While Change Guyana yesterday focussed on its proposed developmental plans for the East Berbice community through people empowerment, its presidential candidate Robert Badal also underlined the need for creation of local value.
“Guyanese must have a stake in value-added creation across board. I believe the problem in Guyana [is] that Guyanese are only employed at the low tiered and have little stake in the actual industries and that has to change. We have to empower them,” Badal yesterday said as the March 2nd general election campaign heated up.
“People in Linden must have forestry concessions with affordable financing to get into entrepreneurship, in Berbice they should be given lands to farm and develop, the same in Essequibo. In Georgetown you have to prepare and support your people with necessary skill sets, low-interest financing and start creating that tradition of entrepreneurial across Guyana,” he added.
He said that he believes that after 53 years of independence and a wealth of natural resources at their disposal, all the political parties – PNC, PPP/C and APNU+AFC, have failed the people of the this country and should not be given any other chances to govern.
“When the PPP/C closed the Diamond (cultivation), they did not give one single house lot to the former sugar workers. Instead, they packed the Diamond area with people and little infrastructure and gave acres to their friends. At Wales and in Berbice, when the APNU+AFC closed them, they forgot about the people and gave to foreign businesses and others. This should not be. Change Guyana has an economic agenda that focusses on giving Guyanese a stake in their own country,” he stressed.
“We want to cater for development for the people wherever they are. We want to empower the people by giving them lands, assisting in their marketing of products, offer development and technical support so they can export their produce and more. For example, you plant simple limes, but we look at all major crops. We will come in on telling you which variety is best, how to grow them, how to pack them for export, which market is best, what packaging is best. We can develop crops that can be as big as rice and it is that diversity that has to be looked at because it is only through development that you can lift people out of this poverty,” he added.
Badal said that he was moved by the complaints of a man from the Ruimveldt area who sent him a letter explaining that he had asked government for help to start an apprenticeship programme for young men in his community and was shunned. “He is training people to do plumbing, electrical and welding and all he wants is the tools. And that is how you help people. You have to support these initiatives. You have to prepare people to be making money rather than thinking of a crime to get it. Successive administrations never focussed on this strategy; they created a way to keep people in a survival mode and dependent on them,” he said.
Zooming in on East Berbice, Badal said that his party’s plans include having a royalty of US$5 per metric ton of bauxite exported to fund developments in New Amsterdam and Kwakwani, a shore-based oil services facility on Crab Island, opening a vast acreage of lands on the East Bank of Berbice for agricultural development such as dairy, beef, oranges, limes, avocados, cocoa, rice and leasing lands to displaced sugar workers to enable them to start their own agro-businesses.
Included too, is government facilitating private sector investments in agro-processing, having cogeneration of electricity at the Albion estate which will bring some 20MW of electricity. Having investments in East Berbice to be designated tax free for five years and addressing the spiraling crime and blackouts.
“These projects would generate thousands of jobs and lift these rural communities out of poverty… unless Guyanese are given a meaningful stake in our economy rather than only being employed, and only being employed in the cane fields and call centres, we will never realise our true potential,” he said.
“Our focus must be local value creation hence our plans to have strong local content policies and legislation,” he added.
The Change Guyana presidential candidate also took a swipe at both APNU+AFC and the PPP/C for parroting his party’s policies during their campaign rallies.
“Both the PPP and APNU have been copying our policies on the campaign trail, sometimes word for word. This vividly reflects their continued incompetence, shallow thinking and poor leadership. PPP and APNU, the architects of extortionately high taxes throughout their 23 years of reign in office, now copying, word for word, our Change Guyana, low tax, growth-oriented, jobs-creating, reform policies. At a rally in Bartica one Presidential candidate claimed that “I know Bartica, and I know Region 7. I know Guyanese love nice vehicles, we will lower the taxes on vehicles.” Then they dreamed again, that they will double old-age pension, after being so mean to our pensioners in the past three decades, immediately after I mentioned this in Skeldon,” he said.
“Well it’s nice to hear! The question is when did they learned that we like nice vehicles or need a livable pension? Five, ten years ago? Or a month ago when I outlined this policy? Or is it just another promise out of the many they are using to fool us again? Who in their right mind will trust any in the PPP’s or APNU’s hierarchy? If they continue to lie about their candidate’s qualifications and the US$18 million signing bonus, when all the evidence showed otherwise, would you trust them?” he questioned.