June 25, 2017

Cops hunting deportee over brutal murder of ex-wife

Dead: Mintie Karamchand

Police in Berbice are on the hunt for a man after he hacked his ex-wife to death and escaped after plunging into the Canje River.

Dead is Mintie Karamchand, 40, of 19 Sheet Anchor, Berbice. The restaurant waitress and mother of five, was killed at her home in the presence of one of her children.

The suspect, 47-year-old Goldburn December, is said to have fled the scene. Police are on the hunt for him.

December and Karamchan separated eight years ago after a 20-year relationship and he migrated to Suriname but was deported last month and returned to Sheet Anchor.

It is still unclear what triggered the brutal attack. However, the couple’s second child, Drucilla December, 21, said her mother returned home at 06:00h on Wednesday.

She related that even though her father had moved back home, he and Karamchand had not rekindled their relationship. “He try touching her since he come back but she says that she have somebody and that she don’t want anything to do with him and I tell him not to touch Mummy, and since then he never try to touch her again,” the daughter related.

Suspect: Goldburn December

Meanwhile, she noted that shortly after her mother arrived home, an argument broke out between her and her mother. According to the young mother, she decided to move out with her baby but her mother said she will move and started to pack some of her belongings. She said she went out of the house and then heard a loud voice coming from the lower flat and rushed to investigate. As she got close to the window, she saw her mother covered in blood jumping out of the window. She said her father was at the time holding a chopper and she went between her parents in an attempt to protect her mother.

At the time she was holding her baby who is a few days old. “He tell me to move and I run outside and holla for help…”

She noted that December picked up a bench and went towards her mother but she did not see what happen next since she was trying to get assistance.

Eyewitnesses say December used the bench to hit the woman in her head. According to one neighbour, Vanessa Artiga, after inflicting the injuries, December fled. Artiga said she was told of the incident and rushed over by which time other neighbours were flocking into the yard and Karamchamd was lying in a pool of blood. Shortly after, she saw the suspect returning to the yard.

“She was breathing then the husband, which is Goldburn, he run back inside the yard and he say, ‘Oh you ent die yet, you hard fo die.’ And he pick up a short piece of wood and give she like three or four hit on she head.”

Artiga said the Police were contacted but they were advised to take the victim to the hospital and then go to the station and make a report.

A taxi was called and the badly injured woman was taken to the hospital where she was pronounced dead on arrival.

Asked why December was not apprehended, Artiga said that there was not enough manpower to do so.

According to Drucilla, many persons were afraid of her father including her 23-year-old brother. She referred to him as a person who frequently consumed alcohol. This practice, she said, started before he left Guyana and was one of the reasons for the separation. She noted that after being deported, he had not been taking many drinks but recently returned to his old habit.

Meanwhile, residents say the man left with a rope and headed for the Canje River. According to one eyewitness, they were on a wharf and saw a man wearing only trousers. The man swam the river and used a tree to climb onto shore in the vicinity of the National Psychiatric Hospital. At the time he was not carrying anything in his hands.

 

Vietnamese, Mauritian diplomats accredited

Ambassador of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to Guyana, Do Ba Khoa presenting his Letters of Credence to President David Granger in the presence of Minister of State and Acting
Foreign Affairs Minister, Joseph Harmon and Director General in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Audrey Waddell at State House on Wednesday

As Guyana seeks to strengthen ties with its international neighbours, President David Granger has accredited two new diplomats of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the Republic of Mauritius.

The Guyanese leader accepted the Letters of Credence from the Vietnamese Ambassador and Mauritian High Commissioner at State House on Main Street, Georgetown.

The newly accredited Vietnamese Ambassador, Do Ba Khao, highlighted his country’s own outstanding Gross Domestic Product (GDP) performance over the past three decades, while recognising that Guyana continues to maintain political and economic stability despite external challenges not only in the Region but the world.

Nevertheless, the non-resident diplomat noted that this renewed bilateral will see the two countries benefiting from each other in their respective national development.

“The Government and people of Vietnam are very pleased with the new step to develop our traditional relationship and cooperation. We would like to further our bilateral relations,” Ambassador Do Ba Khao stated.

Delivering remarks, President Granger outlined that both Guyana and Vietnam have identified similar areas such as coast to coast protection, forest protection, bio-diversity cultivation as sustainable development priorities in their environmental strategies.

