H.E. President David Granger: Thank you, please be seated. Thank you, madam chairperson. Honourable Prime Minister and First Vice President Mr. Moses Nagamootoo and Mrs. Sita Nagamootoo; Honourable Minister of Business Mr. Dominic Gaskin and Mrs. Gaskin; other ministers and members of the National Assembly, members of the diplomatic corps, Her Worship the Mayor; members of the planning committee and staff of GuyExpo 2016; special invitees, members of the private sector, members of civil society, members of the media, fellow Guyanese.
I was very intrigued by the item called ‘Guyana in Retrospect’ in which I am featured. I said, retrospect? After twelve months and one day? I thought that was a little much, so I hope that my remarks would indicate that I am a President of the future and my appearance with the other Presidents was certainly misleading and if I could advise the Minster of Business that the plantation that I worked on and mud has its place. But let him approach the Minister of Finance, I wouldn’t.
This evening I would like to perhaps break from the pattern of presentations to look a bit into the future. There is enough about retrospect, there is enough we can speak about the past and what happened over the last fifty years; I’m concerned with what will happen over the next fifty years.
Guyana as you know is the largest state in the Caribbean Community. Its forest cover more than 85 per cent of its land mass. It is what is called a ‘net carbon sink,’ that is, its forests sequester more carbon than the country’s human activities can generate.
Guyana’s economy, despite this, is heavily dependent on agriculture and on the extractive industries particularly – bauxite, gold, diamond, mining and timber extraction; the high dependence on agriculture and exhaustible natural resources place Guyana at risk of erosion of its natural assets.
Guyana therefore needs a sustainable model for its economy; a model of resource exploitation and extraction in order to check the depletion of its natural assets, so that these assets will also be available to future generations.
I therefore see Guyana’s economy becoming a ‘green’ economy. A ‘green’ economy is necessary to ensure the sustainable management of its natural resources and assets. A ‘green’ economy is also needed to wean this country off of its addiction to fossil fuels, as you can hear in the background. The importation of these fuels exacts a heavy burden on the economy of Guyana. In 2012, we spent nearly a quarter of our GDP paying for petroleum-based products.
Guyana needs a Green Development Strategy – and this is my task, this is my mission. My mission is to build a green economy. We are going to transition our economy towards a renewable, clean and cheaper source of energy. We are going to craft a comprehensive Coastal Zone Management Plan to protect human habitation; we are going to craft coastal economic systems and ecosystems. We are going to create ‘green’ enterprises and jobs and we will inculcate ‘green’ education in our schools.
We are going to adopt a ‘green’ development strategy and that strategy will rest, first of all, on renewable energy. So when you come next year I’m sure the Minister of Business will not have a generator going in the background.
Guyana will rapidly accelerate the transition towards renewable sources of energy as part of our ‘green’ development thrust. We will invest in solar, wind, hydro and biomass sources of energy over the next five years. We have the potential for generating hydro-electricity with more than one hundred sites which are suitable for large or small projects. We have the potential for the development of wind energy along our 432 km coastline. We have the potential for solar energy generation; you go to Rupununi during El Nino or to the intermediate savannahs and you can see the irradiation levels are high, making Guyana ideal for the establishment of industrial scale solar farms. We have through our sugar and rice industries the potential for producing energy from bagasse and other by-products of the sugar and rice industries, all with the potential for generating energy.
The Government of Guyana must lead the way in transitioning towards greater renewable energy use. Every government building, every exhibition centre, every hospital, every school must over the next five years, convert to utilising alternative sources of energy. Energy- saving devices will be encouraged in order to promote energy conservation. We will also be offering incentives to catalyse private investment in renewable energy.
The second pillar would be environmental security. Ladies and gentlemen, more than 80 per cent Guyana’s population resides on the coastland and most of its agriculture, including sugar and rice production are located on the coastland.
Guyana’s fishing industry also, is located on the coastal belt but our coastland is low and flat and it is prone to breaches in our sea defence; it is prone to flooding, it is prone to the intrusion of salt water into our residential and agricultural communities. Our sea defence system is fragile and it requires repair. Drainage and irrigation systems in many areas are in need of repair. Coastal Zone Management therefore, is essential to our economic survival and we will, as part of the Green Development Strategy, develop a comprehensive plan for the rehabilitation, reconstruction and maintenance of our coastal sea defence, drainage and irrigation systems.
