Heads of our Joint Services, our distinguished men and women in uniform, members of the Cabinet, members of the diplomatic community, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, good evening and welcome to this, our Independence celebration in Region number 10.

Please put your hands together for all of us here in Region number 10.

Before I proceed any further, we must recognise that in this region recently, we lost two teachers in an accident and in our country, we would have lost many brave patriotic personalities. Since we gathered together at our last Independence in honour of these individuals, our teachers, we lost an accident here in Region 10 recently, and all our patriotic men and women, I ask all of you to rise in a moment of silence in reflection and prayers as we remember all those who would have left us from the last time we gathered together.

Thank you very much and you may have your seats.

Before I proceed any further into this year’s Independence address, allow me to once again salute the brave men and women in uniform of our country and all those who continue to work tirelessly in public service and I ask you to put your hands together for these exceptional assets of our country.

Today, we live in a Guyana that is much different from our first Independence, a Guyana that is shaping her own way globally, a Guyana that is creating her own brand, a Guyana that is creating new opportunities, a Guyana that is re-energising itself as we work towards a singular goal of bringing all of us together under the umbrella of One Guyana and bringing prosperity to every single family and every single home. Our vision is one that seeks to ensure that we can build a society that is not only free and just but a society in which the aspirations of every Guyanese can be realised, a society in which we become truly our brothers and sisters’ keepers, a society in which we abide by the rule of law, in which we cherish our cultural heritage, in which we lift each other up in unity, in which we make continuous sacrifices so that the next generation that comes after us can live an even more prosperous life in this beautiful country of ours.

We recommit ourselves on this occasion to building a Guyana that is resilient, a Guyana that is strong and sustainable, a Guyana that is competitive, and a Guyana in which the citizens of her country, the citizens of our country must and will enjoy the best quality healthcare services, educational services, infrastructure and recreational facilities.

This is the Guyana that we are creating, a Guyana that is managed by prudent and sound financial policies, a Guyana in which all our productive sectors are working to ensure that the revenue generated to support modernisation and transformative plans are realised, a Guyana in which the rule of law and order is consistently working to protect the people, a Guyana in which we will build a society that supports national prosperity for all, for the society and our society, national prosperity is about ensuring that our working age population can be gainfully employed.

It is a Guyana through which we can have access to world-class educational and healthcare services, a Guyana in which we can own our own homes, we can own our own motor vehicles, we can live, celebrate and honour our religious heritage, our cultural heritage and do so in a safe environment.

This is the Guyana that we are building and the Guyana in which we are seeing so many strides and physical manifestations of development, a Guyana in which we will have the benefit of reliable and modern infrastructure utilities, a Guyana in which we can enjoy a dignified life while actively pursuing different paths, a dignified retirement, a dignified aging process. This is the Guyana that we are building and I will demonstrate to you on this, our Independence celebration, how we are systematically ensuring that we build this Guyana, how our children here tonight can look forward to a future that is not only bright and beautiful, but a future in which their aspirations, their goals, their dreams will be met by the investments we’re making.

What is it, and how are we framing our policies to support the society and country we want to build?

We are on course of achieving the 50,000 promised house lots. We have invested in ensuring that home ownership is made easier, not only by putting in the infrastructure and building out the housing schemes and delivering the house lots by ensuring we place policies and supportive programmes that brought down the interest rate by three percentage points and four percentage points so that today you could enjoy a low-income loan for housing at 3.5 per cent or less and a moderate income loan of 5.5 per cent or less, that is a policy framework that we would have developed to ensure that home ownership can be realised.

 And my friends, home ownership is linked to the building of families, the building of communities, that empowerment of yourselves, the improvement of your net value and more importantly, ensuring that things that you did not have in the past, that is having your own shelter so your children can enjoy the safety and security of their own home. These are the elements of home ownership that are key and critical for us.

We have invested close to $3bn in the housing programme here in Region 10. We are building more than 1000 homes, we are investing in creating a society in which our young professionals near in Region 10 our teachers, our doctors, our nurses, our engineers, our private sector managers, our public servants, our young people can live in dignity, can own their own homes, can own their own young professional homes, can increase their net worth and their net value. That is the Guyana that we are creating, and here in Region 10 it is no different. We will remove VAT on all building materials and construction material so that home ownership becomes less costly, and that we can support you as you aspire to own your own homes.

