Feasibility of continuing Guyana Prize to be done, Norton says

Dr. George Norton

The future of the Guyana Prize for Literature is at the moment undetermined as the Department of Culture is to assess whether the competition is worth the large investment.

Social Cohesion Minister, Dr  George Norton, who also has responsibility for the Department of Culture, Youth and Sport, told Stabroek News yesterday that he has embarked on gathering information as it relates to the feasibility of the competition, and whether it is producing the desired impact.

“If the objective is to encourage young Guyanese writers to continue along that line or to encourage young persons to start writing, then we’ve got to look to see how that prize so far has achieved that. If that is what we’re setting out to do and we have not been achieving that, then we need to put measures in place to achieve that,” the minister stated.

He noted that the ministry is not intent on making such a large investment unless it is receiving the desired returns.

“We would not go spending that kind of money if we are not certain that it is achieving what it set out to achieve in the first place and if it’s worth the amount of money—because it runs into millions of dollars that we can ill-afford at this time,” he said.

Minister Norton explained that once research has concluded, the matter will be taken to Cabinet for consideration.

“…I would like to present to Cabinet my take on the present situation after I have gathered all the information that is available to me with regards to the aims and objectives of the whole reason for having this prize, it’s success or shortcomings over the years, the cost and particularly if we’re getting value for money with the whole exercise,” the minister stated, while relating that there is a need for such a review because those who held responsibility for the portfolio are either not providing all the information, or do not have access to all the relevant information.

The latest call for entries for the Guyana Prize for Literature was launched last January. With a March, 2017 deadline and a period of a few months allowed for judging, the results of the competition are long overdue.

Over the past few months, persons have raised concerns about the silence of the organising committee on the status of the competition, with not even a shortlist being provided.

Secretary to the Committee Al Creighton, when contacted two weeks ago, had related that the competition, including the judging, has been stalled by a lack of funding, which is an issue it was engaging the ministry to iron out.

However, Creighton had seemed optimistic that the situation would be resolved, as he related that there are already tentative dates for the awards ceremony and an accompanying Literary Festival, which he expected will be held before the end of the year.

The Guyana Prize for Literature was introduced by the late President Desmond Hoyte in 1987.

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