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September 29, 1999



Guyana’s President, Bharrat Jagdeo, told a gathering at the Organization of American States on Tuesday evening that small developing nations like his own harbored "deep fears" about the future. Surveying the situation of countries forming the so-called Group of 77 within the United Nations system, the Guyanese President declared that despite being hopeful as the new millenium approached, small developing countries "are afraid of being marginalized.

"They are afraid that the current rapid move to globalization and trade liberalization will bring that process (of marginalization) faster to their countries. They are afraid that they do not have a strong enough voice in the discussions that are taking place now that could, in a very profound way, change the external economic environment that we have been accustomed to for a very long time," Mr. Jagdeo told the guests at an OAS reception held in his honor. Citing countries like those of the Eastern Caribbean that were dependent on one or two crops, Mr. Jagdeo said they faced an end to preferential treatment for their exports.

He said the OAS and similar institutions should see a direct link between the economic negotiations underway—for a Free Trade Area of the Americas, among others—and the political consequences of those changes that are being proposed. If countries did not face a healthy external environment, he emphasized, "it could lead to serious trouble at home"—troubles that included massive unemployment and political instability. "And it means more work for organizations like the Organization of American States."

Meanwhile, the Guyana leader urged all his compatriots to join the effort to forge "a strong Guyanese identity to address the challenges of the future." He said with all Guyana’s peoples working together, they would avoid becoming marginalized by the sweeping globalization processes.

OAS Secretary General CÚsar Gaviria, welcomed the Guyanese president and expressed confidence he would usher in a "new era of prosperity, growth and social justice" for Guyana. He pledged continued OAS support to help the CARICOM nation tackle challenges it faced.

Guyana’s Ambassador to the OAS, Dr. Odeen Ishmael, welcomed the guests and introduced the president to the large gathering of Guyanese nationals, diplomats and friends of Guyana.