We have given a subsidy on building materials such as steel and cement so that you can achieve home ownership, and in the next three years, we want to ensure that our men and women in uniform, that they too, all of them live in their own homes, in their own secure homes, and they have that security of home ownership. This is what living in dignity and building prosperity is about.

We have been investing in healthcare, ensuring that our population has access to better health facilities, investing in training more doctors, training more than 2000 nurses, more than 3000 community health workers, training hundreds of doctors in specialised areas and as a result of this investment what have we seen?  We have seen that from 2020 to now, life expectancy in our country as increased by two years overall to 70 in males, and for our females, 74 is their new life expectancy.

That is as a result of the investment we are making in the healthcare system.

But we are not satisfied with this. We want our overall life expectancy to go to 72 years by 2025 and to 75 by 2030. That is why, we’re investing in the modernisation of our healthcare system. We’re investing in public health education. We’re investing by partnering with the best in the world to develop a healthcare system that is second to none.

The investment we are making has also seen a reduction in child mortality. Child mortality is now 13 per every 1000 births, when as compared to 19 in 2019. We have reduced from 19 child mortality for every 1000 birth to 13 for every 1000 births. This is testimony, this is qualitative analysis and qualitative examples of how the policies and expenditure of the government are working to make the lives of Guyanese better.

Maternal mortality is at the lowest it has ever been in the history of our country. It is now 96 per 10,000 deliveries. 96 for 10,000 compared to 170 for 10,000 in 2017.

The number of surgeries that we are doing now at the Georgetown hospital alone has increased to 22,000 annually.

Today in three and a half years of investment, we are now doing cardiac surgery, paediatric cardiac surgery, and cataract surgery. We have completed, for the first time, 55 knee and hip replacements, and we want to take this to 100 per year, from 55 per year to 100 per year. We have completed hundreds of complex and less complex brain surgeries.

Today at the Georgetown public hospital, CT scans are now free. In 2019, this was a paid service. Today we have made CT scans free of cost and we are doing an average of 1000 CT scans at the Georgetown public hospital every single month.

That is 12,000 CT scans in a year at one public hospital, and we are investing so that all our regional health facilities, we will have similar services provided for the citizens of our country and we want to even give higher levels of service my brothers and sisters. That is why we are constructing the paediatric and maternal hospital, the six new regional hospitals, the upgrade of our health centres, new health centres, and the modernisation of other regional hospitals, including your hospitals here in Region 10 And the health centres in the riverine community, because the riverine community is important also. That is why we are investing to ensure that your health centres are also upgraded so that you can have quality service right in your community.

Today, we are building two more nursing schools. We have announced a policy that any Guyanese with a basic qualification who would like to do nursing, the government will pay for you to do it, give you a stipend whilst you do it, and then ensure you’re hired after you have completed the programme. Your country is delivering to you. Your country is keeping your dreams and aspirations alive. Your country is creating for all of us, every single Guyanese, an opportunity of a lifetime, an opportunity that the generations before us dreamt of.

This new, independent and free Guyana has before it, the greatest potential. But more than that potential, we now have the wherewithal to convert the potential into reality and to place Guyana at the centrepiece of global development and we are doing this. We are already the centrepiece when it comes to forests and forestry management, climate change and climate services, biodiversity services, energy and energy services, and food production and food services.

We have been able, your country, our Motherland is now at the centre of these important developments regionally and globally. There can be no conversations in the future on energy without Guyana being a part of that conversation. There can be no conversation on climate change, forests, biodiversity and environment without Guyana being a part of that conversation. There can be no conversation on regional food security and creating food sustainability plans in this region without Guyana being the centrepiece of that conversation and here in Region 10, we are going to create the architecture and infrastructure so that your region can be an integral part of this conversation.

