Budget needs foreign policy framework – Norton

The People’s National Congress Reform-1G is disheartened that the 2006 national budget has not addressed the country’s foreign policy concerns and has cited the need for a well thought out diplomatic effort aimed at securing national interests.

The observation came from PNCR-1G Member of Parliament (MP) Aubrey Norton at the first round of the budget debate on Friday.

Norton in his presentation argued that the omission of a foreign policy framework from the national budget, which he said was done for the first time, “takes on a new dimension.” and quoted sections where Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh pointed to the number of investors who continue to show interest in Guyana’s oil potential.

Singh in his presentation had noted government’s satisfaction with the show of interest by four companies who will begin oil exploration in the second half of this year and another company which is to commence work offshore.

It is in this vein that the main opposition party argued that while it welcomed these developments, there were domestic issues which have foreign policy ramifications.

“It is in this regard, madam speaker, that it is mind boggling that the minister in the budget speech did not see it fit to address the foreign policy concerns,” Norton asserted.

He shared his belief too that the international and regional political situation was disposed to Guyana “alternating if not resolving its border and territorial problems.”

The PNCR-1G MP outlined the need for Guyana to establish “a clear frontier policy” and has also recommended the injection of the required resources and expertise into the foreign affairs ministry. The main opposition party also proposed a widening of the government’s vision of the role foreign policy could play in the country’s development.

The PNCR-1G MP related Guyana’s experience with the CGX oil exploration which had raised major border issues with neighbouring Suriname, and cited a more urgent need for Guyana to intensify its diplomatic effort in an attempt to “rid our oil of troubled waters.” The CGX rig was chased out of waters claimed by Guyana by Surinamese gunboats in June, 2000.

MOFA strategic plan

The main opposition argued too for the urgent implementation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Strategic Plan, which Norton said that this year’s budget did not acknowledge.

He quoted former finance minister Saisnarine Kowlessar who he said emphasized the need for Guyana to rely on diplomacy and its relations with other countries in the international community to maximize development.

He said the ministry’s strategic plan for 2005 to 2009 called for capacity building of the ministry, and noted that nothing much has changed.

Norton called for a holistic approach in which the ministry’s capacity could be developed and for its work to be seen as being a significant contributor to the development of Guyana.

In his presentation of the 2007 National budget, the Finance Minister had pointed out that Guyana’s national profile in the global arena would be substantially elevated when it plays host to the three important international events this year: the summit of the Rio Group of countries, Cricket World Cup and the Commonwealth ministers of finance meeting.

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