Government is neglecting the agricultural potential of Region Ten and allowing the exploitation of renewable resources and workers’ rights, according to APNU MP Vanessa Kissoon, who said these practices would have been condemned by the founding father of the ruling PPP Dr. Cheddi Jagan.
Making her contribution to the budget debate on Monday, Kissoon said the region borders six regions with access to over 80 percent of Guyana’s agricultural market. The geographic location of this region presents opportunities for exploring and exploiting the country’s agricultural potential, she said, while charging that this is being ignored by the government, raising “valid questions as to why and for what ends.”
She said that the region’s potential for massive output of crops and livestock production exists and has been validated by Go-Invest, which has recognised the ideal farming conditions, including soil, drainage, fertilisation, creation for an ideal environment for the application of high technology and the establishment of medium or large scale agricultural operations.
According to Kissoon, farmers can unleash their potentials, creating wealth for themselves and the nation through cooperative ventures, for which pilot projects have started in the region. She made the point that farmers can achieve more through support from central government in areas such as better drainage and irrigation systems, logistical support for agriculture inputs and other sustained extensive support.
Kissoon also noted that Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh in his budget speech addressed the government’s desire to expand bauxite output. “Mr. Speaker, bauxite expansion or rather the exploitation of our renewable resource to the enrichment of foreign oligarchs and their few local counterparts creaming the wealth of this nation and violating the rights of workers by disregarding the laws of the land would be condemned by Dr. Jagan,” she said, while contending that Dr. Jagan’s party is drifting further and further away from his principles.
She said that companies like RUSAL/BCGI continue to transgress the rights of workers and Bai Shan Lin continues to engage in “bad corporate practices and destruction of our roads, posing threat to lives, limbs and economic well-being of those living in the community. Dr. Jagan would have put his foot down on it and today so are the people of Region Ten.” This statement was met with applause and desk thumping by her colleagues in the opposition, while there was heckling and remarks coming from the government side of the House.
Kissoon further noted that poor environmental management by BOSAI had resulted in the pollution of the Kara Kara Creek, the clogging of the Hymara Creek and dust pollution in Linden. This, she said, would not have been “tolerated by Dr. Jagan.”
Kissoon noted that Singh had boasted that $3.2 billion is allocated for electricity subsidy to Linden and Kwakwani. “This issue has to be placed in its proper prospective. The People of Region 10, whom I humbly represent, do not see this subvention as a favour or one borne out of compassion, but a responsibility of the government who had dismantled their electricity infrastructure without regards for its history, their input, and investments made through deferred wages and salaries,” she said, before later recognising the struggles of the people of the region over the increase in electricity tariffs. She was referring to the 2012 protests in which three Lindeners were killed and other persons were injured, while
properties were also damaged or destroyed. To date, she noted, the August 21, 2012 Agreement brokered between Central Government and the Region 10 Regional Democratic Council to end the protests is yet to be fully implemented.
Kissoon also told the House that President Donald Ramotar made some “unfortunate statements” in reaction to the demands of the opposition in relation to the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Bill. “For the record, it is not unreasonable or unpatriotic to ask that existing laws and agreements be enforced… It is a coming together of diverse forces in the most reasonable and highest form of patriotism to call on the PPP to stamp out the regressive management of the nation’s affairs,” she stressed.
She noted that the opposition will go through the proposed budget “section by section, line by line,” exercising judgment on behalf of the people. “We shall cut the fat and ensure the health of the cats,” she stressed.
During her presentation, Kissoon’s use of the word “goats” rankled PPP/C MP and Director of Sports Neil Kumar, who apparently took offence at the use of the word as he felt that it was being directed at him. Kumar’s ministry was recently accused of allowing the slaughtering of goats at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall.
Meanwhile, PPP/C MP Dr. Vindhya Persaud, in her presentation, said that there was “rambling without substance” coming from the opposition benches and she described one presentation as “sheer emptiness.”
Dr. Persaud said that the proposed budget offers Guyanese a comprehensive and integrated approach to improving the quality of life and emphasises government’s commitment to poverty eradication with a focus on vulnerable groups and the next generation.
It speaks to crucial areas, she argued, while noting that it takes us into the world of technology, enabling all to have access to laptops through the One Laptop Per Family initiative. She also praised the $10, 000 grant for parents with children attending public schools.
She later said that she was glad that the opposition mentioned Dr. Jagan’s name and this drew loud applause from her PPP/C colleagues.