The Government has announced that it will be investing over $4 billion this year in support of the Plan of Action for Hinterland Development.
According to Finance Minister Winston Jordan, more than $598M has been allocated to enhance diversified agriculture in hinterland, riverain communities and the intermediate and Rupununi Savannahs, while 4,000 acres of State lands in Region 9 are being developed for constructing an Agriculture Station.
Minister Jordan said in excess of $280 million has been allocated to promote economic prosperity, tourism development and preserving cultural identity. This sum, he said, is inclusive of grants for 211 Indigenous communities that will build village economies and fund eco-tourism projects specifically for Guyana’s 50th Independence celebration. It also includes support to women’s groups, the construction of community centres and the procurement of musical instruments, sports gear and sewing machines.
Jordan said the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs will work with communities to prioritise the outcomes they want to achieve, and identify the key barriers to achieving them. The ministry will assist communities in designing projects that take a comprehensive approach to addressing their particular challenges. It will help communities develop plans to mitigate risks to development projects, and plans for maintaining valuable community assets. Finally, the ministry will help communities develop evaluation plans to assess whether their objectives were achieved, and identify lessons learned to improve future project implementation.
In order to support hinterland education, Minister Jordan said the Government has made provision for the design of a new dormitory at Liliendaal, to accommodate students with interest in enrolling in institutions of higher learning. There will also be support to the Bina Hill Institute and the procurement of buses for the transportation of school children. Additionally, nearly $1 billion has been budgeted for the Hinterland Employment and Youth Service (HEYS) project.
Launched in October 2015, the project will prepare youth for leadership roles in their communities. In 2016, the project will provide training for more than 1,000 hinterland youths in areas such as garment construction, carpentry, joinery and entrepreneurship. It will entail six months of classroom training and six months of practical training. Participants will benefit from a stipend (part of which will be saved on a monthly basis) as well as business mentoring.
“On completion of the training, participants will have the opportunity to develop viable business plans, which will be awarded grants for start-up. Moreover, education assistance for hinterland students will be fortified with the provision of school uniforms for over 30,000 school children at a cost of over $89 million and over 450 hinterland students will benefit from the Hinterland Scholarship Programme,” Jordan told the House during his budget presentation.
He said the lack of access to markets is often a key barrier to community development. “Communities will not benefit from new technologies or training if they cannot sell their products to a market for a profit. Costly transportation makes it difficult for hinterland communities to market their products and sell them at a competitive price. To help narrow the gap in living standards of residents of our coastal and hinterland regions, the Government has allocated over $2 billion for the establishment and improvement of physical infrastructure throughout the hinterland regions, in 2016,” Jordan stated.
Of this amount, the sum of $1.7 billion has been identified for the rehabilitation and surfacing of roads in areas such as Mahdia, Bartica, Ituni, Kurupukari, Tabatinga and Port Kaituma.
Additionally, provision is made for the rehabilitation of Bartica stelling. Under the Hinterland Electrification Programme, over 6,000 solar home systems have been installed in communities in Regions 1, 7, 8 and 9.
During this year, electricity systems in St. Cuthbert’s Mission, in Region 4; Orealla and Siparuta, in Region 6; and Culvert City, in Region 9, will be extended. The extension of these networks is intended to enhance the capacity of the grid to serve a larger segment of the population residing in these communities.
Government said it is essential that public services touch every corner of our country, and to make this possible, the provision to the National Communication Network has been increased to cater for the establishment of new communication stations in the hinterland regions.
“The intent is to extend the frequency of national radio and television to our Indigenous brothers and sisters in near and far flung areas. New stations will help to promote our Indigenous languages, culture and way of life while bridging the divide between coast and hinterland,” Jordan stated.