British envoy optimistic about Guyana
-- says 2007 is pivotal year
Guyana Chronicle
March 16, 2007

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BRITISH High Commissioner to Guyana Fraser Wheeler is optimistic about Guyana and says 2007 is a pivotal year to make things happen.

But, he stressed, in a recent dinner address to the Rotary Club of Demerara that a lot remains to be done in key areas and the international community is ready help.

The British High Commission said his address centred on the complexities of challenges, but also the extraordinary opportunities facing countries in today’s world.

It said he focussed on a number of global issues with real relevance to Guyana, including the movement of capital; migration of people; governance; energy and climate change; poverty; security and conflict; and technological change.

Mr. Wheeler, the High Commission said, underlined the importance of competitiveness. Congratulating the Guyana Government and private sector on agreeing and finalising the National Competitiveness Strategy, he said the key is now in the implementation and suggested that full implementation of the strategy is the most important factor to Guyana achieving sustained economic growth.

“Within that strategy the ongoing programmes on diversification of agriculture and promotion of tourism appear to be going well…There remains a great deal to do, and the international community is ready to help. I suggest when the CWC

(Cricket World Cup) is over this should be a high priority - there are major opportunities to be realised for Guyana.”

On the issue of crime and security, the High Commission said Wheeler noted that organised crime is probably the greatest threat facing Guyana, but in this the country is not alone. “It is a global, regional and national phenomenon.”

According to Wheeler, the smuggling of narcotic drugs is a particular problem that not only stifles legitimate business and undermines the local economy, but also contributes to the proliferation of small arms on the streets of Georgetown, and undermines governance.

“Guyana requires a comprehensive solution to deal with crime and security and I hope that the British Government will be able to make a significant contribution to this effort in the coming months.”

On governance, the mission said, he pointed out that a number of Guyana’s challenges are regional in nature and therefore require regional solutions. Regional integration using new regional governance models that are currently under consideration may well be the future.

According to the High Commission, in terms of national governance, he said the international community stands ready to fully support the introduction of the governance reforms the government has committed to. This need remains as critical as ever, he added.

Wheeler also talked of global governance and underlined the interdependence of countries, and shared values.

He said globalisation is about justice and fairness as well as security and prosperity adding that “we cannot for example call ourselves in Europe and North America open societies and close our markets to free trade with the poorest countries. There is no prosperity without security; and no security without justice.”

The High Commission said he talked of a global alliance being constructed on this agenda and was delighted that there was renewed impetus behind the Doha Trade and Development Round.

The envoy said all these issues are interlinked and solutions therefore had to be cross-cutting.

“It is not possible to reduce poverty without for example containing crime, improving governance, creating an economic regime conducive to investment, and mitigating climate change. Equally it is not possible to mitigate climate change without open markets and scientific innovation. (On climate change, he noted there was opportunity, as well as the threat of flooding or drought for Guyana. “Guyana’s forests may become more valuable intact (as carbon sinks) than cut”).

The mission said he gave a vivid local illustration of what this all means: “The loss of 90% of Guyana’s graduates every year is not sustainable. This loss is partly explained by the lure of higher salaries. But it is more than that. It is about the interaction of the economic, security and governance issues I have highlighted. And the loss of capacity from those graduates leaving means it is harder to make the necessary reforms. Fewer reforms mean more leave. The breaking of that cycle is critical to the future of Guyana, and the international community stands ready to help”.

He noted that although global situations are rapidly changing and the world now is more uncertain than ever before, he remains optimistic about Guyana’s future.

“But the stakes are high, and this year is a pivotal time to make things happen. After the CWC (which he is looking forward to immensely) there will no longer be time for sitting high in the stands, and watching the field of play. The team needs to work as one and get stuck in. This game matters like none before. Game on!” Wheeler concluded.