Guyana on target to achieve MDGs -Singh

Guyana is well on target in achieving the 2015 Millennium Development Goals.

So said Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh yesterday, when the 2011 Guyana Millennium Development Goal progress report was officially launched and a copy was presented to the United Nations Development Programme at the International Convention Centre, Liliendaal.

The report is the third of its kind since the initiation of the Millennium Development Strategy was implemented in 2000.

The eight MDGs represent a global partnership to reduce extreme poverty and improve the health and welfare of the world’s poorest people by setting out a series of time-bound targets, with a deadline of 2015. They are: Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; Achieving universal primary education; Promoting gender equality and empowering women; Reducing child mortality; Improving maternal health; Combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; Ensuring environmental sustainability; and Developing a global partnership.

Under the theme, “Guyana: Keeping our promise meeting the Millennium Development Goals,” the Finance Minister stated that as it pertained to goal one, Guyana had recorded a ten percent drop in extreme poverty from 28.7% in 1993 to 18.6% in 2006. Meeting the MDGs would require a further four percent drop. This target, he stated, could only be achieved with multi-sectoral support. Singh called on civil society, the private sector and faith based groups to play their role as the country seeks to meet this goal, since, he explained, this effort would be futile should they not be included.

Further, he noted that unemployment fell by 10%—from 21.7% in 1992 to 10.7% in 2006—and when further analyzed accounted for the 5.8% decrease of the female unemployment rate. The report, however, states that “The main priorities for the government in its effort to boost employment for vulnerable individuals are to improve the system of matching jobs to available workers, reinforce linkages between education, training and the labour market and to more effectively measure progress in the job market.”

Additionally, addressing hunger and malnutrition in children, it was noted that nutrition levels have improved. Malnutrition among children was 11.8% in 1997, but in 2008 data showed that six percent of under-five children experienced mild to moderate malnutrition, and less than one percent suffered severe malnutrition. The Grow More Food Campaign, the Basic Nutrition Programme, the national School Feeding Programme and breast feeding support strategies were credited with the improvements.

Achieving universal primary education, the second goal, will be achieved, Singh stated, while noting that over 95% of the population had earned a primary education. He added that government will seek to “better” the goal by implementing this strategy at the secondary school level.

While the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women, the third MDG, has made “good progress,” boy’s tertiary registrations had decreased. Statistics reveal that there are twice as many girls at the university level as there are boys.

Reducing child mortality and improving maternal health, goals four and five, respectively, were also areas where Singh reported progress. He highlighted the fact that the “under five years” mortality rate had decline from 120 per 1,000 to 17 per 1,000 live births between 1991 and 2008. The report also said that maternal mortality in the same period decreased from 320 to 86 per 100,000 live births. Additionally, between 2009 and 2009, it said access to reproductive health saw an increase, from 92% to 97%. The minster stated that Guyana had the potential to reach the target but that consistent investment would be needed.

Addressing the efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, Singh stated that there was steady progress. He informed that the prevalence of HIV/AIDS had decreased from 7.1 to 1.1% from 1991 to 2009. This in part was due to the availability of anti retroviral medications and awareness programmes implemented countrywide.

Sustainability of donor funds and current programmes, focus on high risk groups and an increase in awareness and knowledge are needed to achieve this goal, he stressed. Said Singh, “Our best national efforts must be matched by adequate, predictable and consistent support from our development partners, in helping us to respond to our dynamic development needs.”

In the area of ensuring environment sustainability, Guyana was also noted as being well on target. The Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) was the number one reason for this positive increase, Singh said. In addition, distribution of over 82,000 house lots to citizens between 1993 and 2009 and water improvement and overall sanitation were also listed as contributors to meeting the target.

On developing a global partnership for development, Singh left the assessment to respective leaders of the United Nations. He explained, “Going forward with this goal is difficult since it is in fact so international in its definition and its achievements so closely contingent on the partnerships with international counterparts’ development… that the report stopped short of making a formal assessment, so that our leaders could form an opinion of their own.”

Yesterday marked the 11th anniversary since Guyana signed and pledged to implement the MDGs at a General Assembly of the United Nations. The progress report is to be used as a key monitoring instrument in giving periodic updates on the progression of the country towards meeting outlined targets specified for the 2015 deadline.

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