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Oil money for large-scale investments; 50,000 jobs for youths – PPP/C presidential candidate in sneak-preview of elections manifesto

PPP/C presidential candidate Irfaan Ali addressing a public meeting at Leonora Public Road on Sunday, one day after his party’s Central Committee elected him.

Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) presidential candidate, Irfaan Ali Sunday night announced that US$500 million in oil revenues would be pumped into agriculture.

“We already have a plan and programme that will see more than US$500 million invested in Guyana from Year One under the next People’s Progressive Party/Civic government. We did this before without oil and gas and we’ll do it even better in the next government on a much larger scale with the arrival of oil and gas,” he told a public meeting at Leonora Public Road, West Coast Demerara organised to celebrate his election as the PPP’s presidential candidate on Saturday,

When Guyana begins oil production later this year or early 2020, the government says the country is expected to earn at least US$300 million per year and that figure is expected to soar as other wells begin producing crude.

Addressing more than 500 party supporters, he explained that some of the funds would be ploughed into the development of mega farms, expansion of rice production at a lower price for export markets.

He added that “oil and gas gives us the platform to further develop other important sectors” such as the construction of a deep water harbour with links to Brazil and the creation of new opportunities such as logistics, hotels, restaurants and brokerage services. “These are all things that will be done under the People’s Progressive Party Civic government,” he said.

Turning his attention to youths, Ali said the PPP’s platform includes “meaningful engagement” with that segment of the population that makes up the single largest voting block across the country. “That is why in the next PPP/Civic government we’ll be creating more than 50,000 new jobs all across this country,” he said. That plan, he elaborated, would include the creation of an Information Communications Technology (ICT)-driven distance-learning platform to deliver tertiary education to 20,000 youths as well as involve young people in e-security, governance, health and education.

The PPP presidential candidate said he would revive the housing programme by delivering 50,000 house-lots, including 15,000 in Region Three (West Demerara-Essequibo Islands). “Top-class” healthcare, he added, would include the construction of the long-planned specialty hospital.

He announced that several tax measures implemented by the APNU+AFC coalition-led administration would be rolled back to create more incentives for the private sector and additional cash in the hands of ordinary people.

Meanwhile PPP General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo said the party’s manifesto committee – of himself, Ali, Frank Anthony, Shyam Nokta, Odinga Lumumba – would be meeting Monday to continue work on the document that would include some material from the last elections programme. He acknowledged that Ali’s speech contained aspects of the upcoming elections manifesto. “It’s a prelude on the job-creation and inclusion,” he added.

In his remarks, Jagdeo also announced that should the PPP win the next elections, the three sugar estates at Skeldon, Rose Hall-Canje and Enmore/East Demerara would be reopened. The incumbent administration has already conducted a valuation of the assets and received expressions of interest from foreign and local companies.

PPP/C presidential candidate, Irfaan Ali.

In the area of social cohesion, he said the PPP “will do it” through the reversal of several decisions that had impacted adversely on the social and economic programmes that that party had left when it lost power in 2015. “The first act of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic government, as has been announced by the General Secretary, will be to reverse all those bad policies that took away benefits, that took away social goods, that took away economic well-being and took away disposable income from our people. We are going to restore all of those benefits to the people of our country,” he said.

In the area of corruption, Ali echoed PPP General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo’s promise several weeks ago that laws would be passed to jail persons who do not declare earnings from the oil sector.

Declaring that he is “committed of the direction of the leadership” of the PPP and its manifesto of plans and programmes to Guyanese, Ali, in his maiden speech as presidential candidate, vowed to work in the interest of all Guyanese and his party. “I assure you that I will not disappoint you. I assure you that I will not be lazy. I assure you that I will be out there. I assure you that I will not buckle under any circumstances. I assure you that I will not succumb to any threats or circumstances that would come our way but I will stand with this party, I will stand with the leadership of this party and I will stand with all of you, all of our supporters and all of Guyana against any threat that comes our way,’ he said. Those comments come against the background of him facing criminal charges for allegedly defrauding government of GYD$174 million in the sale of housing lands and, more recently, questionable academic qualifications.

Ali was elected 24-11 as the PPP’s presidential candidate. Attorney-at-Law, Anil Nandlall has expressed disappointment in losing, but has pledged to support the candidate and the party.