PPP/C parliamentarian Yvonne Pearson says funds should be made available for indigenous communities to develop their tourism products even as she raised questions about the success of government’s flagship employment programme for hinterland youths.
“When we talk about Destination Guyana, and when we talk about tourism and visitors coming to Guyana, no visitors are coming to see Georgetown, they are coming to go out there in our hinterland and rural areas; they are coming to see us, the first peoples of this country; that is what they are coming to see and they are coming to see where we live and what we have to offer,” Pearson said during her contribution to the 2019 Budget debate last Monday.
She said that more funding should be given for the development of tourism in indigenous communities since she believes that the tourism sector is heavily dependent on this aspect of Guyanese culture and landscape.
“As such with regards to building sustainable communities, for the good life, funds must be set aside for our indigenous peoples to enhance our eco-tourism, agro-tourism and tourism in all other forms in our hinterland areas, to educate us, to build our capacity, to build structure. Funds must be set aside or else don’t talk tourism, nobody is coming to see Georgetown. Destination Guyana, when you look at brochures, when you look at tour guides, who do you see? Indigenous peoples. We are at the forefront and we are calling on the government to make funds available for us to develop tourism in this country,” she asserted.
Pearson, who earlier described the budget as “tasteless,” said that from an indigenous perspective, there was no real developmental plans for indigenous peoples. “With all the bits and pieces of development, I would want to say that the indigenous peoples must have a planned programme, we don’t want piecemeal development,” the PPP/C parliamentarian said.
In response to pronouncements made by junior Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Valerie Garrido-Lowe regarding the Hinterland Employment and Youth Service (HEYS) programme, Pearson questioned its alleged success.
“From 2016 to 2018, it is recorded that $2.3 billion was spent on this programme, the honourable Minister said that the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ (Affairs) has been transforming the lives of the indigenous peoples. I wonder if we are living in same country because as I visit communities I have not seen this transformation,” she said.
“Mr Speaker, the honourable Minister said 3,795 youth were trained and the honourable Minister further said that 2054 small businesses were created. I would like Mr Speaker for that information, the names of the villages, the name of the persons who establish these businesses, to be laid over to the House because I have visited and I make it a point for when I go out there to ask about this project, to ask about the businesses that were established and so I find it very inaccurate… It makes me wonder if this is a part of the $865 million that cannot be really accounted for…to put our mind at ease, we would like the honourable Minister to lay over to the House information, there must be records there to show which villages and who those youth are. We would like to know,” Pearson further said.
In addition to tourism, she also questioned the sums allocated to agriculture and the benefits of those allocations for the first peoples.
“Let me look at agriculture; in 2017 there was an allocation of $20.6 billion; in 2018, 19.4 billion and in 2019, 17.1 billion but Mr Speaker, my question is, from 2017 how much could the honourable Minister tell us, what percentage, what part of this budget was spent in Amerindian villages, in communities? We would like to know because we are involved in agriculture, agriculture is our life and we live on what we produce and all the talks of development and good life, I would like to know what percentage of this budget has been identified to be spent in indigenous communities so that we can expand in the area of agriculture, so that we can be a part of this good life,” Pearson said.