Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Robert Persaud was made to defend a $116 million subvention for the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GL&SC) during the consideration of his ministry’s $778 million budget allocation by the Committee of Supply on Tuesday.
AFC leader Khemraj Ramjattan questioned the need for such a large subvention when the GL&SC entered 2014 with a balance of over $200 million, $347 million earned in revenues and an additional $164 million from miscellaneous sources.
Ramjattan asked where the miscellaneous revenue stream was from and why, if the GL&SC was capable of entering the year with a credit, a subvention was required.
Persaud said that the GL&SC was responsible for various specialised works, but he did not brief the opposition members on the breakdown of the various activities. He, however, stated that the subvention was not merely about balancing a budget, while adding that funds were needed to ensure sustainability, which made it necessary for the subvention to be approved. He said that the subvention allows for the commission to satisfy the need of Guyanese by ensuring adequate and proper land administration, including opening and regularising new areas.
Persaud was asked about the work done by the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and if it was appropriate that state funds were channelled through a sector-specific entity to build roads. AFC MP Moses Nagamootoo raised the issue and asked if it would not be better to have the ministry itself dispense the funds to build roads.
Persaud noted that the GGMC Act provided for the commission to undertake such tasks and added that he saw no issue with how public infrastructure was being done. He explained that for years the GGMC has been providing this type of support.
Persaud said too that once infrastructure projects were completed under the GGMC, it was not just miners that benefitted, but the communities at large. In response, APNU MP Joseph Harmon requested that the minister provide a list of completed road works from 2013 and a list of proposed road works for 2014, which Persaud said he would share.
The minister said the GGMC as well as the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) also worked in conjunction with various ministries and that there was cross-sectoral cooperation. He pointed to the scholarship and training within the ministry, saying these initiatives saw the GGMC and the GFC collaborating with the University of Guyana through the geology programme and the Guyana School of Agriculture.
Persaud added that the ministry was still relatively new and training was done not just for employees but for stakeholders. He said that the increase in the ministry’s training budget from $5 million to $7.5 million was reflective of growth in the sector and the ministry’s pursuit of maintaining up to date industries that fall within the Natural Resources sector. The minister added that some of the training exercises involved the development within the extractive sectors to ensure there was transparency as well as environmentally-sound policies.