2017 mid-year reportGovernment on Friday revealed a marginal increase in the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the first half of 2017, with significant contributions coming from the agriculture, fishing and forestry sectors.A mid-year report, which was presented to Cabinet on Wednesday, was officiallyFinance Minister Winston Jordanreleased to the public on Friday, showed some major contributions from various sectors. According to the report, economic growth in the first half of 2017 rose to some 2.2 per cent, compared to 2.0 per cent in the first half of 2016.The marginal increase, the report said, was driven mainly by the expansion of the agriculture, fishing, and forestry sector with the manufacturing, construction, and services sectors also making noteworthy contributions.Growth in the agriculture, fishing, and forestry sectors was led by the expansion in the rice and fishing industries, attributable to favourable international prices, strong demand and entry into new markets.Non-sugar growth declined from 3.1 per cent in the first half of 2016, to 2.4 per cent in the first half of 2017.The mid-year report showed that overall, the agriculture, fishing, and forestry sectors grew by some 6.4 per cent, in the first half of 2017, underpinned by a strong recovery in the rice industry and improved performance in the fishingMinister of State Joseph Harmonindustry.The rice production in the first half of 2017, recorded 349,867 tonnes, an increase of 31.6 per cent over production in the first half of 2016. This noteworthy performance, the report highlighted, was attributed to a rise in acreage sown in all regions, especially in Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) where acreage sown rose by 30 per cent. In addition to Government, farmers as well as millers have also been actively engaged in seeking new markets. Pursuit of new markets has resulted in exports to Mexico of over $1 billion. Exports to Cuba of 15,000 tonnes during the second half, are expected to contribute to the expansion of the industry – the first such shipment in over 40 years.Coming out also from the Minister’s report was the poor performance of the Public Service Investment Project (PSIP) during the early months of 2017.Helping accounting officersMeanwhile, Minister of State Joseph Harmon speaking at a weekly post-Cabinet meeting on Friday said one contributing factor to this shortfall was the unfamiliarity of Permanent Secretaries about the procurement system.“Additionally, what they had to do was come to grips with the fact that VAT was now being charged on Government services and therefore when the initial contracts were awarded, it included that and that amounted to some delay,” Harmon told the media.What seemed to have contributed to the slowing up of spending too, Harmon said, was agencies having to go through a procurement system that was carrying out several checks to ensure mistakes were not made. Some recommendations considered to assist in the spending process of these agencies are the employment of project management officers to assist Permanent Secretaries with the basic paperwork. It was also put to the Cabinet that there be better streamlining between the time of the issuance of the contract to the point of mobilisation of the contractor. He said Government is seeking to “narrow that gap”, so that things could move at a faster pace.In its conclusion, the Finance Ministry said in spite of the challenges encountered in the first half of the year, the economy was able to record a higher growth rate than the same period last year. It said prudent management by Government has enabled positive growth rates to be recorded every year since the administration took office. The outlook is for continued positive growth rate, albeit at a lower level than previously envisaged.It said the revised growth target for 2017 is some 3.1 per cent, which is more or less the same as that achieved in 2016.This, it said, is due largely to the projected under-performance of sugar. The report said the non-financial Public Sector deficit is expected to be in line with the budget as the anticipated over-achievement of the revenue target should compensate for the additional expenditure in areas of crime and security and public infrastructure.The other macroeconomic variables, such as inflation and the exchange rate will be kept in check.