climate and prepare the country for the FTAA.
“Guyana, the only English-speaking country on the South American continent, is uniquely poised to be a gateway for trade between North America, the world’s largest economy, and Brazil, the world’s tenth largest economy,” the U.S. ambassador observed. The road between Lethem on the Brazilian border and Georgetown has recently been upgraded and traffic is flowing, he said, and it will undoubtedly become a significant commercial artery.
Turning attention to security, a second key area of U.S. assistance in Guyana, Ambassador Godard referred to the strong military-to-military relationship that has been developed in recent years with the Guyana Defence Force. The embassy’s Military Liaison Office has an active exchange and training programme with the GDF supported by the U.S. Southern Command, he said .
Hardly a week goes by, he noted, that GDF personnel are not in the U.S. on some kind of exchange or training, or U.S. military personnel are in Guyana to conduct training. Godard also mentioned the ongoing U.S. cooperation with this country on narcotics trafficking as well as the supply of some key equipment to the GDF to give the force greater mobility.
Reason for optimism
The ambassador acknowledged, however, that his first visit to the Guyanese expatriate community in New York had come late in his tenure since he is due to leave Georgetown later this year. While offering an apology for that, he expressed his stubborn optimism about the future of Guyana. According to Godard, that optimism is based on many reasons. “After having lived in the country for two years,” he said, “I believe in the intelligence and determination of her people. I respect their energy, talent and resilience.” “Confirming those qualities,” he added, “I have seen the impressive success of the Guyanese community in America.”