President Donald Ramotar yesterday chaired his first meeting of the National Stakeholders’ Forum where over 100 representatives of civil society took part in what has been described as a satisfying and fruitful engagement.
According to the Government Information Agency (GINA), the 100-plus civil society representatives who participated left the Office of the President satisfied with the engagement and are looking forward to the promise of discussions of a similar nature in the near future.
GINA in a press release said that so fruitful was yesterday’s meeting that some organisations such as those representing the various religions and indigenous people expressed the need for a separate meeting with the President.
Minutes before entering the meeting, President Ramotar shared some of his expectations with members of the media, chief among which is to reach greater understanding of the goals to be achieved at the national level.
At the end of the meeting, the President stated that the views and ideas expressed were meaningful and will be appraised to determine their practicality. GINA said included in the exchange was an overview of the economy and the state of governance.
“I think it was a very healthy forum, we got a lot of information and a lot of exchanges. We are going to put what we can into practice and, we are going to continue this forum and make it more on a sectoral basis to focus attention,” the President said.
The forum which was initiated in 2008 comprises representatives of organisations responsible for labour, business, religion, indigenous peoples, and the service and rights organisations among others.
Speaking on behalf of the trade union movement, Norris Witter from the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) committed to working in partnership with the stakeholders and President Ramotar and, expressed the hope that the engagements that were initiated between the Government and the unions in the past will reconvene.
“We have to sit and discuss issues of national importance, not only as they affect labour but as issues that affect national policy, national development and so on. So I think it’s a commendable beginning and we are prepared to work,” Witter said.
Chartered Accountant Christopher Ram expressed the view, GINA said, that the forum was most useful and spoke with admiration about the “positive approach” that President Ramotar demonstrated. “He is a great listener, he can rise above party politics… this afternoon he showed that he is prepared to listen to other views… people felt confident that they could speak there without being afraid that they could be criticised,” Ram said.
At the forum, the private sector was able to bring to the fore issues such as taxes and political stability as a prerequisite of growth, diversification and Guyana as an export led economy.
According to GINA, Chairman of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) Clinton Urling acknowledged that both the President and Finance Minister were able to adequately address some of the issues raised.
General Secretary of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) Kenneth Joseph said that his umbrella body was heartened to hear the private sector share similar concerns on the issue of the tax reform.
Chairperson of the National Toshaos Council and member of the Indigenous People’s Com-mission Yvonne Pearson, according to GINA, said she was able to fully put forward her concerns about youth involvement in agriculture and education in the hinterland.