Make no mistake, this region that we are in tonight is going to be the centrepiece for development. It is going to be the critical link between the investment we are making towards the Guiana Shield, connecting northern Brazil, building out in the interior, connecting into Bartica, building your roads, opening up new lands, creating new opportunities, and in a moment, I will position your region into the reality of where it is place in the future of our country.

In education, we’re investing to ensure that all our teachers can be trained graduates. When you look at our investment in education, we are investing for every single child $700,000 in education, for every single child, we’re investing $700,000. When you compare this to 2019, in 2019 we were investing less than $300,000 for every child.

Today, we’re investing $700,000 for every child, but more importantly, we are looking into the future. That is why we are now working towards ensuring Guyana will be in the coming months creating the first digital school, the first technologically-driven school for primary and secondary education that will be teaching live online, and why do we need this? We want every single child to ensure that they are in a learning environment.

So whilst we’re investing in bringing down the costs of data and making internet and data more accessible to every community, we are also working to ensure not only are we building smart hospitals and investing in telemedicine, but we want to create the first digital education system in this region and perhaps globally, and we want to do this eventually at a national scale.

To our teachers, I want to assure our teachers tonight that you are important for us that we love you and we care about you; that this government will do everything within this financial means to ensure that you are treated fairly. We want you to have a life of dignity. That is why since we came into office, we’ve been investing in the entire ecosystem surrounding our teachers, surrounding our nurses, surrounding our doctors, surrounding our farmers, surrounding those in the sugar industry, surrounding those in the rice industry, surrounding those in the bauxite industry, because we want all of Guyana to rise in the rising tide of development and progress.

We don’t want any community any region or any section of our population to be left behind. There is no place for that. We want you to retire in dignity. That is why in the last four years, we have given back to our pensioners more than $1.4bn. In the last four years in electricity and water subsidy alone, we have given back directly into the pockets of our pensioners $1.4bn. We have placed in the pockets of our pensioners $13.4bn in old age pension and we have increased public assistance from $9,000 to $19,000 in four years, putting $2.8bn of public assistance in the pockets of the vulnerable.

My friends, in addition to this, we provide an annual cash grant of $600,000 for dialysis services. Our children with disability benefited from an injection of $700m. Any child or pensioner who requires an eye examination, they are given a voucher of $3,000 to do it wherever they want to do it, and if they have to get spectacles they will be given an additional voucher of $15,000. This is an investment of more than $2 bn.

In our 2024 Budget, we have set aside $2.8bn in vouchers for our women to ensure that they can go for cervical cancer screening, but much more than this, much more than this. We have set aside the resources, more than $2bn to build out the facility and invest in the equipment so if they need treatment they can get the best first-world, first-class, treatment right here in Guyana. These are the things that we have been doing.

In the last four years, we have placed in the pockets of our children $22bn under the “Because We Care” programme. This is how we’re investing to ensure that the people of our country benefit and develop. When you look at the realities of our country, we are also faced with challenges.

Our GPL customer base has increased from 177,000 in 2014 to more than 230,000 today. That is more than 50,000 new customers but more importantly, we had an increase in demand from 2020 to now. The demand at peak has increased by 45.6%. In 2019, the demand at peak was 126 megawatts. Today the demand at peak is 185 megawatts. That is why we have to invest in bringing new power into the equation. We have brought 127 megawatts of additional power, 9.6 megawatts of emergency power, 46.5 at Garden of Eden, six megawatts at Onverwagt, 28.9 at Columbia and 36 megawatt at Everton.

And when you look at policies to improve disposable income, let us look at one example. Last year we imported almost three times the number of vehicles we imported in 2019. Close to 40,000 vehicles were imported in 2023 compared to 14,000 in 2019. Thousands more Guyanese are now owning their own homes. What does this tell you? This tells you that our policy of putting more money, more disposable income to the population is working.

The prosperity we want to build in every home is working and the policies are delivering results. And to ensure that we secure the livelihood of our population, we have sacrificed, we have zeroed the excise tax on fuel imports, zeroed it.

Since COVID, we have not collected a single cent in tax which means that we have absorbed, we taken away from you a burden of more than $60bn that would have been passed on to you in added charges. No other country has done this in such a sustained way over four years, saving the consumers of this country $60bn.

