Urgent action needed to contain effects of pandemic – Finance Minister

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Senior Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh today indicated that Latin American and Caribbean countries need to act with urgency in the recovery process. The Minister served as a panelist on a virtual high-level meeting titled “The Road to Recovery in Latin America and the Caribbean”. This was convened as part of the 2021 Annual Meetings of the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB).

Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is the region hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and thus, the meeting featured an exchange between high-level policy makers across countries and sectors including Ministers of Finance, Planning, Labour, Health and Education, to discuss progress towards closely interrelated objectives by policymakers that focus on supporting the region’s pandemic recovery. These objectives include: strengthening LAC’s public health response to creating the necessary space for economic reactivation, minimizing the long-term scarring by the crisis on human capital development, and supporting job creation, particularly for those impacted by the crisis.

During his presentation, Minister Singh indicated that even as Latin American countries battle the various challenges, first and foremost is ensuring that people are protected.
“First, we must do all we can to keep our people alive, safe, and well. This necessitates ensuring: adequate capacity in the health care system; access by the entire population to food, potable water, and sanitation, especially given the ongoing threat to livelihood faced by the most vulnerable; and access to vaccines given the scientific evidence on vaccine efficacy. In Guyana, for example, we have pursued an aggressive vaccination campaign, achieving to date first dose coverage of 71 percent and second dose coverage of 42 of the adult population, and amongst the adolescent population, 35 percent first dose coverage and 20 percent second dose coverage,” Minister Singh emphasized.

The Minister said affected countries need to act with urgency especially in terms of their approach to minimizing the damage to their economies and getting their countries back on track to the path of recovery.

“Second, we must contain damage to the economy. This will likely involve a phased reopening of the economy without compromising the safety of our people. It might also involve some measure of support to help ensure that the private sector can navigate the crisis and survive financially. In Guyana, we rolled out a universal cash transfer programme delivering COVID-19 cash grants to every household across the country. This injected essential liquidity into the household sector and by extension helped to kickstart a resumption of economic activity,” he said.

With Guyana’s 2021 Mid-Year report indicating a 14. 5 percent economic growth with a 4.8 percent growth in the non-oil economy, the Senior Finance Minister concluded that LAC countries can address the challenges to their economies by addressing the critical impediments to their growth.

“Third, we must lay the foundation for full recovery and sustained economic growth in the medium and longer term, by addressing and alleviating the most critical prevailing impediments to growth. In many countries, these will include catalytic infrastructure, human capital development, technological advances, and the business environment. In Guyana, we are focusing heavily on addressing all aspects of this agenda, with a view to ensuring a well-diversified and resilient economy going forward, “Minister Singh concluded.

In Guyana, in addition to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the country experienced devastating flooding in several Regions in May-June last which resulted in the flooding of several agricultural lands, further impacting the performance of some of the sectors in the non-oil economy. Government has been working assiduously on the path to recovery providing support to the household and productive sectors. Looking ahead, it is anticipated that the revised full-year forecast for real GDP growth in Guyana in 2021 would be 19.5 percent overall and 3.7 percent for the non-oil economy.