He recognised too that the countries have both adopted the 2020-2030 agenda for Sustainable Development as well as signed the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. To this end, the Guyana Leader underscored the progress Vietnam has made in these areas, saying Guyana in pushing its green economy agenda, looks forward to benefit from its 42-year-old diplomatic relationship with Vietnam.

Meanwhile, President Granger in his remarks to the non-resident Mauritian diplomat, Sooroojdev Phokeer, outlined that the adverse effects of climate change pose common challenges to the national development goals of the two countries.

On this note, the Head of State pointed to the need for Guyana and Mauritius, as member countries of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, to continue cooperation within that framework on matters relating to Small States.

“Guyana looks forward to consolidating its cooperation with Mauritius… (since it) is moving towards the establishment of a green state; one that will place emphasis on the protection of our environment, on the preservation of our biodiversity, the provision of ecotourism and eco-educational services, and on the promotion of renewal energy and practicable measure to ensure climate adaptation,” the President noted.

The Mauritian High Commissioner, on the other hand, said this renewed bi-lateral relations would pave the way for the two countries to achieve common goals as Small States.

Diplomatic ties between Guyana and Mauritius was established in December 1992.

‘Brace yourselves for tough times’ – Jagdeo warns Guyanese

Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo

Guyanese have been put on notice to prepare for bitter days ahead in Guyana, due to the alleged mismanagement, incompetence, and political hardline positions that the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU)/Alliance For Change (AFC) Coalition Government continues to take.

This is according to former President and current General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), Bharrat Jagdeo, who claimed that the Guyanese economy is slowly shrinking; there is higher unemployment, rising income inequality, and a shrinking middle class.

“Every time we were in Government, we always had a positive attitude to the future. We will come to you and talk about our plans for the future. When I come here tonight, the only message I can bring to you is a sad message: that things are going to get significantly worse in your lives and in the lives of Guyanese, before it gets better when the PPP resumes office,” he told a recent political meeting.

Jagdeo said while the coalition Government remains in office for the next few years, because of their inept economic vision, they will continue to generate excuses as to why the Guyanese economy is floundering and why people are losing jobs, rather than tackling the fundamental problems. He said people’s lives will only change for the worse.

The former Head of State pointed to the 200 new tax measures that were introduced last year, stating that they have not yet kicked in fully, but when they do, Guyanese will feel the squeeze.

“You will see the cost of living going up, the business community will be unable to survive in the new tax environment,” he stated, noting that with constant harassment from the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), these businesses will not feel driven to invest and create more jobs in the future.

“So, you would see not only deterioration in terms of cost of living going up, but less jobs being produced in the future because no one wants to invest in this country. And right now, people are losing jobs rather than them creating jobs that they (government) promised,” he further stated.

Jagdeo, a trained Economist, also highlighted that when the new policy measures taken in the sugar industry take affect this year-end, this will create more chaos in Guyana, but more particularly in communities that depend heavily on the industry for their survival.

Another key sector of the economy is mining. And Jagdeo said the two percent turnover tax which has been changed to 28 percent and imposed on small miners will also have a negative impact on their operations. “It is only when they have to file their income tax return at the end of the year that they would realise that they are liable to thousands of dollars more of taxes, and many of them will fall out of mining,” Jagdeo said he foresees.

Shifting his attention to the local forestry sector, the Opposition Leader said there is already a collapse of this sector, as people can’t find markets for their products. And equally important, he noted that construction activity has gone down to some optimal levels, largely because of the taxation policy implemented under the coalition Government.

“In retail trade, because they are taking so much money out of the economy through taxation, the Value Added Tax (VAT) alone will give them about G$21 billion more this year, taking it out of people’s pockets. They are sapping the lives of economic activities in Guyana, and therefore retail trade is going down and almost every business you talk to is laying off people,” he laminated.

Baseless

The Opposition Leader also termed the Government’s argument that the PPP left the economy in a decline as “baseless and far from reality”. As a matter of fact, Jagdeo said, Finance Minister Winston Jordan told the National Assembly a few months ago that the PPP did a good job at managing the economy.

“That’s the picture of Guyana; and every single day you listen to this Government, rather than addressing the economic decline, rather than saying ‘hold on a minute, we have to ensure that rice, sugar and bauxite and all the other sectors of the economy do well’, they have now latched on to a couple of excuses that they are cleaning out corruption from the economy that is why things are bad.”

He recalled than when the PPP took office in 1992, Guyana’s debt was nine and a half times the size of the local economy. It later grew, and Guyana repaid a large sum of its debt. “From the time the PPP left office, it was less than half the size of the economy, and the debt servicing in 1992, according to Carl Greenidge himself, was 153 percent of revenue of all taxes collected,” he added.

