October 2011

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In a rare event that was eloquent because of its unusual nature, Guyanese held a tribute to their outgoing President, His Excellency Bharrat Jagdeo, before he had actually demitted office. Titled, “A World of Thanks to President Jagdeo,” it was held on September 16, 2011 in Georgetown, and Campus Principal and Pro Vice Chancellor, Professor Clement Sankat, presented a tribute.

Prof Sankat began by outlining President Jagdeo’s academic and professional training and then listed his contributions during the 13 years of his presidency.

Referring to President Jagdeo’s vision of an integrated Caribbean, Prof Sankat remarked that through his leadership, “Guyana has become a leading light at CARICOM, though not a part of the regional University of the West Indies, which epitomizes Caribbean regionality and solidarity. This is therefore an opportunity for Guyana and especially, its talented students and academics; and something that should be revisited,” he said.

Crediting him with being among the region’s leading spokespersons, Prof Sankat said it is indisputable that President Jagdeo has given the Caribbean a voice on critical global issues and a presence in international fora.

He outlined some of his contributions as President, citing the “Jagdeo initiative” and the new agriculture vision which aimed for development that went beyond food production and would help “agro-businesses, creating employment, increasing export earnings of our countries as well as income for our farmers and other stakeholders.”

He said President Jagdeo is widely recognized as the leading Caribbean advocate on environmental protection. “The Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) and the Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation mechanism, commonly known as REDD, are now held up as a model for countries everywhere, of how the battle against deforestation can be waged and won,” said Prof Sankat.

Calling him a “big voice for small states,” Prof Sankat said that by “engaging multilateral institutions, President Jagdeo has led efforts to make these institutions more relevant and representative, more responsive and accountable…”

He also noted that, “Guyana has expanded the regional agenda far beyond CARICOM, paving the way to strengthened relations with Brazil, in particular, one of the rising global economic players in today’s world, and other South American countries,” predicting that President Jagdeo “has placed Guyana as a bridgehead for the Caribbean’s entry into Brazil.”

Prof Sankat said that President Jagdeo has encouraged “other Caribbean leaders to re-think development strategies and create a new economy,” he said he had also been challenging the region “to think outside of the box.” Recommending diversification himself, Prof Sankat said, “Rice, sugar, bauxite and mining sectors are all important, but President Jagdeo strongly urged the region to think far beyond, to sectors such as sustainable energy, tourism, IT, food production and new forms of services, that will generate prosperity for our future generations.”

“In fact, few will deny that this pursuit of new and creative economic strategies has produced impressive results! President Jagdeo has been credited with substantially reducing Guyana’s national debt, undertaking critical fiscal and tax reform and passing legislation to support increased transparency, better procurement and competition. Rehabilitation of the health system, land reform, significant expansion of the housing sector, major improvements to the water and sanitation systems, large-scale development and extension of road, river and air transport networks, and in the area of education, significant wins in the area of widening access and improving quality – these are all gains that have been attributed to his leadership and from which the Guyanese people are benefitting,” he said.

As he continued enumerating his achievements, Prof Sankat concluded that, “whether it has been by reviewing the global financial architecture for our small states, trying to avert the dangers posed by climate change and global warming, advancing proposals for food security in Guyana and the region, stretching the boundaries of regionalism, increasing opportunities for education or just thinking outside the box to come up with innovative policies and solutions, one thing is certain, and that is, President Jagdeo’s creativity and leadership in charting a new course for the development of our people and the Caribbean.”