Since taking office, Region One has benefited tremendously from improved infrastructural facilities and healthcare, reported government Member of Parliament (MP) Richard Allen, who said on Tuesday that similar developments will continue in 2019.
Speaking on day two of the 2019 budget debate, Allen stressed that the establishment of a radio station, improvement of the healthcare sector and additional road network development within the region are on the cards for next year.
Before getting into how the 2019 allocation will be spent, he told the House that the 2019 budget displays government’s willingness to ensure an improved quality of life for all. He said that the budget shows equality and represents fair distribution of resources.
Allen noted that in 2018 the region received just over $2.6 billion but for 2019, that figure has been increased to just over $3.4 billion.
In dismissing some of the claims made by the opposition, the MP argued that government, since taking office, has done a lot for the region. He said that the bad roads which existed under the previous administration have been fixed. He said too that since taking office, the government has been able to improve health care within the region by increasing the number of healthcare professionals.
Allen also noted that during 2018, a lot of projects were executed under the Ministries of Public Infrastructure, Public Health and Communities, and said this will continue in 2019.
In the area of infrastructure and electricity, he said that there will be extension and upgrading of the electricity distribution network, provision of underground cables and the completion of the Moruca Bridge. He said that these projects will be executed under the Ministry of Public Infrastructure as if it is not, “nothing will be done.”
Included in the allocation, are sums for the further rehabilitation and construction of several community and municipal roads as well as improved water supply in several communities.
Improved dental care through the acquisition of much needed equipment, he said, is also on the cards.
According to Allen, in 2019 there will be the establishment of an HIV/ AIDS intervention programme which will assist in the education of residents on the importance of safe sex and the dangers associated with unprotected sex. Programmes related to the eradication of Tuberculosis and Malaria are also planned for 2019.
Despite Allen’s utterances that this is a good budget, opposition MP Harry Gill disagreed. Gill, who had spoken earlier, questioned the point of having a bigger budget in the nation’s history “if it can’t improve the well-being of our ordinary Guyanese.” A good budget he said, should ensure the good life for everyone, through the provision of a good education, job prospects, a safe and secure environment to live in and affordable health care, as well as enable citizens to save for retirement.
Gill urged the listening public to not count on getting in on the good life that the government has promised. He noted that the administration has not lived up to expectations and has failed to deliver basic goods and services.
He made reference to the broken promises that are contained in the coalition’s manifesto, particularly in relation to the growth of the economy.
Gill, pointing out the “high” crime rate and the inability of the subject minster to get the situation under control, said that the money allocated in the 2019 budget for “the men and women in uniform” is woefully inadequate. He further spoke of a lack of critical crime fighting tools and poor working conditions and unlivable salaries that are imposed upon the policemen.
Supersedes other budgets
Meanwhile, government MP Jermaine Figueira, in his presentation, said that there are many things of significant importance in the budget that he supports. He said this budget far supersedes other budgets passed.
Figueira opined that the policies contained within the budget will positively affect the nation beyond 2020 and allow citizens to reap the benefits of the ‘good life.’
He noted that the opposition should be providing alternatives and not an unending amount of criticisms.
He said that allocations in the budget are testimony to government’s commitment to the development of youth and the nation as a whole.
He said that budget 2019 is a concoction of the experiences, suggestions, recommendations and views garnered from government ministers who “traverse the nooks and crannies of our geographical landscape”, as well as the views of religious bodies, non-governmental orgainsations, the private sector and ordinary citizens.
He disagreed with the opposition that the budget is “visionless and tone-deaf” and said that such thinking is a sign of disrespect and insult.
Figueira used a few minutes of his presentation to rebut the views expressed by the opposition MPs as it relates to Health Minister Volda Lawrence’s controversial jobs comment. “I salute my comrade in observing that an error in judgement has occurred,” he said, while noting that no PPP member was remorseful or apologetic for the sustained public attacks on the employment of an ethnic group that the PPP felt was so concentrated in either GECOM or the military, or who they said were not qualified to be ambassadors under the PPP government.”
Turning his attention to Region 10, which he represents, Figueira said he is pleased with the 12% increase in the region’s budget, which will allow continuation in the development of several sectors. He said that these will include upgrading of schools, health centres and government buildings across the region. Further, there will be an upgrading of road networks which will benefit thousands of people.
Figueira informed that the allocation of $218 million to the Linden Enterprise Network’s (LEN) revolving fund will aid the stimulation of economic growth within the township by providing financial support to business ventures, manufacturing, agricultural and housing initiatives. He said this will help to create jobs, particularly for young entrepreneurs. There are several training programmes, as well as job creation initiatives, from which persons will benefit.
The MP informed that over 60% of their food supply comes from outside the region, despite an abundance of fertile land. However, this may change with the construction of a road at Millie’s Hideout in 2019, which will make it easier for farmers to easily access their farmlands.
He said too that the allocation of $220 million for an agricultural facility in Ebini up the Berbice River will also play a significant role in training and aid the region in the area of food security.
Figueira stated that the region has benefited from the installation of ICT hubs, where residents can get 24-hour internet access. Countless house lots were given out and houses were constructed by the Department of Housing since government took office in 2015. The construction works, he noted, have created jobs for many people in the region.
Meanwhile, opposition MP Africo Selman, pointed out that despite the talk of a “good life”, many Guyanese are yet to experience it. She singled out the small increase in old age pensions.
“How can a government justify a $1,000 increase in 2019? This meagre increase has raised the money that would be available to pensioners to $20,500. Is this liveable taking into considerable the rising cost of living? Mr. Speaker, I am asking this for those pensioners who have no relatives or no other means of income,” she questioned, before asking government to explain the wisdom in spending millions on the preparation of a National Policy on Aging.
She also criticized the provision made for youth, saying that the money allocated for this grouping— $1.7 billion— does not address job creation, which is the major challenge facing this category of citizens.
Selman also took issue with how government is promoting `Destination Guyana’, as well as some aspects of the education sector.