When the PPP left office in 2015, it was four percent of revenue. “So we left them a lot of money, and that is why they could have passed the three biggest budgets in our history even though they are claiming we don’t have money and we left them a bankrupt economy.”

He noted that when the PPP/C demitted office, Guyana was the fastest growing country in the region, with 10 years of continuous growth. “We left 165 billion in recurrent revenue, US$700 million in the central bank, and 40 billion dollars in the semi-autonomous agencies through these private accounts…so if as they claiming, so many persons were not paying taxes…why it is that Guyana was making rapid progress and was defying all odds?”

Jagdeo also pointed to the coalition’s previous budgets, which totalled some G$700 billion in the past few years. He said, “That is not the symptom of a country that doesn’t have money. But what are they doing with the money they collect; they are spending it on themselves.”

PPP/C MP slams Govt for deliberate delay in setting up of LGC

Government’s reluctance to establish the Local Government Commission (LGC) is seen as a deliberate attempt to trample on local democracy; and it exposes the coalition’s “falsity”, former Local Government Minister and People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Member of Parliament (MP) Ganga Persaud has said.

Persaud said it is extremely disappointing that after all the statements and concerns expressed by the coalition Government, to enhance democracy and to rush bills while promising to give more autonomy to the local Government bodies, the LGC is yet to be established.

“I think it has really exposed the real thinking behind this Government. When in Opposition, the local Government and establishing the Local Government Commission was the salvation for local democracy in this country. Now in Government, the Local Government Commission is seen as a monster that will eat away at local democracy,” Persaud told Guyana Times International on Sunday.

The former minister also chastised Government for its delay in appointing nominees for this important body, claiming that “it’s a deliberate ploy, because the minister wants to use their terms, he wants to be the control freak, to hug up all the sources of power and roll them up under his thumb.”

Persaud went on to state that it is more unfortunate, given all the major promises made by the now Government to restore local democracy, give greater autonomy to people, and allow them to manage their own affairs, so that local Government can grow to the benefit of all Guyanese.

“I don’t know how the minister Mr (Ronald) Bulkan can really rest; if he does get a chance to, knowing that his strong advocacy has all been exposed as falsity,” Persaud asserted.

Another PPP Member of Parliament, Neil Kumar, has also accused the coalition Government of trying to do everything in its power to frustrate the smooth running of Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) after that party had been soundly thrashed at the March 2016 Local Government Elections.

Kumar had also said that if the LGC is not established soon, the entire machinery of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) would be shut down, and the only function of the Elections Commission would be that of identification cards’ distribution at all the permanent centres.

The Opposition indicated recently that it plans to convene consultation with members of the coalition Government. The Opposition is also prepared to resubmit a new list of nominees for the post of Gecom chairman.

Although the parliamentary Opposition named its nominees to the LGC since last year, the Government has so far failed to make any nominations. This has resulted in a deadlock.

In the 2016 budget estimates, some G$30 million have been allocated by the Government to the non-functioning LGC. When asked, Bulkan had stated that this was to allow the Commission to operate independently of Central Government.

The LGC, when established, will have oversight over the various local authority areas in the country. It would also be responsible for appointing officials in the NDC and local authority areas, as well as approving budgets for the NDCs.

By law, the Commission is to be made up of eight members — four nominated by the Government, one from the unions, and three from the Leader of the Opposition.

Former acting Town Clerk Carol Sooba and former Local Government Ministers Norman Whittaker and Clinton Collymore were nominated as the PPP’s representatives on the LGC.

In addition, the Committee on Appointments had recommended that Andrew Garnett of the Guyana Local Government Officers Union be appointed as the union representative. Government is the only stakeholder yet to fulfil its responsibilities to nominate representatives to the Commission.

 

‘Bizarre act’ must be condemned, says Nandlall

Minister Simona Broomes

In civilised democratic nations, a Parliament is always a very high deliberative forum where laws are passed and the most important issues affecting people, both nationally and internationally, are articulated. It is for these reasons that the precincts of our Parliament and its chambers are regarded as hallowed and sacrosanct.

It is against this backdrop that the unparalleled exhibition of Minister within the Natural Resources Ministry, Simona Broomes, a sitting member of the House, must be viewed.

Former Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall posits, “It is difficult to decipher whether the Honourable Member was engaged in an act of humour or whether she was serious.”