A green economy must be a clean economy. Our communities must evince that cleanliness and healthiness. They must be free from litter. Our waterways must be protected from pollution. Our Municipal and Neighbourhood Councils must have plans to dispose of solid waste efficiently. Citizens must be able to enjoy the ‘good life’ in a safe and clean environment.
We will, therefore, as you have seen, rigidly enforce laws against littering. We will promote the use of biodegradable packaging materials. The Regional, Municipal and Neighbourhood Councils therefore, must encourage and ensure the adequate and properly managed and safe disposal of solid waste.
Ladies and gentlemen, Guyana’s forests provide ecological and environmental services to humanity. Guyana, in recognition of its responsibility to contribute to the global efforts to combat climate change signed the Paris Agreement on the 22nd April in the United Nations in New York; I signed on the dotted line.
Guyana, committed then, to improve its timber management, to maintain a high level of timber legality and to increase the value-added production in the timber sector as a means of ensuring that our forests make an effective response to climate change while yielding sustainable economic benefits for our country.
Guyana’s protected areas also, must make a contribution to environmental conservation and I have asked and will ensure that protective areas are established in every single region; not just here and there, but every region must have an area that is protected, whether it is wetlands or savannah – every region must have a protected area.
We are committed to placing an additional two million hectares of land and waterways under conservation. Ecological parks and natural reserves will also be established to protect and preserve our natural habitats. We want to see sanctuaries for our arapaima and for our giant river otters. We want to protect our flora and fauna so that our grandchildren can see the good things that we inherited from our grandparents.
And finally enterprise and employment
Ladies and gentleman in the final analysis, green development is good for business. Guyana’s green revolution will spawn a wide range of businesses, will produce and generate employment opportunities. Electric cars, hybrid vehicles, energy-saving devices, solar home systems, organic foods, recycling plants, environmentally-friendly buildings, green construction materials, biodegradable packaging materials, sustainable agriculture and green financing options are just some of the areas around which new enterprises and jobs would be created.
And I’m very glad to know that on two recent occasions in which I was involved in opening some buildings, individuals from the audience and came to me and told me that their houses were already green and they don’t depend on any generation from GPL. The only problem one had was the excessive rainfalls, so he had to get some more batteries. But individuals are already beginning to adopt the green agenda and government must resume that lead.
Ladies and gentlemen, Guyana must move on to the crest of a green wave. Green jobs are the next wave of job creation. A ‘green’ economy, will, of necessity demand a higher level of skilled personnel. The education system therefore, must be in a position to supply trained personnel needed to propel this green economy.
The business community, the financial sector, entrepreneurs and young people are pivotal to the success of our strategy to create a green economy. Our green economy in days and weeks to come will represent an investment opportunity for our business community; it will represent an emerging target market for our financial sector that will spur entrepreneurial activity; it will create knowledge-based jobs for the graduates of our schools and universities; it will ensure a clean and healthy environment for households and families and not least of all, vendors. It will reduce our fuel import bill and allow the economy to harness its underutilized resources – the sun, the water, the wind and biomass.
The good life is about promoting sustained economic growth. The good life is for this generation and for future generations. The good life, therefore, requires a commitment to sustainable development, something that is mandated by our supreme law in the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and our supreme law states and I quote:
In the interests of the present and the future generations, the State will protect and make rational use of its lands, mineral and water resources, as well as its fauna and flora, and will take all appropriate measures to ensure and improve the environment.
That’s our supreme law, you can’t make that up. The good life, therefore, is compatible with concern for sustainable development; compatible with business and compatible with sustainable environment.
Green solutions are needed to address the challenges and threats facing our country, particularly those caused by climate change, those caused by the need for Coastal Zone Management, the need to control flooding, drought, environmental degradation, deforestation, the need for conservation of protected areas and waterways and the provision of a safe environment.
Ladies and gentlemen, a green economy is good for Guyana. It will lead us to a good life for all. There is no better vision that I can give to future GuyExpos over the next 50 years of Guyana’s growth than the need to usher in a green economy. It is my hope that GuyExpo 2016 can inspire the business community to do just that.
I thank you.