— Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance Gail Teixeira tells Toronto gathering
By Frederick Halley
HAILING what has been taking place in Guyana recently as the “Golden era”, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance Gail Teixeira said she firmly believes “that this is our time since as a people we have worked hard. We have had our differences as a people but this is our time.”
Delivering remarks at a meet and greet last Friday night at the Guyana Consulate in Toronto, the minister pointed out that almost two years after becoming President, Dr Irfaan Ali has shown no sign of slowing down in his effort to build a better Guyana, even though the country has been affected by floods, the pandemic and other challenges.
According to the minister, “All the forces are aligned in our favour in terms of our natural resources, whether accidentally or on purpose. We are one of the last-remaining rainforests, something that we should be very proud of. We are one of the few countries in the world with deforestation levels of .006 per cent.”
Teixeira informed the audience that Guyana, despite all that is happening, is in a position that it has never been before. “With oil and gas, this gives us an opportunity to transform our nation with the kind of resources that we’ve never had before. There are environmentalists who are saying, don’t take the oil out of the ocean, leave it there, but then how are we to develop? Are we to be left as one of the poorest nations in the hemisphere, is that what we want for the future of Guyanese?” she asked.
Teixeira also noted that attention will not be shifted from agriculture.
“So we are not doing what many countries have done with oil and gas, where they forget about other sectors and just depend on oil. We are not doing that. Oil will finish, it is finite, so we are going to gain from revenue from that, but use that to develop the other sectors that we can manage our country and be sustainable, regardless whether oil is there or not.”
Boasting that there’s a mood that’s taking place in Guyana “of hope, cautious optimism as you know we as Guyanese have gone through many things and sometimes when good happens, we are looking for the bad that comes after; we tend to be kind of tentative, but there’s a lot happening, not only in [the] oil-and-gas sector, but also in the other sectors — agriculture in particular.”
“We are moving into agro-processing. The President is promoting shadehouses and we have started with the first set which are going to be projects for young people to take over and manage.”
This project is being launched to help young people get involved in agriculture and to promote the cultivation of high-value crops.
“These are all areas in terms of our relations with the region. Guyana is a primary country as regards agriculture in CARICOM and we lost that. We have now regained that and thanks to the relationship between the Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Motley, who is a force to be reckoned with, and also our President, have opened up all sorts of doors for us in terms of Barbados will be training some 5,000 Guyanese in the hospitality industry. We will also acquire black belly sheep from Barbados.
“We in turn are working with Barbados to have a hub there to deal with gold jewellery, so that when cruise ships go there they have a variety of jewellery to choose from,” said the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance.
SYSTEMS IN PLACE
Pointing out that Guyana has managed both its forests and mining sectors well, Teixeira assured the audience that so too will it be for the oil-and-gas sector as government is putting the right structures and frameworks in place for this to happen.
“We have brought in new legislations to deal with the Sovereign Wealth Fund and the board that are made up of non-politicians from both the government and opposition, who will manage the National Resource Fund (NRF) which is the revenue coming from oil and gas.
“We have an Investment Committee where the parliamentary opposition has a representative; we have the Local Content Legislation which will now try to protect the Guyanese community and the Guyanese companies, so that we don’t end up like many countries that have produced oil, where foreigners control everything and we don’t really benefit at all.”
“We use our oil and managing it well, so that it will filter down and improve the lives of our people across the country. We are going to use oil and gas to create an energy mix so that we will have gas, we will have hydro and of course some fossil fuel as well. Overtime, fossil fuel will be phased out and we will be able to use other sources of energy. The big challenge we have as a country is providing cheap, affordable and reliable energy.”
Among those in attendance were Consul General (ag) Gerald Whyte and Executive Secretary Nutana Singh, who chaired the proceedings. The minister, along with President Ali, also attended the Guyana Festival Committee’s 56th Independence Gala on Saturday night. The President was visiting Toronto because of the death of his uncle, whose funeral took place on Saturday.