We will continue to make these important investments, my friends.

In another two years, we want to ensure that we are the leaders in agriculture. We are going to be a major food producer for export, and we are going to have full sustainability here in Guyana. And in the investment we have made so far, what have we seen in 2023? We have seen that in legumes, we had an increasing production of 106%; in peanuts, an increased production by 286%; coconut production, an increase of 55%; ground provision, vegetables, an increase of an average of 218%; 53% increase in spices and seasoning and 16% increase in fruit production. But we are not satisfied with this.

We are now working on building a first-class food hub, a regional food hub, right here in Guyana and Region 10 will be critically connected.

This region will be the transport and logistics hub between Brazil and the rest of the Caribbean and the rest of the region. All the investment that is taking place on the port side, the more than US$126m investment in bauxite. More than 100 contractors from this region are involved in providing services for Bosai.

More than 950 persons are employed directly, and 50 persons are employed indirectly and with the added investments that they’re making this year. By the end of this year, another 300 residents of Region 10 will be employed.

This is the type of investment that is transformative in nature. When you look at our fishery sector, our forestry sector, all these sectors are demonstrating how the policy is working for us.

In 2019, the forestry sector came to a halt. We did not even have money to pay wages in the forestry sector. Today, we return the sector to viability and we have seen from 2020 to last year an increase in production of more than 35%. So the investments we are making, the policies we’re pursuing are bearing fruit for us.

My dear friends, Guyana restarted its manganese export after 54 years and in 2022 we had notable exports of more than 255 tonnes. Outside of this, the demand for sand and production of sand has increased by 1,225% when compared to 2020 and the production of stone, quarry material has increased by more than 220%. What does this tell you? This tells you about a country that is on the rise. A country that is going through a major building phase and the rebuilding phase.

This is your land. This is your home. This is a reality of the country we live in, a country that is on the rise, a country that is highly sought after but we together as a people must celebrate this brand. We must be able to keep this brand alive, and to ensure that this brand not only remains viable and sustainable, but that this brand carries with it a goodwill that is backed by every single citizen of this beautiful country.

Every citizen who this country gave birth to here and in the diaspora, here in Region 10, this beautiful region that we are gathered in and I want to assure you that this region is going to be an incredible region in the future. The type of investments and developments that will take place in this region will be second to none.

Our investment in Region 10 is aimed at positioning this region as a major investment centre in Guyana by establishing a manufacturing ecosystem, enhancing transport and logistics, engineering services and expanding housing.

Many of you may not know but in 2008 the Fiscal Enactment Act was passed and in that Act Region 10 was singled out as a Special Economic Zone, and in this special economic zone, investments in agro processing, industrial development, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, chemicals are all given special and differentiated treatment.

Over the last four years, we have seen $3.5bn of investments signed to the private sector here for Region 10. But outside of this, we are creating the ecosystem to support the transformation in Region 10.  That is why we have spent almost $4bn on the construction and upgrade of more than 150 miscellaneous and urban roads. We have constructed 67 kilometres of rigid pavement, and asphalt concrete road. We expended more than $3bn on improvement of our hinterland roads. We’ve invested in riverine communities, whether it’s in health, education, or water, because we believe that development must be equitable, regardless of where you are.

Today, we have commenced the building of 45 bridges from Mabaruma to Kurupukari to Lethem, so that we will have a world-class infrastructure connecting Region 10, not only to the interior but connecting Region 10 to the great possibility that exists in northern Brazil so that you will be an integral part in the transport, logistics, shipping hub, that container transhipment point in this whole ecosystem that we are building where the food capital, the regional food hub will be located within your region. Your region will be the region that will be producing all the corn and soya for us nationally and to satisfy CARICOM’s needs. Your region will soon produce the black eye and red beans to satisfy national demand and by the end of next year to satisfy regional demand.

These are already investments in place.

Your region, my brothers and sisters will see some of the greatest investments. The Linden-Mabura Hill Road, 121 kilometres, US$190m. Recently, we awarded the Wismar Bridge at another $US35m.

