The National Toshaos Council (NTC) is disappointed that no provision is made in the government’s proposed 2018 national budget for an increase in its annual subvention and that no funding is allocated to facilitate the revision of the Amerindian Act.
The NTC, comprising leaders from 212 indigenous villages across Guyana, had received as $12 million subvention in 2015, which was subsequently increased to $16 million in the following year.
Despite this, it has complained about the inadequacy of the funding, which members say has hindered the organisation in carrying out its mandate.
Similar sentiments were shared last evening during a press conference hosted by the NTC’s executive body.
Vice-Chairman of the NTC Lenox Shuman said that though the Council submitted a budget requesting $37 million, it was only granted $16 million, which was the same amount it received via the 2017 national budget.
“We have a very, very broad mandate under part four of the Amerindian Act and $16 million is grossly, grossly inadequate to execute that mandate…If you cannot provide us with the necessary resources to do the work we are mandated to do, then you should examine yourself and how do you support the NTC to execute its mandate…,” he said.
“You look at the $16 million subvention and yet you are providing 40% roughly of that to providing housing for a minister. I think Minister (Simona) Broomes got $500,000 a month for housing allowance. Added over a year, that’s $6 million and for us you are giving $16 million as an organisation that represents all indigenous peoples? I think there is a misplacement of priorities in that area… to us what that says is that a minister’s comfort is more important than the indigenous people’s issues if we are to put things into context,” the Vice-chairman noted.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the NTC Toshao Joel Fredericks explained that each quarterly meeting of the NTC’s executive body incurs a cost of $4 million.
“What are you left with? It’s really not allowing the NTC to do what they are mandated to do as stated by the Act,” he related.
“The promotion of good governance under Part 41 [of the Act], for example, how do you do that? You don’t do it from Georgetown. You have to go into the communities and do an outreach, meet with the council and so on and so forth. If all of our money is utilised in our executive meetings, then we have nothing left to do that work. We are also supposed to develop strategies and provide to the communities on sustainable use of their lands and resources, but how do we do that if we are not funded appropriately? We are supposed to provide for the preservation and use of indigenous languages. How do we go about attending meetings and participating at that level if we simply cannot afford it?” Shuman added.
Commenting on the lack of funding for the revision of the Amerindian Act, Fredericks explained that though it was stated that $10 million was allocated for that project this year, the NTC is not aware of how or if the money was spent.
“Continuously, the government has committed to revising the Act and we know that the revision process for the 2006 Act cost roughly $1 billion. In 2017, the government allocated $10 million, so how do you put $10 million in a $1 billion project? It means that you have no seriousness about it…If you are truly serious about addressing the issues of Indigenous Peoples, then you have to provide the proper support for them to undertake arguably the most important issue for them which would be the revision of the act. We have since learnt that there is no money allocated for the revision of the Act and if there is there is nothing of significance,” Shuman added.