My fellow Guyanese,
Happy New Year! It is with immense joy and optimism that I extend warm greetings to all Guyanese, both at home and those in the diaspora. As we bid farewell to the old and welcome the new, I wish every one of you a joyous and prosperous New Year.
Gratitude and thanksgiving
I express the nation’s deep gratitude to those who have selflessly served during the past year. To our brave men and women in uniform, we owe a debt of appreciation for the sacrifices they have made and continue to make in maintaining vigilance against all threats, from within and beyond our borders. Their dedication ensures the safety and security of our Motherland.
To the nurses, doctors, and all medical personnel who have been guardians of our health and well-being, we extend a heartfelt appreciation.
I also extend a special word of thanks to our educators who continue to shape the minds and values of our youth.
The same gratitude extends to our public servants, farmers, fisherfolk, miners, and foresters, each playing a vital role in our national development.
To our mothers and fathers, our elders, we recognize and appreciate your invaluable contributions. The lessons you impart and the wisdom you share are the bedrock upon which the strength of our society is built.
To the young people of our nation, thank you for your vitality and vision for a better world. Your enthusiasm and energy infuse us with hope and inspire us to strive for a better tomorrow.
Heartfelt acknowledgement is also extended to the private sector, which has remained steadfast at the wheel of our economy, helping to steer our nation towards our goal of shared prosperity.
As we step into the New Year, we are filled with the promise of a fresh start. It is a time to right wrongs, make resolutions, and strengthen the bonds of friendship and family. The New Year is also a time to look back and learn from the year that has now faded into the recesses of history, but whose lingering effects still remain.
Review of 2023
The past year, tested our collective determination as a nation. It brought trials, threats and triumphs, development, and instances of despair.
We mourned the loss of our precious angels at Mahdia and the tragic deaths of our heroic servicemen in a helicopter crash. In these moments of anguish, our people united, sharing grief and providing moral and material support to those who have lost loved ones. These tragedies were indeed jolting, but they did not floor us. We did not wilt or waver. We proved that we are a resilient nation. We rose to the challenge, surmounting our difficulties and collectively shouldered our burdens. Every time misfortune hit us, we stood tall and unified.
The past year also witnessed a threat to our sovereignty and territorial integrity. I am heartened by the unity displayed by our people in defending our Motherland and unequivocally rejecting any unfounded claims to our territory. Our commitment to peace and the resolution of disputes through peaceful means, and in accordance with international law, remains unwavering.
I extend my thanks to the Opposition for standing in solidarity with the government on this crucial and critical issue. I thank all Guyanese for the massive outpouring of patriotic fervour in response to the threats we faced. Together, we presented a unified front against threats to our territory, reinforcing our collective determination to protect the sovereignty of our beloved Guyana.
The past year also saw successes and triumphs. Our economy remains on a rock-solid footing, registering in 2023 phenomenal economic growth that is estimated at almost 40%. This achievement is not just a number; it is a reflection of the concerted efforts and strategic decisions made to propel our economy forward.
Our national transformative development agenda is not merely a plan on paper; it is being actively rolled out, and our citizens are witnessing the breath of transformation that accompanies these investments. As a consequence, development is sweeping across our country like a breath of fresh air.
My Government has increased the salary base of all public servants by more than 21.5% since 2020; resolved anomalies in the salary of more than 5,000 health workers and 9,000 members of the disciplined services; implemented a series of measures for teachers, costing billions of dollars, to address salaries, allowances, incentives and duty free.
We have also increased the tax threshold from $65,000 to $85,000; increased old age pension by 60%, public assistance by 75%; distributed more than $7 billion in flood relief cash grant; restored the cash grant for school aged children and increasing it to $35,000 per child with a $5,000 uniform cash grant, taking it to $40,000 per child, and making it available to private school children; distributed a $250,000 one off cash grant that benefitted almost 5,500 severed sugar workers; introduced the dialysis programme, making $600,000 per annum available to dialysis patients; invested more than $7.7 billion to support household income through the COVID-19 cash relief programme; removed the VAT on water and electricity; reduced the tax on fuel to 0%, costing an estimated value of $17 billion; directly supported our farmers and fisherfolk through the investment of billions of dollars; launched the part time job programme, bringing new entrants into the workforce and unloading more than $10 billion of disposable income in communities and vulnerable families; the removal of VAT on data, cellphones, ATVs, all of his contributed to the transformation we are seeing; the removal of corporate tax on health and education services, aimed at easing the burden on the population.
In addition, a $5 billion programme was implemented to address cost of living in 2023, covering public servants, teachers, public agencies, farmers, pensioners, community workers and others. Specific measures were also implemented to improve home ownership.
