Government supported hinterland entrepreneurial programmes have reduced poverty in indigenous communities and the administration is poised to invest hundreds of millions in information technology hubs to further develop these initiatives, Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Sydney Allicock says.
“Mr Speaker, in teaching our indigenous peoples how to fish, the Ministry is keen on encouraging economic development of our villages so they can be truly independent and self-sufficient, opportunities they have been waiting for over many years. Poverty reduction strategy is pellucid here, I only wish to add that the Amerindian Development Fund (ADF) remains relevant as a key driver in providing support through the implementation of Com-munity Development Plans (CDPs),” Allicock said during his contribution to the 2019 Budget debate in the National Assembly on Thursday.
Allicock, also a Vice-President, explained that the ADF targets poverty in the rural interior areas where most Amerindian communities are concentrated. He said that some $1 billion was injected into 154 communities and villages through the ADF, funding projects in agricultural production and processing, village infrastructure, tourism, manufacturing, village business enterprise, and transportation, among others.
The project is an exemplification of how even with extra budgetary resources, the government, through the Ministry, is committed to the development of villages as it supplements such projects, Allicock said.
Giving some statistics, the Minister said that the programme has seen successfully executed projects totalling $5.8B out of $6.2B, reflective of a 93% delivery. It is why his government believes that it should continue and plans are in train to bring Information Commu-nications Technology (ICT) hubs to hinterland villages so that they can maximise their sales and build business networks, he said.
Showcasing to the House, bottles of honey, coconut oil, facial cleansers, soaps, ketchup and peanut butter among others produced by the communities, during his presentation, Allicock told of the successes and spoke of plans for more support for the village enterprises.
“In 2019, the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs will continue to provide training in financial accountability, leadership and capacity building to overcome challenges some villages face in these projects, while strengthening the positives such as knowledge of project implementation and business management among the beneficiaries,” he said.
“Intrinsic to development of villages is the bridging of the gap between the hinterland and coast, is the role of technology and that is why we must applaud budget 2019 which will see the investment of $375 million to equip hinterland communities with ICT hubs, via satellite, benefiting over 11,390 residents. Even more in bridging this gap, $38.5 billion is to be allocated to expand and maintain the infrastructure. This will result in improved movement of people and goods, enhanced resilience of the coastal and riverain communities, bridge the divide between hinterland and coast,” he added.
Additionally, the Minister said that budget 2019 will see approximately $101 million being allocated to continue and extend the electrification programme to Orealla, Kwakwani, Siparuta and Waramuri, among others. Further, he said, more drilling of water wells in the hinterland will benefit the residents living in over 200 indigenous communities.
And with youths making up a significant percentage of unemployment in Guyana, Allicock said that government’s Hinterland Employment and Youth Service (HEYS) programme has been making significant strides in tackling the issue.
“Speaking to the development of villages, it would be remiss not to mention the impressive strides made by HEYS….HEYS is the epitome of the development that this government is on the track to achieve, development moulded by the people in the way they want with support from their government. The project is spot on as representative of the theme of budget 2019, it places development in the hands of real people and is actual, real poverty reduction since it places stipends in the hands of youths who can invest in themselves to develop their village economies. Monthly sti-pends are going in the hands of HEYS participants – that’s $30,000 per month to let’s just say, six youths in a village, simple math. Real investment,” he said.
“Would the opposition prefer these real investments not be made” Allicock questioned. PPP/C parliamentarian Yvonne Pearson had expressed concern that there seemed to be no evidence that the HEYS programme was successful. Allicock, in rebuttal, said there were many successes.
“How can you fail to see what is right in front of you?” he asked. “There are many success stories coming out of the HEYS programme, some of which can be found right here in Region Four. In Yarrow-kabra, on the Soesdyke/ Linden Highway, one of the youths who benefited from training in blockmaking is now making blocks to sell in his community. Mr Speaker, even in Yurong Paru, the most remote village in the Karasabai District deep in the Pakaraima Mountains, is what is named ‘The HEYS Shop’ which sells groceries, clothing and hardware supplies. This business is managed by a group of young people who took advantage of the opportunity afforded them through the HEYS programme and now have hope of a better future,” he asserted.
“2019 provides these young people greater scope and improved opportunities through the Green Centre, to be fully involved and prepared for the transition from the ‘business as usual’ path into the good life within our future Green State,” he added.
And as the government pursues a green, diversified and resilient economic development path, the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs is doing its part as it has, since 2015, begun working on the sustainable villages’ initiative.
The Village Improvement Plans (VIP) policy for sustainable development seeks to ensure that the government and other development agents deploy transformational investments that enable local and indigenous community-driven development. Government believes that the plans are essential to planning Guyana’s path to development and they are designed to support indigenous peoples to improve their well-being by decentralising green development to the local level.
“Mr Speaker, each Indigenous community will seek to develop their 10-year VIP and annual village plan, outlining their overall community vision, and their goals and targets under each programmatic area, for achievement of their vision. Currently, there are 38 villages that have completed their VIPs, 36 in Region Nine, one in Region One and one in Region Two. In 2019, 25 additional villages will be completing their VIPs in Regions One, Seven, Eight and Nine. Budget 2019 will see the continued realisation of the SDGs and the projects undertaken will seek green development which will benefit not only the indigenous people of Guyana, but all Guyanese, and come 2020, we will see the continued support of the Guyanese people in this government as the flowers continue to bloom on the journey to the good life,” Allicock said.
The Minister said that Budget 2019 plans for the holistic development of this country’s citizenry as government believes that there should also be cultural development in the hinterland, the same as in the capital and coastlands. To this end, he informed of monies from 2019, for this cause.
“His Excellency President David Granger at the opening of the Heritage 2018 said that ‘indigenous heritage is a national treasure’, an opinion shared in this government. It is for this reason Sir that the Ministry will continue to invest in the development and preservation of indigenous culture with financial and other resources in support of the annual Rupununi Rodeo, Rupununi Expo and the Rupununi Arts Festival. Mr Speaker, Budget 2019 sees that $210 million will be contributed to sustain the hinterland people’s festivities. The Ministry, in its role, will ensure to continue to raise the standards of these festivities for the enjoyment of all,” he announced.
Government has also set aside funds for revision of the Amerindian Act as it believes that the law should be revised to reflect changes in international law and to meet the demands of the people for better protection of their rights, according to Allicock.
“The Amerindian Act 2006 is the primary legislation that governs the affairs of the Indigenous Peoples in Guyana. The Government through the Ministry intends to revisit the Act with the view of making possible changes through a consultative process involving all rights holders and stakeholders. This process has already begun since April of this year in Santa Rosa and has seen great feedback. The Ministry has even gone over and above to provide as much as possible, independent legal advice to the stakeholders,” the Minister said.
Allicock said that in every consultation held, the Ministry has received recommendations for review. “The opposition contends that the document is perfect, but the recommendations for change clearly signify the peoples’ thoughts on the Act. The Ministry remains open to receive submissions after the consultations have concluded. Mr Speaker, under budget 2019, consultations (are) to continue in 59 villages, covering Regions Seven, Eight, Nine and Ten and targeting approximately 599 persons,” he added.