GINA: The National Stakeholders’ forum was a huge success. Over 100 civil society representatives engaged in open discussions with Head of State Donald Ramotar at Office of the President on March 1, as he up kept the event started by his predecessor, former President Bharrat Jagdeo.
Many left satisfied with the engagement and are looking forward to the promise of discussions of a similar nature in the near future.
At the culmination of the exercise, the Head of State reported that the views and ideas expressed were meaningful and will be appraised to determine their practicality. Included in the exchange was an overview of the economy and the state of governance.
Here are the comments of some of the stakeholders following the several hours long meeting.
Norris Witter, President, Guyana Trades Union Congress
We will seek to ensure that those meetings are reintroduced where we can sit and discuss issues of national importance not only as they affect labour but as they affect the national polity, national development and so on. I think it is a commendable beginning and we are prepared to as I said to work. What I actually did is that we have placed on the table our commitment to work with all the stakeholders including the government in the furtherance of development in Guyana.
Wazir Baksh, Member, Guyana Islamic Thrust - I very much appreciated the forum, I mean this is the early phase of the new government and it think it is a good gesture . We looked at some of the issues that concern people like education, morality, the environment, the cleanliness and development of the city and also tax reform and the other issues.
Clinton Urling, Chairman, Georgetown Chamber of Commerce – We have had a number representatives including the private sector commission, aircraft owners association- all specific issues that need to be addressed by the private sector including the issue of taxes were raised. We had the issue of political accommodation and political stability in the country which is essential and we need that climate if the economy is going to maintain its current level and also accelerate … we talked about diversification of the economy and we also talked about positioning Guyana as an export led economy. And we think the President and the Finance Minister adequately addressed some of those issues and acknowledged that the strategy has to be developed and they are working on that to accelerate both of those areas.
Doreen Jacobis, Toshao – I think it’s a good initiative by the government and the present President and I think it’s a way for us the indigenous people… our issues are far different than those that were discussed so we could ask the president to meet with us separately because certainly our issues are different. This was good, it was good and I learnt a lot from other people.
Reverend John Smith – Education is one of the issues I think that they have the different segments that affect the entire populace but I would like to see one on religion alone so that we can deal with the issues that really affect us- it was a good session. Some things can be lost in the big crowd but in the smaller setting I think we get much more hearing.
Aleema Nasir, Chairperson, Rights of the Child Commission –A lot of the people were given a voice to air their issues and some of the issues were the promises made and the Minister of Finance he gave some people hope … he gave a real realistic view of what’s going on as to the growth that is happening and how the small man is affected as well and, I think it’s a good idea for the president to meet with all of these stakeholders and find out from them first hand what’s going on and what needs to be done because these are the people who are on the ground. As the Rights of the Child Commission we were happy to learn about all the education programmes and promises of better education for children.
Pandit Krishna Persaud – It’s not my first engagement with the national stakeholder forum but it’s a very wonderful thing because there is nothing better than communication. All these ideas contribute to the national good and given the situation that our country is in we can only build upon it through these forums. I would like to commend the president and the organizations of this forum because it’s good for Guyana and many things we did not understand were made clear today so that sometimes we do not know where to get the answer but answers were provided to some silent questions that we had and so we would all welcome more of this forum.
Ronald McGarrel, PRO – Inter-religious organisation– This is a very good and important initiative; it’s good for the nation, it’s good for social cohesion because we were able to engage a wider cross-section of the community and it enables the administration to get a better feel of what is happening around Guyana- how people are feeling, how people are thinking and ideas and suggestions of how to address these situations. I think it augurs well for the country. We feel this is a very necessary, important, wise initiative.
Yvonne Pearson – NTC/IPC- It’s a good initiative in bringing all of us different stakeholders, rights holders in one area so that we can share our views and ideas. Being here representing the indigenous peoples I represent the NTC and also the IPC this is giving us an opportunity to have our voices being heard, raising some of those issues that are affecting our people. We realize it’s a big gathering and you know that time is limited but the mere fact that we were able to say something especially in the field of education and agriculture which we think there should be more focus in how we get young people involved in agriculture …so it’s very important.
Yog Mahadeo, CEO, Guyana Telephone and Telegraph –The consultation with the president was extremely good. I see it as a real positive step in the right direction I must say that the president was very open. I mean if you look at the wide array of questions that were asked which allowed him to get a feel of what were the burning issues across the spectrum of stakeholders that were present here. I must also say that he handled himself and Minister Ashni Singh and all the other Ministers they handled the session pretty well and don’t think many people would have left here without having their concerns addressed in some way. We presented a number of things from a private sector perspective – the private sector itself remain very interested in the national development strategy which we feel is a critical tool… whatever developments there have been in the private sector and public sector engagement over the last 5 to 7 years have been because of the national development strategy and so it would be very important to engage and to continue to engage on that front because that strategy addresses everything.
Christopher Ram, Chartered Accountant – I think it was a very useful forum, I think the president has a very positive approach, he is a great listener, he can rise above party politics – he is general secretary he is also president and I think he showed that he is prepared to listen to all the views obviously the proof will be on how well he moves to implement some of the things. I felt people felt confident that they could speak there without being afraid, they might be criticized or jumped upon for not understanding this or for not understanding that. There is a commitment by him that we are going to meet again in another couple of months… I am sure if we can keep this pattern of consultation going then Guyana will be the total winner and I believe I am looking forward to seeing them act upon some of the matters.
Gillian Burton –Member, Gender and Equality Commission –It was very much welcomed coming from the president and him wanting to meet with stakeholders so that he can have an insight as to what we would like to see happening as we seek to develop the country together. We cannot do it singlehandedly and we applaud the president for this initiative and we have committed ourselves as a commission to work with the government as we seek to have issues addressed and find a way forward.
Dunstan Barrow – EMPERTEC- It was good in the sense that what really happened is that there were a lot of issues that were raised but obviously you could not have dealt with all those issues in here to four hours and what came out they have decided that they would have different sections – education, natural resources, and have the kind of give and take well this is what the government wants to do and this is what the private sector or the other stakeholders feel that the government should include. What I hope happens is that it does not become just a talk shop and eventually you are able to take the ideas and suggestions from there and incorporate it into whatever we decide to do to make certain that the whole creation of wealth and the economy grows which is very important.
Gerry Gouveia, Member, Private Sector Commission - I was actually quite pleased with the atmosphere I thought it was very inclusive and the president listened. I think that was one of the most important thing – I noticed the president didn’t do a lot of talking; the president listened to the stakeholders and actually I was very impressed with the comments from the people on the floor and their support and hope. What this gives us is a lot of hope for the future and that was very impressive for me and the Minister of Finance did an excellent job in attempting to explain his own side and his perspective of where development is going to happen. … So I think this was a very good forum that put people in perspective and it’s a good platform for us to move forward on.
John Bennette – Secretary Guyana Small Business Association – My general impression is that the questions were beautifully put and they were beautifully answered by Dr. Ashni Singh and the President himself. His intervention had been inspiring to us.