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Harmon, Ali talk up investment, benefits and rights on Guyana’s 55th Independence anniversary

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 May 2021, 10:01 by Denis Chabrol

Even as President Irfaan Ali announced- to mark Guyana’s 55th Independence Anniversary- that “every” Guyanese are poised to benefit from the country’s immense oil wealth, Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon warned against the oil sector being used as a tool of oppression.

In an address to mark the occasion at a flag raising ceremony held near the Umana Yana in Kingston, Georgetown, Dr. Ali committed himself to ensuring that all Guyanese benefit from the increasing oil and gas reserves now about 8 billion barrels of oil equivalent.

“Every person in our society now has real economic opportunities to grow and develop, and to contribute to the enlargement of our national wealth.  I urge each of you to dream big. Your government will support those dreams and help make them reality. We are on the cusp of being an economically strong Guyana, with opportunities for
growth and development of all Guyanese,” he said.

The President also said that the private sector is ready to invest heavily in modern hospitals, fully equipped with the latest technology. He also said the private sector would be given incentives to invest in the creation of a new city. “Government will incentivise the private sector and persons wishing to own their own homes to locate in the new city where government will also provide major facilities,” he said. Dr. Ali has already announced that the sovereign wealth fund would be restructured to spend oil revenues on improving Guyana’s social and physical infrastructure.

In his Independence Day Message, the Opposition Leader said Guyanese for decades to come must ensure that the oil sector does not emerge as an oppressive system. “It is the generational duty of all Guyanese to commit to a model of economic development, now that we have the financial resources; a model that should not replace the old masters with new masters who are even less concerned about our well-being. We must raise our voices, commit to new efforts, as we did some 55 years ago when we hoisted the Golden Arrowhead,” he said.

Guyana attained independence from Britain on May 26, 1966 and severed all political ties to the British monarchy in 1980 when the country became a Republic.

The Opposition Leader said Guyana needs to find  the right mix among extraction, wealth and the environment. “Today, for the first time in our history, economic independence is a real possibility given our abundant oil and gas resources. The possibility has, however, come about when the issues of negative global consequences of fossil fuel are a growing concern. The issues of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic could not be more present nationally and beyond. Guyana, therefore, has a sharpened responsibility to ensure that we mitigate the proven downside of oil by the responsible management of its extraction and the monies garnered from it,” said Mr. Harmon.

The Guyana government had come in for sharp criticism for permitting the clearance of a large swathe of mangroves at Versailles/ Malgre Tout, West Bank Demerara to make way for the construction of a US$1o0 million shorebase.

The investor and government have assured that the river defence would be strengthened in that area to prevent flooding.