He was making reference to the now infamous social media post by Broomes, done in the style of Allison Hunt who is currently in Paris.

According to Nandlall, “Those of us who troll the social media would know that she was mimicking the antics of a Guyanese holidaying in Paris using the sacrosanct and sacred chambers of the National Assembly as her stage.”

Nandlall said, “What is perhaps most befuddling is that the Honourable member obviously did not think that what she was doing was at a minimum abnormal, if not heretic, because she took the liberty of sharing it with the world via the social medium of Facebook.”

The selfie video rant by Minister Broomes, awarded by the United States as an anti-Trafficking in Persons (TIP) hero, has sparked a backlash for her on social media with thousands of users criticising her.

According to Nandlall, “This bizarre act of a member of the House and a minister of the Government must be condemned in the strongest possible manner. It simply cannot be justified. Irrespective of which side of the political aisle one is, one will be forced to accept that such an exhibition can only bring odium and ridicule to the hallowed halls of the House and lower it as an institution in the estimation of right-thinking members of the public.”

“…. It is of little difference whether there are actual proceedings taking place at the time. Over centuries, an entire compendium of conventions, customs and practices have evolved, all intended and designed to protect and preserve the majesty of that institution called Parliament,” Nandlall argued.

He pointed out that they are all applicable and are invoked during parliamentary sessions and, most specifically when there is a sitting of the National Assembly.

He noted, too, that these conventions, customs and practices find expression in the Constitution, the laws, Standing Orders and all leading texts dealing with Parliaments. They include certain privileges and immunities with which Parliamentarians are clothed when they are on their way to Parliament, within the precincts of Parliament or while they speak or act in the Chambers of Parliament. These include immunity from arrest, service of legal process and from suit for anything done or said in Parliament. Indeed within the precincts and Chambers  of Parliament, Parliamentarians and members of the public are enjoined to adopt a sober mode of attire and the content of speeches in the National Assembly are regulated by rules which prohibit the use of certain expressions which are deemed “unparliamentary”.

Nandlall alluded to the fact that the Speaker was responsible for order and decorum in the house. “Regularly, Members, in particular, in the Opposition, are upbraided for their behaviour in the House. I was restrained several times from merely alluding to matters pending in the court, though I had no intention of discussing the merits of the case in a way that may prejudice its outcome – which is the rationale for not discussing matters which are the subject of pending litigation. In one instance, I was prohibited from completing my presentation because I referred to a newspaper article which I did not have on me at the time.”

Nandlall further noted that, “Only recently, the Speaker withheld his consent from the Economic Services Committee visiting communities and holding discussions with citizens on the future of the sugar industry. The Speaker did so on the basis that he cannot be satisfied that the decorum attendant to the proceedings of Parliamentary Committees would be observed. More to the point, Members of Parliament were treated to a scathing lecture by the Speaker, not so long ago for using their phones to take pictures in the House. Now we have an entire movie broadcast to the cyber world, filmed, narrated, directed, edited, choreographed and produced by Ms Simona Broomes.”

“Against this background, and based upon the sentiments of thousands of Guyanese expressed in the social media and elsewhere, a nation awaits to see how the Speaker will treat with this matter,” Nandlall declared.

Oil revenues: Guyana taking steps to avoid “resource curse”

Finance Minister Winston Jordan shares the head table with
Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman, and
Dr Valérie Marcel of the New Petroleum Producers Group

Guyana is in the process of designing a dedicated fiscal framework with prioritised clear objectives to be put in place before oil production starts in 2020.

According to Finance Minister Winston Jordan, the Guyana Government is looking to “adopt a coherent macro-economic management strategy that fosters economic growth and sustainable development outcomes”.

Jordan made these comments at the opening of a two-day seminar hosted by the Chatham House’s New Petroleum Producers Group. Oil revenues provide a “golden opportunity” to reverse “centuries of mis-development”, the Minister noted. Guyana has been continuously warned that if it does not properly manage its oil revenues, it could retard economic development. This is commonly known as the resource curse. Oil revenues will be used to invest heavily in core traditional sectors to reduce full dependence on oil to sustain the economy, the Minister said.

According to a Government Information Agency (GINA) release, Minister Jordan explained that Guyana will also rely on a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) to guard against the resource curse. “We will ensure that the elements of this fund are compatible with the developmental objectives of the Government,” he said. Guyana’s draft SWF was created with input from the Commonwealth Secretariat, and has since had input from other international agencies, including the World Bank. The Government is looking to have the SWF in place before Guyana’s first oil.

