The National Budget which was presented in the National Assembly on November 28, is one that will boost economic growth for all Guyanese. That was the sentiment of Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Valerie Garrido-Lowe during the first day of the 2017 Budget debate.
Minister Garrido-Lowe noted that Budget 2017 is one that caters for everyone, not forgetting those in the hinterland. She lauded the reduction in Value Added Tax (VAT) stating that hinterland residents will benefit since many items coming from Georgetown attract VAT. The budget proposes a reduction in VAT from 16 percent to 14 percent.
Focusing on the pursuit of a green economy, the Minister said that it will trickle down to those living in the hinterland, pointing to the $264M budgeted for the first large scale solar farm in Mabaruma, Region One. This will benefit over 3000 residents, giving them an additional 17 hours of electricity.
Additionally, the Minister pointed out that the introduction of internet to the hinterland will touch every facet of life for those living there. In addition to the 150 persons targeted for training, the Minister said will be “offering, free of charge, graphic design and office tools tutoring to some hinterland villages.”
Opposition PPP/C Member of Parliament (MP), Yvonne Pearson, in responding to Minister Garrido-Lowe, pointed out that the budget says nothing about economic development for those living in the hinterland.
“I have listened to the Honourable Minister, and yet I have not heard what is government’s policy in addressing the indigenous people with regards to economic opportunities… I think that is missing in the Honourable Minister’s presentation,” Pearson stated.
The PPP/C MP pointed out that the reason for her saying that, is due to the government’s new 10-point plan of action which was presented at the National Toshaos Conference in August 2015.
According to Pearson, there is no funding, even for the 10-point plan. “…so where are we heading,” she lamented.
Minister Garrido-Lowe, meanwhile, pointed to the investment of $991M that the budget has allocated for the continuation and expansion of the Hinterland Employment and Youth Service (HEYS) programme. That programme is geared at equipping and empowering youths with the necessary skills to become entrepreneurs.
According to the Government Information Agency, this will allow for 1000 more youths to be trained, in addition to the 1,976 who have already benefitted in 2016.
In the 2017 National Budget, there has been an increase in the number of students who can benefit from the Hinterland Scholarship Programme. The Budget affords for 530 students which is an addition to the 450 that was budgeted for in 2016.