Georgetown, Guyana- (October 20, 2018) President David Granger, on Friday, urged the residents of the Rupununi to develop greater entrepreneurial skills so that they can move beyond the production of raw materials into making value-added items. The Head of State was, at the time, addressing exhibitors and local farmers who gathered at the Lethem Public Market, in the Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo (Region Nine) for the second annual Regional Agricultural and Commercial Exhibition (RACE).
RACE, the President said, is an avenue which allows local farmers, housewives and other citizens to produce value-added products for public consumption which will, over time, transform the economy.
“Nothing is wrong with producing bauxite, producing timber but after decades we must be able to move production forward by adding value… Development is not for foreigners, development is for you. You can be rich because you come from a large, rich region,” the President said, adding that development is not a dream.
“From time immemorial, Guyanese have been producing raw sugar, raw rice, raw gold, raw timber, exporting them and when we look at Guyanese we say, “Yall ain’t ready yet because your wealth is exported”. The rich countries are the ones that manufacture and process and the poor countries are the ones which produce the raw materials. As long as you continue simply producing raw materials for export, you will remain poor,” he said.
President Granger reminded that it is the state of the economy which defines life. “So, in the Rupununi now, we have to redefine the way we make our life, living, our livelihood. That is to say, we have to start factories, start to see restaurants, accounting firms and law firms when we walk through the streets of Lethem and then we would know people are making a living in a different way,” he said.
The Head of State told the gathering that the Rupununi is a blessed Region, but it is the citizens who must activate those blessings. “You have to put the agricultural lands to work for you, you have to put the minerals to work for you. You are very fortunate but what you need to add to the resources is a certain quality of leadership and good governance,” he said.
President Granger reminded that since taking office in May 2015, the APNU+AFC coalition government has introduced regionalism and it is through this discentralisation, a new type of development is being propelled. As such, it is critical that the Plan of Action for Regional Development (PARD) is implemented.
PARD is a new initiative which will assist the 10 Regional Democratic Councils (RDCs) in developing, implementing, monitoring and assessing appropriate action-oriented plans for the social and economic advancement of the respective regions.
“Regional development is not something haphazard, you don’t just come here and collect taxes, you come here and develop the region. To develop the region you need a plan, the plan has to attract investment, infrastructure, and it is starting to work,” the President said.
He reminded too that “development is for all of society” and all tiers of government (local, regional and central) must work together to ensure development occurs.
“These RACE are extremely important not only here but all over the country. It doesn’t call for government alone, it calls for all levels [of government] and civil society and the Regional Chamber of Commerce,” he said.
President Granger then assured the gathering that his government will do everything that it can to assist the Regional Chambers of Commerce to remove obstacles and facilitate business. “We need to create a class of entrepreneurs…but if you want to be rich, if you want to be independent, I am telling you, seek self-employment. Nothing is wrong with going into the public service…but I am telling you if you want to get ahead in life, become an honest businessman so that you can seek opportunities,” he said.
Moreover, the Head of State said critical to the success of the entrepreneurs, is education and the knowledge to not only prepare the products, but market them as well.
“When you bottle your honey; when you bottle your cassareep; when you package your cassava bread or your cashew nut butter or any other product, people will ask you about phytosanitary standards… They want to make sure that the product you’re selling them is sanitary; it is sealed, and it can last a long time without deteriorating. And you can only do that if you have some form of education,” he said.
Meanwhile, Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Mr. Sydney Allicock, expressed similar sentiments, noting that the RACE can help to secure food security across the country, especially as the effects of climate change become more pronounced. He also said too that leadership and unity is critical to the region’s development. “We cannot do this alone. We have to work in partnership and that is why the coalition is so important to allow each and every Guyanese to benefit,” he said.
Since its inception, RACE, the brainchild of President Granger, has been expanding as farmers across the country have started to recognise the value of the initiative. RACE was introduced to promote agricultural development and to encourage citizens, including those in the hinterland, to better market their products.
Minister of Social Protection, Ms. Amna Ally; Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Ms. Valerie Garrido-Lowe; Vice Chairman, Regional Democratic Council, Mr. Karl Singh; Regional Executive Officer, Mr. Kerwin Warde; Lethem’s Mayor, Mr. Kerry Jarvis and Chairperson for the Agricultural Standing Committee, Mr. Rodger King also attended the event.