The mining and extractive sector benefitted from billions of dollars in incentives through measures that include the removal of vat on machinery and equipment; removal of VAT on all ATVs for mining, forestry, agriculture and manufacturing; removal of VAT on exports; removal of VAT on lubricating oil; reduction of the sliding scale final tax rate on gold from 3.5% (over US$1,600) and 3% (over US$1,300 and under US$1,600) to 2.5%; and the removal of 10% tributors tax, benefitting thousands of workers in the mining industry
From the national to the regional and local levels, our infrastructure is undergoing improvements. The government’s commitment to building a modern and efficient economy is evident in the incredible changes taking place. Roads, bridges, schools, hospital and public facilities are being constructed and upgraded, enhancing connectivity and accessibility for all Guyanese.
Investments are pouring into our nation, creating economic opportunities for growth and job creation. The private sector, an essential partner in our journey, is firmly at the helm of our economy, contributing to the steering of our nation towards further prosperity. Investments, both domestic and foreign, are instrumental in driving the engine of progress and securing a better life for our people and future generations.
Guyana continues to provide regional and global leadership, particularly in the crucial areas of food, energy, and climate security. Our commitment to these critical issues reflects our understanding of the interconnectedness between global, local and regional challenges and the need for collective action. By leading in these areas, we not only contribute to our well-being but also to making the world a better place.
In 2023, we did not only shine in the area of our economy. Our social services – housing, water, sanitation, education and health – continued to improve, bringing greater benefits to our people. We took active steps to improve security and boost the quality of other public services offered to the public.
We basked in our moments of glory and triumph. Who will ever forget how our spirits soared in 2023 when the Guyana Amazon Warriors clinched victory in the coveted Caribbean Premier League final, right here at home? Who will forget how this team brought our people together and how much its success lifted our nation? Our sportsmen and sportswomen continue to excel, bringing immense joy and glory to our nation. Their achievements not only showcase the talent and dedication of our athletes but also serve as a source of inspiration for the entire nation.
The New Year
My government pledged to improve the lives of our people. We are honouring that promise. The fruits of our collective efforts are beginning to ripen. The future of Guyana is bright and promising. We have set Guyana on a course of sustained growth and prosperity. The New Year – 2024, will see us advance more rapidly along this path as we shape the destiny of present and future generations.
In the next couple of weeks, we will unveil the 2024 Budget. This Budget will detail our expenditure and revenue plans for the coming year. It will deliver on our promise to continuously improve the lives of Guyanese.
I do not wish to steal the thunder of the Honorable Minister of Finance, but I wish to provide you with a broad outlook of what Guyanese can expect in 2024.
Guyanese are going to benefit from improved infrastructural and public services, including water, housing and education. Several major road projects are slated for completion and will make commuting easier.
We expect in 2024 sugar production to be increased, as we continue to invest in the sector’s contribution to rural employment and the rural economy. Rice production, aquaculture and other initiatives will lead to increased food production.
This New Year will also see significant investment in education, including preparations for the roll-out of free university education in 2025.
The capacity and capabilities of our Defense Force will be strengthened to allow for improvements in the defense of our sovereignty and our territorial integrity.
The carnage on our roads will be greeted with a robust road safety and traffic management plan. I intend to have a national conversation on this issue within the coming days, out of that conversation, new laws, regulations and technology will be implemented to stop the carnage on our roads.
Cost-of-living interventions will be made to cushion any spikes in prices in our economy. We want to put more money into the pockets of people. Our policy making matrix will address this ideal and the idea of putting more money in the pockets of our people.
Workers will continue to benefit from increases in their wages and salaries, augmenting the other measures, which we will take to enhance household disposable incomes.
Works will commence on the construction of a new international–branded hotel near the Georgetown Seawall. Ongoing construction of other hotels will be intensified.
Guyana’s energy security plans will be advanced through the ongoing works for the building of a gas-to-shore energy plant that will reduce energy costs. The hinterland electrification program will be expanded to bring electricity to more hinterland residents.
Investments in culture and sport infrastructure will see improvements in sports grounds, playfields and cultural facilities.
We will also be addressing in a very frontal way, the issues of mental health, suicide; advancing measures to increase disposable income; supporting the building of consortiums to further enable our people to benefit from the opportunities here; manufacturing and industrial development expansion, supporting through incentivizing investment in manufacturing and industrial development; more community investment aimed at creating community safe spaces, community security, community livelihood, community empowerment.
We will see a robust plan to further advance the security architecture and infrastructure of our communities and country. Direct policies and policy orientation towards tourism initiatives and expanding our tourism product, and comprehensive policy to address squatting, especially on the Linden-Soesdyke Highway.
These are some of the measures, some of the issues that we will confront in a very frontal way in 2024.
I assure all Guyanese that the government will continue to work tirelessly for your upliftment in the coming year.
On this point, I want to pause and recognise the tremendous work of the cabinet, the government, and all those technicians who are supporting the multitude of projects and investments that are geared at the transformation of our country.
I thank your families that allow you the extended time in national service.
Together, let us face the challenges and embrace the opportunities that lie ahead, confident in the strength of our unity and the promise of a brighter future.
May the New Year bring prosperity, peace, and progress to every one of you!
Happy New Year, and God bless you all!