‘No Intention of Rigging Elections’ – Granger Tells Second Press Conference Since Becoming President

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President David Granger addresses journalists at the Ministry of the President on Friday Dec 15, 2017. (Photo courtesy: Stabroek News)

Says Coalition Government Has Delivered on Promises to Electorate

GEORGETOWN, Guyana – The Guyana government Friday defended its socio-economic policies of the past 30 months saying they had brought significant changes to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country.

President David Granger, speaking during a wide-ranging news conference here, said that the country’s economy had been “prudently” managed over the past two and a half years as compared to the economic problems being faced by neighbouring countries.

It was Granger’s second press conference since taking office in May 2015. It was held at the Ministry of the Presidency.

Granger told reporters that Guyana had recorded economic growth of 3.1 and 3.6 per cent over the last two years and that many Caribbean neighbours had been “flocking” to Guyana.

He said there are more than 20 Surinamese owned companies operating here, while “several huge Trinidadian companies” have established a presence here.

“And there’s a reason why they are coming, because Guyana is growing.. They don’t come to lose money,” Granger said, adding that his administration had also sought to influence the domestic market by reducing corporation taxes so as to get local companies more involved in the manufacturing sector.

He said his administration had also restricted the importation of pine wood here so as to give locals an opportunity to take advantage of the market.

Granger said the government had pumped GUY$31 billion (One Guyana dollar=US$0.008 cents) into the state-owned sugar company, GUYSUCO and defended the decision to establish three mega sugar estates, insisting that the sugar industry is not shutting down.

“As far as the retrenchment benefits are concerned, government is responsible for ensuring that the sugar corporation fulfils its obligation to the workers.

“We are protecting workers livelihood and we don’t want to take any rash decisions which will jeopardise quality of life,” he said, even as he acknowledged that there is need to “arrest the financial haemorrhage” within the sector.

Granger also said his government is committed to ensuring that there is integrity and transparency in all operations, within the oil and gas industry that observers here say could provide much needed revenue to the country following the discovery of oil by the US-based oil giant ExxonMobil in the country’s territorial waters in recent months.

“I will do everything possible under the law to protect, to ensure the integrity of the government and the corporations”, he said, noting that any reports of wrong doing against any public official will be acted upon immediately.

“If any malfeasance is reported to me I will take the action to have it investigated and if there’re culprits the culprits will be subjected to the process of law,” he said, telling reporters that the government has “been very careful to ensure none of its officials are compromised”.

Additionally, he explained that steps are being taken to ensure a strong regulatory framework so that any breach of the laws, by corporation or government official, is brought before the courts.

Granger acknowledged that the oil and gas sectors are a new industries for Guyana and that the government has “been very cautious” in developing the necessary legislative and policy framework to govern the industry.

“Luckily, we have time to ensure not only legislation but also education that is necessary for the organisations at the government level, all of these are put in place. So, we will do everything possible to protect that industry to make sure our children could benefit from it.”

The government has since developed several draft policies and legislation including the Local Content Policy, Petroleum Commission Bill and Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill. The Ministry of Natural Resources, who has oversight responsibility for the sector, is also overseeing the strengthening of existing environmental legislation while the Guyana Civil Defence Commission, is spearheading the development of a national oil response strategy.

While the President has an advisor on petroleum, the government has also benefited from advice and support from regional and international organisations and countries that work in the industry. These include the Commonwealth, the United Nations Development Programme, the United States and Trinidad and Tobago.

During the news conference, Granger said he had no intention whatsoever rigging elections, telling reporters “I have never rigged an election in my life. I have no intention of ever doing so.

“I am not aware that rigged elections was an ideal of Forbes Burnham,( the late former president and leader of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) against whom there had been widespread allegations of election irregularities.

“I think he has made a contribution and I have no compunction that those are ideals which have served the nation well,” he said, insisting that Guyana had made tremendous strides from 1964 to 1974.

“As far as rigging of elections, I don’t see how that is applicable to anything I have said or intend to do,” said Granger, the present leader of the PNCR. Which is a major partner in the coalition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) government.

The main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has on numerous occasions accused Granger of being a protégé of Burnham and, insists that he exhibits intentions of rigging upcoming elections to keep the coalition government in office. – CMC

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