Morning comes with the passing of the night and the star-filled skies assume its position with the setting sun.
Each seamlessly interchanging between each other, bringing its own beauty, creating its own imagery, satisfying varied use, but in all of it demonstrating specific beauty.
So too from many lands and lines, came people of different strains and beauty – each in their own imagery, each seamlessly integrating with each other into a land that will be diverse and free; in which the bondage of oppression was defeated and the hands of the outward kingdom were removed giving birth to the Republic – independent and free six years prior but disjointed from the final arm of colonial rule – 53 years ago.
Today, we stand diverse and beautiful! Shaken but not fallen! Tested but not defeated! The trials of the past can either keep us in its wounds that refuse to heal and lay only an unsettled path or can strengthen us to a resolute future – where we can remove those wounds, heal the pain, celebrate the victory of the trials and renew our spirits in the oneness of a country and land that brings with it the glory of prosperity -the beauty of unity and the success of hard work.
Sadly, the aspirations which we had set ourselves at Independence were derailed as a result of self-inflicted wounds that led to political and economic deformities. The lessons of those mistakes must never be forgotten lest those mistakes be repeated.
The denial of democracy and the deprival of fundamental freedoms disfigured our political system. Our economy went into free fall; inflation skyrocketed, real wages fell, the national debt spiralled, and Guyana became consigned as one of the world’s highly indebted nations and one of the poorest in the western hemisphere.
A fact-finding mission from the Caribbean Conference of Churches in the last quarter of 1990 found the country in a state of crisis. It noted the state of disrepair of the country’s physical infrastructure, the poor condition of utilities –water, electricity, and telephone systems – and the large exodus of teachers.
Guyanese, however, did not succumb to a future of hopelessness and helplessness. They continued to struggle for free and fair elections recognising the inextricable link between democracy and development. Rehashing this past may make some persons uncomfortable but unless we understand where we went wrong, we are better placed to avoid a similar fate in the future.
Our Republic proved resilient. After an epic struggle, of almost a quarter of a century, democracy was restored. Maximising the benefits of the democratic dividend, the country was restored to international credit worthiness, debt relief was actively pursued and secured, the country’s tattered infrastructure was rebuilt, social services were expanded and improved, resources for development were sought and the stigma of being a pariah state removed.
Things had improved. Life had gotten better, and our country’s international reputation boosted. Guyana became a global leader for the protection and preservation of the environment through the launch of its model Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS).
The most ambitious housing drive was launched. This saw tens of thousands of Guyanese being able to live in dignity under their own roof. The country’s sporting and cultural infrastructure was expanded with the establishment of the National Stadium at Providence and the athletics track in West Demerara. The standard of living of Guyanese improved. The economy was prudently managed in order to constrain inflation and keep the country’s exchange and interest rates stable. Investors’ confidence was restored.
All of this and more were achieved in the face of daunting challenges – attempts to reverse democracy, the vagaries of climate change and the global financial, energy and food crisis which began in 2008.
Things have gotten better in the Republic. But that would not have been possible had democracy not been maintained and devious attempts to dislodge democratic elections repelled. This is why we must continuously safeguard our democratic gains.
We can debate as to whether things could have improved more. Sure, they could have been. But certain variables such as international shocks and the weather could not be predicted or controlled. But our economy has proven itself able to rebound from market and climate-related shocks. Things got better in our Republic and will get even better in the years ahead.
Today, not only is Guyana topping the Caribbean at the CSEC and CAPE examinations, but our top-performing students are emerging from across the country. More schools are being built, teachers’ training is being improved, thousands of Guyanese are improving their academic qualifications and skills as a result of the Guyana Online Academy of Learning (GOAL), a world-class institute for technical training is being established, technical vocation education is being boosted, and the Because We Care Cash grant has been restored to assist in equipping students. Education is being set on the right footing for 2030 and beyond.
Health care is being revolutionised. Six new regional hospitals are being constructed. These hospitals will provide level four and five services, including full Accident and Emergency Departments, surgical capacity, full diagnostic imaging services, including digital x-rays and ultrasound and CT scans and laboratory services. A new maternity and a paediatric hospital is being established. In partnerships with external institutions, Guyana is being geared to offer world-class health services to its citizens, inclusive of speciality healthcare services.
National security is being enhanced. The security services are being recapitalised in order to preserve internal law and order and deter and repel external threats.
By the end of 2025, some 50,000 house lots would have been allocated to Guyanese. A smart city is under planning and development. Local democracy is being renewed with the holding of local government elections this year. In the meantime, we are bringing tangible improvement to the lives of citizens within their communities.