Meanwhile, the Minister emphasised that there has to also be management of domestic expectations in tandem with the resources. “People are already calling (asking) when we are going to start distributing money, so it is extremely important that we are able to manage domestic expectations,” Jordan said.

The Ministries of Natural Resources and Finance along with country representatives from Trinidad and Tobago are participants in the two-day seminar, which will examine mechanisms for saving petroleum revenues.

Man gets 18 months jail for rum shop brawl

Hilton Springer will serve 18 months for chopping Errol Graham

Hilton Springer was last week sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment by Wales Magistrate Clive Nurse after he pleaded guilty to unlawfully and maliciously wounding 49-year-old Errol Graham in a violent altercation that took place on May 16, 2017 at the Bow George Bar at Goed Intent, West Bank Demerara.

Magistrate Nurse opined that, based on the severity of Graham’s injures, Springer should have been charged with attempted murder.

Graham, of Sisters Village, WBD, was counter-charged with wounding Springer. He pleaded not guilty, and was granted bail in the sum of G$35,000.

According to the facts of the case, Graham, who was at the Bow George establishment, was about to go home when he was attacked by Springer and another man, who together dealt him several chops about the body and managed to hold on to him before he fell to the ground and lose consciousness.

Graham said he next remembered being a patient at the West Demerara Regional Hospital, where he was treated. He later reported the ghastly crime to ranks at the Wales Police Station.

In providing an explanation to the court at Friday’s hearing, Springer told the Magistrate that he did chop the victim, but he had done so in self-defence. Springer said Graham was drinking at the shop when he, the accused, “sent a boy” to purchase cigarettes for him, and Graham then put his hand around him, saying that he wanted to kill him.

“I pull out me cutlass to protect meself, and I fire chop at he; we never had problems before,” Springer told the court.

When Magistrate Nurse retorted that it didn’t make sense that Graham just walked up and attacked Springer, the accused responded that he also had been cut to one side of his body, but his medical report never stated that he was injured to his side.

The court, however, disbelieved that the scar Springer displayed had come as a result of the incident in May, as the medical report indicated that Springer was cut to his hands and fingers.

The Magistrate highlighted that, even in self-defence, the chopping was excessive, and he rebuffed the defendant’s pleas for mercy. The 18-month prison sentence was imposed against Springer, but the duo will return to court on July 6, as Graham denied allegations that he had assaulted Springer.

WPA calls for fast-tracking of overdue constitutional reform

WPA Executive Member,
Dr David Hinds

Wanting a reduction in the powers of the President, the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) said it is time Government moves to fast-track constitutional reform.

The WPA said on Monday that it is dissatisfied at the pace with which Government is moving in dealing with constitutional reform; a major plank of its 2015 elections campaign manifesto.

Executive member, Dr David Hinds said his party has always fought for constitutional reform, and had its hand in the inclusion of that part of the coalition campaign manifesto.

“We feel that constitutional reform is critical to everything that we are doing, because constitutional reform has to do with where the State (for example) is reconstructed. It has to do with the allocation of power; it has to do with the whole question of ethnicity and the sharing of power in this country”.

He said the WPA feels strongly that the President has too much power. According to him, despite some modification to the Constitution in 2001, presidential powers are still too much, and the party wants to see a modification of those powers.

“So there are some things that we feel need to be done immediately and constitutional reform should be put on the table as a central plank”.

Hinds said governments come and go, but it is important that there are rules of engagement. He said there is need for rules of engagement that will assure Guyanese that their security is guaranteed constitutionally.

“So we will argue in the [A Partnership for National Unity] APNU for a kick-start of the process and make good on our promise”, Dr Hinds promised.

He reminded of the committee headed by Nigel Hughes which submitted its report to Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo since last year, but nothing has yet begun to take shape.

“We are very clear, that having put in the manifesto… we in the WPA have fought in every manifesto for constitutional reform”.

The report submitted by the Hughes committee is still sitting before Cabinet and the process appears to have been stalled. This has led to public speculation that Government has lost interest, although some G$80 million was allocated to the process.

The agreement made in the Cummingsburg Accord regarding constitutional reform reads that the President should be elected by a majority of electors; that there should be separate elections for the presidency and National Assembly; Executive powers should be shared between the President, Prime Minister and the Cabinet. The Cabinet should comprise members of the parties which have achieved at least 15 per cent of the vote at the national elections; the supreme organs of democratic power should be the President and the National Assembly; and the Prime Minister shall be the person who secures the second highest votes in the presidential elections.