Soon, we will award the upgrade of the Linden-Soesdyke Highway, a project that will cost us US$120m. We are looking also to develop the Timehri to Bartica link through the West Bank Demerara River from Sand Hill to Mokouria on the Essequibo River, crossing Monkey Jump to Bartica, some 44 kilometres of total alignment from Fall Mouth has already been cleared, but 10 kilometres upgraded to a fair-weather loam road.

Billions of dollars will be spent on creating this important infrastructure link that will open up forestry opportunity, agriculture opportunity, mining opportunity, commerce opportunity, tourism opportunity and connect your market to the rest of the market in our country. These are the investments that are transformative, that will raise your region, that will lift your region every single village in the river, every single community here in Region 10, you will be lifted with this tide of development.

The investment, as I said that we are making in housing in this region, the more than $1bn investment we are making to ensure you have quality water, water treatment plant but more importantly, in this region, this beautiful region of Region 10, we must never forget that this region has one of the greatest athletic history of our country.

This is a region with athletic pride when you talk about Skinny Wilson, George Hill, Roxanne Silles, [Lourane] Jordan, Wayne (Blackbush) Struger, Andrew Foresyte, Sullivan, Elton Jefford, Hilton Barker and many others, including Marion Burnette. These are all national athletes who would have made their mark and I know the Prime Minister would want to say he was an athlete too, but your region also, Region 10 produced two Prime Ministers of Guyana, one standing on stage here tonight.

Put your hands together for the quality of personality that your region has produced for us as a country. You talk about boxing, Charles (Shorty) Amos, Terrence Alli, Walter Smith, Vonrade Wilson, ‘Lunk’ the Policeman and Collin Livingston, all of these are boxers that we celebrate, that you produce here in Region 10.

You talk about football, [Neville] ‘Zipper’ Johnson, Bing and Rupert Charter, Desmond Solomon and his younger brother, Edward Richmond, Clive Wilson, Lloyd Medas, Nigel Cummings, Ivan Persaud, the Hudson brothers, Colly Hercules, Russel Persaud and Jimmy McLean, these are all national footballers that your region give to our country.

And you are not left out of cricket too, many people ask, why are we investing in a new cricket stadium, you even produced Vincent Adams as a cricketer, Vibert Benjamin, Orin (pacer) Gordon, [Eon] Duncan, and many others. These are the pride of your history. That is why sport has a special place in your region.  And not to forget basketball, Royston Telford, Julius Bennet, the Brusche brothers; in cycling Joilin Joseph, Ignatius Titus, ‘Fishie’ Williams, the Waterton brothers, the Rose brothers, Winslow (pinkie) Richmond and many others.

These are the products of your region that is why the government through the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport, we have invested in your region to bring back the legends that you have created for these children and the young people. We have invested in less than three years $1.4bn to build back your sports facilities here. The multi-purpose facility is being built to accommodate international FIFA standard football.

You’re going to see a major push to ensure that your region becomes an important region in tourism and development. Silica City, the new Silica City will be connected to your region. The new highway that will come from Mandela and connect to the Linden- Soesdyke highway will reduce your transport time, bring greater efficiency.

So my dear friends, I think I made the point that we have invested in your region equally as we have invested in any other region and per capita, when you look at per capita investment, we have invested in your region higher than any other region per capita because we understand the potential of this region. We believe in the potential of this region as we believe in the potential of Guyana.

So on this Independence, my brothers and sisters, I say, let the weight of the past, let the burden of the past, let the sorrows of the past, not be the anchor that weighs us down, but be the dislodged chain that allows us to rise in pride and glory knowing that the future brings with it a brighter, brighter tomorrow. Rid ourselves of the weight of disunity, the weight of false pride, the weight of false hope and reignite our body and our spirit and our mind with the presence of the time now, with the understanding of the future tomorrow, with the self-belief and the understanding that we are all committed to each other in ensuring that the best of tomorrow is before us.

 So, my dear friends as we celebrate this our Independence we do so before the glory of God. We do so, committing ourselves before the supreme throne that all of us are equal. None of us are superior to the other, and all of us must be inheritors of the future we build for one another.

I thank you, and God bless you.