As the Guyana presidential election nears, candidates for the two major parties in the race have been reaching out to nationals abroad with campaign pledges.
Last week, at a campaign stop in Queens, New York, the incumbent People’s Progress Party candidate Donald Ramotar, addressed a predominantly Indo-Guyanese audience against the backdrop of a slogan that read: “Let Progress Continue.”
Ramotar did not lay out a defined campaign agenda, but instead promised to move Guyana forward by continuing the work his party started.
This week, the opposition People’s National Congress/Reform candidate, Brig. Gen. (ret) David Granger, in a release to the media, has reassured Guyana’s manufacturing and business sectors of a secure environment and an educated work force in a more productive economy.
Granger gave these assurances during his feature presentation at the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association’s business luncheon Wednesday, May 11 at the Pegasus Hotel in Georgetown.
“Even as Guyana prepares to celebrate its 45th year of independence, the country is still struggling to realize its full potential to provide its citizens with a good life,” he said.
This anniversary year, he said, provides the occasion to consider where Guyana will be when it celebrates its 50th anniversary of independence in five years time. Guyana’s future, Granger said, will be determined by the success of private enterprise.
He made three promises to the manufacturing and business sector. The first was to make the country a safe place for future investors and business owners and all other citizens.
The second: Reforming the Guyana Police Force, which he described as a top priority, saying it was clear that the force – the country’s main law-enforcement agency, has lost control of the rampant crime situation and was no longer living up to its mandate to “serve and protect” citizens.
Gen. Granger reminded the audience of the fact that there was an armed robbery every 12 hours and that Guyana had a murder rate that was double that of the U.S.
“Criminal violence included banditry in the hinterland where our miners operate and on the coastland where fishermen earn their living,” he said.
Granger considers that the crime rate has increased over the last 12 years and continues to rise. “Reports and recommendations for reforming the security sector, however, seem to have all been ignored and plans, which included a three-drug strategy master plan were never fully implemented.
A Granger Administration, the PNCR presidential candidate assured, will implement those plans – “including the 164 recommendations of the Disciplined Forces Commission.
“This,” he added, “will contribute to making the police and defence forces professional bodies which will in turn reduce narco-trafficking, gun-running and criminal violence associated with them, making it safe for investors and current business persons.”
Granger’s second promise was to make Guyana an “education nation” once gain. He calculated that one child drops out of primary and secondary schools and other educational institutions every hour.
“There is a high rate of illiteracy and schools have to be shut down because of insanitary conditions” he said.
A key factor in education reform will be his recognition of the importance of the teaching profession, Gen. Granger said. Teachers and lecturers, according to Granger, will be the pride of the Public Service.
The PNC/R presidential candidate intends to revisit the current mandatory age of retirement, increase teachers’ salaries and provide a raft of non-financial benefits including housing and transport, in order to retain their services and keep them from migrating in droves.
“This country was too reliant on VSO and Peace Corps volunteers and more needs to be done for local teachers,” he said.
He was confident in his ability to reduce the problems that plague the education sector – including the troubles at the University of Guyana (UG), the country’s highest learning institution, and the Cyril Potter College of Education.
Granger pointed to the fact that every UG vice-chancellor in the past 18 years has been obliged to complain about the fundamental problem of under-financing that needs to be addressed in order to improve the quality of education there.
The candidate’s third promise was to provide the environment in which an economy that was honest and productive could thrive. He iterated his commitment to good governance and his plan to have an efficient, educated professional public service in which all public servants – Customs, Environment, Forestry, Mines, Police Officers – would be more respected and better rewarded.
Granger focused on the need to reduce the massive unemployment of young persons by creating new opportunities for self-employment. He also restated his intention to establish regional agricultural institutes and to expand science education in schools. He expressed confidence in agro-processing in order to manufacture more value-added products.
To make the manufacturing sector more productive, He promised to develop more sustainable and renewable ‘green’ energy sources. The technology for energy – generated by solar, wind, hydro-, wave and bio-gas sources – was widely available in other countries but was not utilized sufficiently in this country which he said seemed to be suffering from ‘gasolene addiction.’
The general assured the GMSA gathering that the Granger Administration had no intention of competing with private enterprises in the commercial and manufacturing sectors. His administration’s concerns, he said, would be to provide create an educated workforce, a secure environment and good governance to enable businesses to thrive and to give all Guyanese an opportunity to enjoy a good life.
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