It promised too that the Executive powers and responsibilities of the Prime Minister should be increased to include some executive powers and responsibility over the Cabinet; the members of the Cabinet would be subject to the approval of, and removal by, the National Assembly and the immunities of the President would be reduced.

 

New Chairman says liberalisation of telecoms sector top priority

New PUC Chairperson Attorney at-Law Della Britton taking her oath of office before President David Granger on Wednesday at State House

The much-anticipated liberalisation of the telecommunications sector is a top priority of the Public Telecommunications Ministry and the new Public Utility Commission (PUC).

The assurance was given on Wednesday by Public Telecommunications Minister Cathy Hughes and the new PUC Chairperson, Attorney-at-Law Della Britton. Britton was sworn in on Wednesday at State House by President David Granger.

According to Britton, the Commission is being retooled to work speedily towards liberalisation.

“We are on the eve of liberalisation, so the Commission is being retooled and I hit the ground running tomorrow to have it in place. All the necessary directives have to be put in place, because our mandate under the new regulations will expand beyond what is currently in place.”

The two bodies are working towards a July month-end deadline for the freeing up of the monopoly on the telecommunications sector. Britton said her team, which comprises a dynamic group of professionals, is well schooled in the critical areas to take the process forward.

Minister Hughes said the legislation, which was assented to by President David Granger last year, has a number of new requirements that the Ministry was working through. Coupled with that, she said negotiations were ongoing between GTT and Atlantic Telecommunication Network (ATN), covering two tracks at the same time.

“The outstanding issues are issues in terms of the new pricing for spectrum (the main one) and then, of course, the process by which we would then receive applications for new licences.” She said the system and process were completely new and would therefore take time to plan, recruit the right persons and move ahead.

The Telecommunications Bill was first introduced in 2011. However, it was revised in 2013 before being sent to a Parliamentary Special Select Committee in the 10th Parliament, and was near conclusion when that Parliament was prorogued in 2014 by the then President, Donald Ramotar.

When the legislation was taken before the National Assembly by the Government, the Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) had called for the Bill to be sent to a Special Select Committee for further consideration, but Minister Hughes had argued that the Bill had been long promised and was overdue.

The sector, she emphasised, must be an open one, so that the country can progress and not lag behind its sister Caricom countries and the rest of the world. The legislation provides for the fostering of an open, competitive telecoms sector to which investors will be attracted, and in which a fair, competitive environment for sector participants is created.

Greenidge calls on Caribbean region to treat Cotonou Agreement with “urgency”

Foreign Affairs Minister
Carl Greenidge

Guyana’s  Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge, has said that the Caribbean region needs to recognise the financial security the Cotonou Agreement affords the region.

Minister Greenidge, speaking to reporters on Friday, said the Agreement with the European Union (EU) is “the largest source of concessional financing” to the region. However, the region remains distracted by Brexit (Britain’s exit from the EU).

The 2000 Cotonou Agreement, which comes to an end in 2020, is considered a comprehensive partnership agreement between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states; which, among other things, has a common goal of eradicating poverty.

Minister Greenidge noted that there is still confusion among Caribbean states on the benefits of Cotonou. “There is great confusion over what, where our own interests lie, and even understanding the arrangements that we are party to,” he said.

Guyana is doing its part to “strengthen our own trade capacity,” Minister Greenidge pointed out. “The largest source of development funds to this region is Cotonou, and yet we’ve spent more time talking about Brexit. When you think about it, it is ridiculous,” he contended.

While concerns are justified about the possible tariffs that products entering the British market may now attract, Minister Greenidge pointed out that the region has a “firm agreement” with the EU.

Earlier this month, President David Granger and Minister Greenidge were part of the State delegation to the European Development Day (EDD) forum in Brussels, Belgium, where Guyana participated in the discussions on the future of the Cotonou Agreement.

The Minister noted, however, that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is still to make arrangements “to ensure that discussions take place and the level of analysis is raised, so that the region can have a position” to represent when the ACP countries meet.

According to a GINA report, the Minister noted that there is need for the matter to be treated with “urgency”.

Later this month, June 22-23 in Cancun, Mexico, the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) Ministers will meet with the EU Commissioner for Development, to be updated on the EU’s views on the type of agreement, regional enlargement, and institutional arrangements in the process towards a renewed agreement which will replace the ACP EU Cotonou Agreement, which expires on February 29, 2020.