Because of Jagdeo, Guyana is better positioned on food security

Dear Editor,

The chattering on the stumps really expose the deep deceptions both the regular and new opposition will go to make their flimsy case to the electorate; their cry that they are the best things to happen to Guyana fades away into empty promises.

Again, the opposition’s remarks that President Bharrat Jagdeo has accomplished nothing for Guyana are an insult to the Guyanese intelligence. Keep in mind, the PPP/C‘s accomplishments for Guyana in an era where Jagdeo has become the most over-scrutinized President in Guyana’s history. Among the myriad of Jagdeo and the PPP/C’s accomplishments, I merely want bring to your attention some thoughts I previously disseminated, which should further expose the opposition for being constantly disingenuous on the campaign trail. Here they are:

The Guyana Government countered the twin evils of rising global food and fuel prices in 2008 and in its aftermath vis-à-vis the following: a 5% increase in remuneration for public service employees, effective January 1, 2008; temporary cost-of-living adjustment of $4,000 monthly to public service employees earning $50,000 and less  per month; subsidies to Guyana Power & Light and Guyana Water Inc. to stem water and electricity rates’ increases; the exclusion of value added tax (VAT) on all essential food items; no excise tax on diesel; a reduced tax on gasoline; zero tax on kerosene and cooking gas and the provision of a flour subsidy of $200 million to cushion price increases of flour and bread.

Also, there were the implementation of the ‘grow more food’ campaign; administration of the US$6.9 million Rural Enterprise and Agricultural Development Project (READ) and the US$22.9 million Agricultural Export Diversification Programme (AEDP), and finding new lands to step up food production in foods and other crops.

If I am not mistaken, no other CARICOM country provided its people with such considerable economic cushions in the wake of huge global food and fuel price increases in 2008. And President Bharrat Jagdeo as Lead Head of State for Agriculture within CARICOM continues to address the food crisis challenge.

For at the CARICOM Heads of Government meeting in July 2008 in Antigua and Barbuda, President Bharrat Jagdeo observed that “…our regional food import bill is over $3 billion, food accounts for up to 20% of total imports in some of our countries, and almost all of our countries have a negative food trade balance that rises in some cases to as much as 10% of the Gross Domestic Product.

Recent developments in food prices also pose a serious threat to the macroeconomic stability in our Region. We also know that by 2030 the global demand for food will double. With the growing of food crops to be converted to bio fuels reducing supply and with growing populations and changing diets increasing demand, many regions may not only face rising prices but shortages of food…” (CARICOM Communications 2008).

Jagdeo, at a recent Heads of Government meeting, also observed that investment and increased governmental spending on agriculture would be critical factors for enhancing food security in the region. He noted then that Guyana pioneered a successful regional agricultural investment forum in 2008; nonetheless, he pointed out that that forum could have fared better, but for the absence of senior regional government functionaries.

Jagdeo reenergized his plea for more regional governmental incentives and increased budgetary resources for agriculture at the Public-Private Sector Consultation on agribusiness in 2009 in Georgetown; at that meeting, too, the President alluded to the ‘patent neglect’ of agriculture within CARICOM (CARICOM Communications 2009). And in the region excepting Guyana, there are only languid moves to advance regional agriculture and constant intra-regional commiseration over huge food import bills and increased inflation; in the meantime, food security already has become a colossal challenge for the region.

Clearly, Jagdeo raised the ante on the coming crisis of food security; that was in 2008. But the President engaged himself in this endeavour long before 2008. He initiated the concept of the Jagdeo Initiative on Agriculture (JIA) way back in 2002, as another approach to address the food crisis challenge, and to facilitate agricultural development by identifying 10 key-binding constraints to agriculture, in Guyana and the rest of the Caricom region.  Excepting Guyana, the other Member States of CARICOM, with their limited response to the JIA and limited incentives and governmental expenditures on agriculture, now have an uphill task on their hands to ward off rising global food prices and inflation.

But compared to 2008, Guyana today is better positioned to withstand the ravages of the ‘eye of the storm’ on food price increases and inflation. CARICOM continues to mess with regional food security through its indifference on agriculture.

Yours faithfully,
Prem Misir

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