Transformative developments are being rolled out. With major investments in energy infrastructure, Guyana is set to become the energy capital of the Region, a bastion of regional food security and an industrial powerhouse. The economy is also being diversified with new pillars of growth emerging. Development is raging across our land while we protect and preserve the environment and the services which our varied ecosystems provide.
Guyana has once again broken new ground with the historic sale of carbon credits. This is a vindication of our advocacy and pursuit of compensation for our standing forests, something which we have been advocating internationally for almost a decade and a half. The marketing and sale of carbon credits will allow us to earn billions of US dollars in the future, a lucrative source of national revenue with benefit sharing among all Guyanese, including our indigenous peoples.
Our progress has not been without challenges but we are overcoming these. We remain positive and optimistic because our Low Carbon Development Strategy balances wealth creation with the protection of the environment, the narrowing of inequalities and the provision of greater opportunities for our people.
Our Republic is galloping into modernity. We are laying the foundation for the post-2030 Guyana, one in which:
Every child will be able to have access to and benefit from a quality education in classrooms that are safe, non-intimidating and equipped to bring out the best in him or her;
Every citizen will be able to walk into a regional hospital and receive expeditious care and treatment;
Where those who flout the law will know that there are consequences for doing so;
Where every pensioner will be able to enjoy a dignified existence;
Where our young people will be afforded opportunities, previously denied, to pursue productive careers;
Where there is an efficient, customer-friendly and responsive public service;
Where women are assured to equal opportunities and respect;
Where every family will be afforded the opportunity to own their own home;
Where growth is tempered with equality and where no person is denied opportunities because of where they live; and
Where our people and communities enjoy a harmonious and inclusive future under the One Guyana banner.
As a Government, we are not averse to constructive criticism. But we are also aware that there are forces within our midst who are seeking to manufacture divisions and strife in pursuit of their narrow and naked attempt to wrest political power. We are also aware of the naysayers in our midst whose egos and appetite for attention brook no restraint. Like a recurring decimal, they simply go on and on ignoring the efforts we have made in securing billions of dollars in additional related benefits for our people through local content legislation and the sale of carbon credits. They are blind to the reality that through the Natural Resource Fund Act we are ensuring that the use of our oil resources is prudent, being made more transparent and secure for present and future generations! Their negativity, however, will not retard our efforts to pursue prosperity and progress.
On this note, I wish to thank all Guyanese who embrace the path of progress and prosperity, our men and women in uniform, our health workers, our teachers, our public servants, our farmers, our labourers, our builders, our young people, our women. We thank the members of our judiciary, all those who have positively contributed to the upliftment and transformation of our country. The members of the legislature, we thank you for your service.
I ask you to continue to work every day in service with dignity to your country, work in dignity to your family, work in service in dignity to those who struggled for the Guyana we have today and work in pride for those who will inherit the Guyana we build for tomorrow.
In the unpredictability of the weather and changing climatic conditions, the world seems an unsettled place. What will be the next norm? How are we preparing for that storm? And how do all of us survive? It cannot be in isolation of each other. It cannot be in self-defence – rather it must be through a collective effort – a collective defence – and a collective chain of action that strengthens itself with the intensity of the storm and locks itself into the strength of each link – whether it is the storm of food insecurity, energy insecurity and climate insecurity – it is our collective effort as a nation – as a people, as a society and as a family that will ensure we are all protected, we are all safe and we all succeed.
I pledge to be at the head of the storm’s defence system and to be that leading link that embraces every other link that forms itself into the Guyanese family. To secure our future, safeguard our land, preserve the beauty of a unified people and uplift the aspiration of a hopeful people -like the rising sun, in its radiant beauty – but as it moves to sunset battling through varied cloud cover, so too on this journey we must battle those dark days and dark clouds – we must strengthen our roof of nationhood to withstand the wind and rains and create a shelter against all forces that seek to darken the horizon, and remove every action that aims to weaken the spirit of the Guyanese people.
It is up to us – the collective power of each of us – the collective sacrifice of each of us – that will deliver a nation in fulfilment of the aspirations of us all.
My hands remain open for friendship, my hands remain open to shade the vulnerable, to lead the weak, to guide the strong, to embrace all of us. It remains outstretched to the proposition of unity, to the proposition of hope and to the dedication of country above self.
God bless all of you, God bless all of Guyana, and God keep us in safety and in unity.
Happy 53rd Republic Anniversary Guyana. I love you.