$6.2B approved for Region 4

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Following the closure of sugar estates, concerns were raised by the Opposition about the treatment of drainage and irrigation in several villages on the East Coast of Demerara (ECD), as the Committee of Supply considered the 2018 estimates for Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica). Some $166.2 million is budgeted for drainage and irrigation works in the region.

The allocation was questioned by Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira, who noted that her concern is whether the drainage structures would be maintained and preserved by the region.

PPP/C MP Gail Teixeira

However, Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan indicated that the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) would pick up the responsibility for all Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) drains following the closure of the estates.

On the same issue of drainage, the region’s 2017 spending was also questioned since they have expended some $180 million for 2017, thus far, which is $20 million over their allocation. In response, Bulkan informed that the $20 million was expended on emergency works at Cane Grove, Beterverwagting and Mon Repos, ECD.

The allocation of $688 million for current expenses under the region’s health programme came under intense scrutiny when Opposition MP, Dr Frank Anthony, questioned the functionality of a Regional Health Office (RHO) within the region.

He was told that there is an acting RHO who is being paid directly by the Public Health Ministry. Additionally, Dr Anthony attempted to find out the number of doctors within the region along with their emoluments but was informed by Minister Bulkan that the region only pays one doctor, while the others are being covered by the Public Health Ministry and that the list of doctors would be laid over to the National Assembly.

Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan

A common trend in the region’s estimates saw an increase of millions of dollars for fuel and this caught the attention of the Opposition MPs who queried the drastic increase.

However, the Committee of Supply was informed that the drastic increase is as a result of an agreement with the Guyana Oil Company (Guyoil) coming to an end in September of 2017.

He further explained that in 2014, the region paid a large sum of money to Guyoil for fuel and the previous estimates took that into account.

It was also noted that there was a decrease in the allocation for the provision of security services and when questioned, Bulkan explained that the decrease was as a result of the services provided. He further related that the services provided were less than budgeted for since they were expecting 24-hour armed security but the contracted firm was unable to do so.

Under the capital expenditure provision, some $10 million was budgeted for the rehabilitation of the Regional Democratic Council’s (RDC) Administrative Building at Triumph, ECD. When questioned, the Minister indicated that there are several leakages in the roof and the allocation would cover the repair. Region Four has been allocated almost $1 billion more in 2018 than in 2017.

The region has received $6.22 billion for current and capital expenditures in Budget 2018, of which $211.2 million is for regional administration and finance; $396.8 million for agriculture; $228.5 million for public infrastructure; $4.1 billion for educational delivery; and $1.31 billion for health services.

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