GEORGETOWN, Guyana, March 13, 2017 (CMC) – Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, has described Guyana “as a light of progress”, given the financial situation that is confronting several Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries.
Speaking on a radio program here, Jordan said that the economy was existing within an “ocean of problems”, especially with neighbouring countries.
“When you look around the countries that are close to, and surrounding Guyana, you see like an ocean of problems. Suriname no need to say what is going on there; Trinidad no need to say what is there; Barbados, recently they had to fire the (Central Bank) governor…and they have hired the former prime minister, Owen Arthur, as their chief economic advisor, to help them come out of their troubles.
“Venezuela and we know what is going on there…and in all this ocean of problems Guyana is a light of progress,” he told radio listeners, adding that last November, the David Granger government had projected growth at about 2.6 percent.
“The good news now, with the actual numbers coming in, the economy actually grew 3.2 percent last year, which was better than in 2015.”
Jordan said that the growth was led by gold, but the agricultural sector also had “some good showing”.
He acknowledged that there has been “some issues with foreign exchange”, but maintained that Guyana has reserves in excess of GUY$600 million “which …is almost equal to the Barbados reserves.
“The commercial banks also have adequate reserves, so the issue of foreign exchange shortage is either contrived or, as we indicated, some problems are in there.”
Jordan said that the exchange rate “is more or less stabilised …all be it at a depreciated currency. We were, for a long time, at 2.10, I think it is ranging now between GUY210 and GUY215 (One Guyana dollar =US$0.004 cent) but, at least, more and more people are reporting, as they go to the banks, they are getting foreign exchange, although not large sums.
“But that’s for a reason, because the banks are now enforcing; you have to show why you want the currency and they require a couple of days to check that out and, if they have, you will get.”
The Finance Minister said in addition to drastically reduced foreign exchange earnings from rice, sugar and forestry, some gold exporters were violating the law by failing to declare all their earnings to a commercial bank.
“The economy, right now, the thing that is generating foreign exchange is gold. You have a couple of big gold dealers who will sell the gold overseas. You have some issues with them declaring the entire amount that they get overseas,” he said.
Jordan said the Central Bank Governor has been using moral persuasion, instead of enforcing the law.
Jordan said the economy “can do better, first of all if we can get the government spending going. The government spending is large, GUY$250 billion is the budget”.
He said greater scrutiny and transparency sometimes lead to “a slowing of the process”.