This was on the occasion of the landmark certification of Ogle Airport as an international airport at the Terminal Building at Ogle yesterday.
President Jagdeo, delivering the feature address, and who had also delivered the feature address during the occasions of the laying of the cornerstone on 17th September 2003, and the first official opening of Phase 1 of this development on 16th March 2007, congratulated everyone who have been involved in the project over the many years until it reached the point where it will be opened to international traffic.
The President commended the initiative as an excellent project, but warned against complacency in the fructification of such welcome and important contributions to the development of our country because of the need to move on to other developmental projects.
He appealed to the private sector for even more involvement and partnerships in such ventures, where there are huge opportunities for private investors to make money, and through those partnerships, for the Government to provide the essential services that our people so badly require for their development.
Speaking of breaking new frontiers, the President said that this project will add to Government’s conception of where we should go in terms of developing transport infrastructure in Guyana – transport infrastructure that supports the growth of our country.
He spoke of the elements of the system that comprise the air transport sector and said that there are other aspects of transportation that are vital for the development of our country, such as deep-water harbours, good roads and better ferry services, among others.
He gave the assurance that the Government has ongoing projects in all these areas that are still in the deal-making stage and expressed the hope that the deals can soon be closed and the project-implementation stage begin. He also spoke of the lengthy but essential process prior to the implementation stage of making the Ogle International Airport a reality.
To approving applause, the President said that we are nearer to making the US$500 million hydropower scheme a reality.
He spoke of the importance of such partnerships between Private Sector and the Government to promote the developmental processes of our country.
The President described as essential a prior need to create the enabling environment for successful entrepreneurial activities, such as a stable economy –stable macro-economic fundamentals, to send the right signals to investors that the Government was serious about managing the affairs of this country in a responsible manner.
President Jagdeo alluded to the fiscal deficit that existed in the past, which severely inhibited socio-economic growth, but he said that, through prudent management of the nation’s fiscal situation, we have reached a level where the environment is now conducive to investments of this nature.
Speaking of the significant spending in rebuilding infrastructure which has transformed Guyana in the recent past, the President said that Guyana’s infrastructures in every sector are light years from what they were in the past, but he reiterated that the country needs to continue its developmental impetus, despite the objections and criticisms of detractors.
He spoke of building at scale, positing that, while small and cottages industries are important, large-scale investments – such as farming on plantation levels, especially in the hinterland, are an imperative and that the Government’s partnership in conjunction with the private sector – with the right mix, is important for the development of this nation, which will have many spin-off benefits to everyone.
It was an uplifting experience to listen to the scion of the Correia family, who have invested in various areas of entrepreneurship in Guyana, even while others were packing their bags and leaving these shores for what they perceive as greener pastures, speak so glowingly of the possibilities and potentials inherent in the developmental paradigm of Guyana, even as others paint the bleakest pictures of this land.
And this optimistic approach to endeavour and achievement – even to the extent of turning negatives into positives, is what has propelled families like the Correias, as well as the other investors who comprise the Ogle Airstrip Inc. (OAI), into concretizing dreams into reality.
Correia recalled returning to Guyana from Canada in 1981 at age 20, when only rice flour was available on store shelves, and compared that to current times when just about anything can be purchased.
Correia told his attentive audience “I believe it important that we reinforce the fact that Guyana is no longer considered ‘a highly-indebted country’ by the international community.
“Our foreign debt servicing is now down to less than 5% of Government revenue.”
According to Correia, most private sector companies cannot boast of such a low debt service ratio.
He quoted the President as saying that Guyana’s foreign currency reserves have now reached the highest in our history and that inflation is stable and in single digits.
“Access to foreign exchange, once an enormous problem, is now a non-issue for businesses in Guyana. Access to finance is now more readily-available, and at lower interest rates. Our banking sector is one of the strongest, and most profitable, in our country”, informed Correia.
Waxing poetical, and anyone knowing of the love of the Correias for adventure, natural things, and Guyana’s interior regions would know of their quintessential harmonizing with nature, Correia elucidated that in the midst of all this development we can simultaneously enjoy our sea breezes, our pristine forests, and our magnificent waterfalls, through the careful management of our natural resources and our environment.
He posited that this is not just optimism, but very real facts.
Correia expressed the excitement of all the investors and operators of Ogle Airport at the formal certification of Ogle as Guyana’s second international airport, almost in juxtaposition with the opening of the Berbice River Bridge and the Takatu Bridge crossing Brazil.
According to Correia the launching of the Phase 11 expansion of this new international airport and the completion of a new 4000 ft runway will result in Ogle Airport being enabled to accommodate larger aircraft which can travel over longer distances. He said that the expansion and completion of Phase 11 will have a timeline of 12 – 18 months, but will be dependent on the duration of the rainy season.
“Mr. President, as I am sure you will agree, Guyana will continue to re-emerge within CARICOM as a force to be reckoned with, both politically and economically….Let us lead CARICOM from the front on the core issue of the CSME and the regional integration of our Caribbean people”, said Correia.
Speaking of the airport hub that connects the Caribbean to South America, Correia opined that regional air transportation is critically important to integration of the Caribbean community and that this initiative is a good start.
He spoke of billions of dollars that have already been wasted, and which will continue to be wasted, because of the need to plan and function as a region instead of individual countries, each operating its own airline, or a single monopoly airline operating inefficiently within CARICOM. He also suggested as an imperative a single airspace, governed by a Central Caribbean Aviation Authority, with offices in each country, with one set of regulations, one set of inspectors that regulate one common safety standard and one common CARICOM licence for pilots and engineers.
Correia informed his audience that a Caribbean Aviation and Security Oversight System has already been agreed on and that Guyana is a signatory to this, but he expressed the concern of the Aircraft Owners Association of Guyana that the concept needs to be expanded and prioritised as a critical objective of CARICOM.