The Rotary Club of New Amsterdam has been called upon to ensure that the Ancient County becomes a commercial and economic hub that would cause a resurgence in the country’s financial coffers.
This call was made by President David Granger as he addressed members at the Club’s World Understanding and Peace Dinner Saturday evening.
President David Granger receives a token from the President of the Rotary Club of New Amsterdam Chris Hicks
A section of the gathering last Saturday evening
“East Berbice-Corentyne (Region Six) can lead the economic recovery of the entire country. It can influence the economic development of the Caribbean community through the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME),” the Head of State said, adding that it was no exaggeration.
“This Region comprises 96 communities. It is the only Region with three towns. Guyana needs strong Regions… We need economically robust Regions and that is why we are paying attention to strengthening our regions,” the President said, continuing that the Corentyne was a “sleeping giant” which needed to be aroused from its slumber. “It needs to fulfil its unquestionable potential of the food bowl of the country and the Caribbean,” the President pointed out.
Granger told the gathering that the East Berbice-Corentyne Region was the only Region to be bordered by two countries: Brazil and Suriname and was the third largest administrative Region, spanning over 36,000 square kilometres. He said it was bigger than Belize, Burundi, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago, and the residents must take the initiative and step to build a strong, resilient, economically robust region which would take the country forward.
“The Corentyne enjoys an interesting and an enjoyable democratic spread. This Region is steeped in heritage and history. It is rich in cultural diversity. The Corentyne is the agricultural heartland in Guyana, richly endowed with fertile, cultivable lands. There are three sugar estates: Albion, Rose Hall and Skeldon. This Region is home to the country’s largest water control system, evidenced in the Black Bush Polder scheme.”
He noted that it was interesting that the Region was supported by fishing, farming, cattle rearing, timber, bauxite mining [and] shipping. The Region is the country’s “cattle ranch, its sugar bowl, its rice pot, its fish market and a market place for its commodities. The Corentyne also possesses untapped potential for tourism; eco and heritage tourism”.
At the same time, the President noted that the Region has been a victim of depopulation, dropping from approximately 150,000 persons in 1980 to about 110,000 in 2012. This, he opined, has had an adverse impact on its growth and development; however, East Berbice-Corentyne stands to be a force to be reckoned with if the necessary work and cooperation was received. This must start with the elimination of personal, political, racial and cultural biases and divisiveness, he said.
Noting that “fortune favours the brave, but fortune for the economic revival will not drop from the sky”, the President said an action plan was needed for the Region if its true potential was to be realised. This strategy must be based on a shared vision and focused on three areas: education, empowerment and enterprise. The President posited that the plan must begin at the community and grassroots levels before it reached the top.
“Such a plan can be the basis of transformation for this Region into an economic powerhouse. Economic development is not a racial issue. The economy does not belong to a political party. It is a public good. If the Corentyne prospers, the country will progress. You are important to the whole country. This Corentyne action must begin from the bottom up – from our communities. Community life should be reinvigorated. Economic revival of villages will allow this Region to become a magnet,” President Granger expressed.
He also spoke of the importance of Local Government Elections in advancing the Region, noting that the polls was one of the most critical ways in which citizens become empowered to develop their communities, villages, regions and country.
“When people are disempowered, councils are removed and [Interim Management Committees] IMCs implemented, they don’t feel a sense of belonging. They don’t own their communities. Garbage piles up, potholes proliferate, no street lights, Zika is on its way. These are problems that can be solved in … communities and we want to remove all those IMCs and replace them with elected councils. If they don’t shape up and perform – as long as I am here, there will be Local Government Elections every three years, move them… We have a new opportunity to re-empower ourselves,” he told the gathering.
The President also said that he wanted to see a safe, prospering country, to which persons would be encouraged to return and as such, he has been holding regular meetings with the Commissioner of Police to ensure that systems were being put in place to curb crime. He said that already, monthly aerial patrols were being conducted from Charity to the Corentyne, to protect fishermen and clamp down on piracy.