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Georgetown, Guyana – (July 29, 2016) The purpose of any Government is to serve the interest of the people. Understanding the importance of meeting the needs of ordinary Guyanese, the Government of Guyana, through the Office of Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon has, over the past months, launched the Meet the Public Initiative, which aims to take Government to the people.

The initiative was launched in December 2015 and aims to take Government services to the various regions so that residents can air their concerns and have key issues, which are affecting them in their communities, addressed. The idea of taking the government to the people was a promise that was made by President David Granger even before he assumed Office.

At the first Public Day forum, which was held at the Square of the Revolution, more than 300 persons turned up to have issues affecting them addressed. At that event, President Granger told the gathering that it is the Government’s responsibility to look after the people, and that this initiative seeks to solve their problems.

The President said that it is important that every Guyanese citizen feels that they belong to a country, society and community, with a government which cares about them.

A section of attendees at the Meet the Public Initiative hosted in the Pomeroon – Supenaam Region (Region 2)

“We want to solve the problems affecting individuals; we are not trying to upset the Ministerial or Government system, but we are bringing government to the people by finding out what your needs are and helping you to solve those problems,” he said.

The Head of State also noted that such an initiative is not superficial or ornamental, but aims to empower the citizens of Guyana as is its responsibility.

The plan for the Public Day initiative is for it to be taken to communities throughout Guyana. Each forum comprises representatives from various Ministries as well as subject Ministers. Members of the public are then given the opportunity to meet with these officials to air their concerns with a view of finding solutions. So far, the initiative has been hosted in the Pomeroon-Supenaam Region, Lethem in the Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo Region, the East Berbice-Corentyne Region and Linden, in the Upper Demerara – Berbice Region.

Minister Harmon said that this government reflects the change that the people voted for. As a result, it was imperative that the residents be given the ease of accessing government officials to solve their problems. Such a move would, therefore, forego the problem of transportation and other obstacles that residents – especially those in far outlying regions – may face.

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Minister of Social Protection, Ms. Volda Lawrence speaks with a resident of Lethem

“This is not just a meet the people it is an exercise in dealing with issues which affect you as citizens. So we have brought all the arms of government, ministries and departments which have anything to do with your welfare and quality of life so that they can listen to you and make decisions right on the ground,” he said.

At each instance, problems faced by the communities usually took similar form, as many of those communities are close knit. In the Pomeroon-Supenaam Region, while many issues concerned personal matters surrounding birth certificates, pension with the National Insurance Scheme and passports, the bulk of concerns surrounded matters affecting rice farmers- since rice is the main source of income for residents in that Region.

In Lethem, the Public Day initiative included visits by Prime Minister, Mr. Moses Nagamootoo, Minister Harmon and other officials over a two-day period. At this event, the Prime Minister announced that the government also had plans in train to develop the hinterland region, including the paving of the Linden-Lethem Highway. He also mentioned government’s intention to make Lethem into an industrial zone in order to increase economic activity in the region and to invite more investors to Guyana.

The Prime Minister noted that this is all part of bringing the same development that is occurring on the coast to the communities in the hinterland, since the indigenous peoples are an important part of Guyana’s patrimony.

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President David Granger interacts with a resident at the the first Meet the Public Day hosted in December, last year at the Square of the Revolution, Georgetown

“Every road, bridge, school, health hub…providing boats, bicycles, books, all these are important for the communities of our indigenous peoples because for two long they have been treated like the children of the forest- neglected and almost forgotten. It will not be so anymore,” Prime Minister Nagamootoo said.

He also said that he believes that the first peoples deserve a better life just as was promised by the government for all Guyanese and that the government is committed to facilitating that better life for them.
When the initiative was taken to the East Berbice-Corentyne Region in April, residents had already begun to look forward to what was referred to as the “mobile government”. At that event, Minister of Citizenship, Mr. Winston Felix, announced that his Ministry will be working to decentralise services such as the issuance of passports and birth certificates. This move was made so as to ease the congestion at the main offices in Georgetown as well as to lessen the burden on persons from having to travel all the way to the city for those services.

“It is the President’s wish that … we provide services to these places; that the work of the Government in these towns should be so organised so that it makes the life of people much easier to cope with the day to day issues,” Minister Felix said.

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Residents discuss their issues with government officers at the Meet the Public Initiative in Lethem, Upper Takutu- Upper Essequibo Region (Region 9)

Most recently, the “mobile government” found its way to Linden, where residents expressed their concerns mostly about housing, land titling and sport. Minister Harmon said that he was very pleased with the turnout, and is eager to address the matters that concern the people. Giving an overview of the programme thus far, the Minister said that the response by citizens to these initiatives has been positive as persons welcomed the effort of bringing the government to their communities.

He said that the government recognises the difficulties that many persons may face getting to Georgetown and that there is also a lack of capacity in the regional offices which provide such services. As such, the initiative gives persons the opportunity to address concerns right in their communities with government officials and other officers.

The event in Linden also made way for the announcement that persons will, within the coming days, be able to renew their passports without having to travel Georgetown, as the government aims to decentralise passport related services.
The next Public Day Forum is scheduled to be hosted in the Essequibo Islands – West Demerara Region, as the government continues to push its agenda of bringing the good life to all Guyanese.

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