Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Seven women in government hold power to use oil revenues for a visible leap in Guyana’s social services

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Crowned “the fastest growing economy in the world, on account of its spectacular Stabroek block discoveries, the Guyana government shoulders the responsibility of ensuring the growth is converted into development.

It must, at the very least, strengthen its human and institutional capacities. This is considered the cornerstone of good governance for extractive wealth of such magnitude. It must also use a portion of those revenues sustainably and transparently to transform the lives of its people.

Indeed, the entire spectrum of ministers, and their supporting team, inclusive of foreign experts, will be integral to the state’s fulfilment of those duties. However, the women of government hold strategic posts that if properly utilised, could truly serve as a model for other states to follow.

Specifically, the nation’s Education Minister, Priya Manickchand, as well as its Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr. Vindhya Persaud, arguably lead two of the most critical portfolios. Both have been ardent champions of societal progression with several accomplishments under their belt since assuming office in 2020.

In 2021, the Ministry of Education launched the new Education Strategic Plan for the period 2021 to 2025. This presented the 2030 Vision for the sector, aimed at providing opportunities for equitable access to quality education and lifelong learning for all. The plan states that it is the government’s intention to reform the curriculum, expand teacher training, construct new schools, and establish robust systems to educate each generation. Consistent with this vision, GY$74.4 billion was budgeted for this sector in 2022 – the fiscal year that incorporated the first withdrawal from the Natural Resource Fund.

According to the 2022 Mid-Year Report, the Education Ministry dedicated GY$6.6 billion to improving infrastructure for facilities. During the review period, 1,151 teachers were trained on the use of the renewed curriculum at the primary level, which aims to promote greater inclusivity by considering the unique qualities and varied abilities of each child.

The ministry has also provided financial support to families of school children in the form of the Because We Care cash grant. It was increased from GY$15,000 to GY$25,000, and the school uniform supplies grant from GY$4,000 to GY$5,000 in 2022.

The ministry has also used GY$1.3 billion to provide an additional 4,500 online scholarships under the Guyana Online Academy Learning (GOAL) programme. Additionally, A Get Ready for Opportunity to Work (GROW) project was launched to distribute 4,000 scholarships to persons who did not complete their secondary education.

Similarly, the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security has recorded several notable achievements. It has been able to train more than 500 persons to care for the elderly.

At mid-year, it was noted by the Finance Ministry that the implementation of the ministry’s initiatives for women’s and men’s empowerment gained momentum with the development of employable skills. Towards this end, 1,277 persons graduated with a skill in the first half of 2022 through the Women’s Innovation and Investment Network (WIIN) Business Clinic and the Board of Industrial Training (BIT), of which 980 were women and 297 were men. These courses included Child Care, Care for the Elderly, Garment Construction, Home Management and Patient Care Level 2. Another 5,657 applications have been processed for the skills training scheduled to commence in the second half.

In May, President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali demonstrated his support for vulnerable groups as he announced a cash grant of GY$100,000 for each child with a disability. This undoubtedly progressed the implementation of interventions for the empowerment of persons with disabilities.

Additionally, the government has pushed through with the establishment of a first-class national classroom for autistic children. These are but a few of the notable achievements made under the stewardship of Minister Persaud.

Making their own imprints of transformation in their respective fields are Minister of Public Service, Sonia Parag—a strident enabler of the country’s literacy goals; and Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Oneidge Walrond. Walrond has been spearheading the reform of the nation’s tourism products while tackling the removal of bureaucratic red tape from the business environment.

Since 1992, Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai has been, and continues to be, a most passionate economist and human rights defender for the nation’s first people. As oil revenues increase, Sukhai has an incredible opportunity to advance innovative policies and programmes that transform the lives of indigenous groups. Her leverage is also extended with the signing of a landmark agreement on December 2, 2022. On that date, Guyana struck a historic deal with Stabroek block stakeholder, Hess Corporation, for the sale of carbon credits. The country is expected to gain a minimum of US$750 million of which 15% will be set aside for the development of Amerindian communities.

Minister within the Ministry of Housing and Water, Susan Rodrigues continues to lend her indomitable spirit and energies towards ensuring Guyana achieves Sustainable Development Goal #6 — the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira, is one of the nation’s most experienced political scientists and has served the arena for more than 30 years. She has and continues to be, a fierce protector of Parliament’s stability and the pillars of democracy.

Conclusion

Oil revenues are not automatic springboards for transformative development. Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, and Venezuela demonstrate how easy it can be for authorities to become ensnared in the oil dependence trap.

It takes innovative policies and programmes, shrewd governance, and politics to effect real change and steer clear of the resource curse. The women in government have already demonstrated that they are capable and desirous of taking Guyana into an era of transformation.

The next three years will be critical as they operationalise the transformative development and empowerment they wish to be remembered for.

About Energy Insights

From the people who bring you day-to-day coverage through OilNOW – the Caribbean’s premier oil, gas and energy information service – the Energy Insights column offers perspectives and analyses on the evolving energy sector in the South American/Caribbean region, and further afield.

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