While President David Granger has repeatedly spoken of the need to make rural communities more modernised and provide these villages with the same level of opportunities available in the coastal region, the Opposition believes that Budget 2018 does not cater for that initiative.
Former Amerindian Affairs Minister and Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Pauline Sukhai, speaking at a press conference hosted by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) on Wednesday, said Budget 2018 did not offer any significant opportunities to bridge the gap between the hinterland and the coast.
She said it was a mere continuation of the programmes and initiatives that were started under the PPP/Civic Administration to assist with Amerindian development.
Sukhai believes that although these programmes were inherited by the Government, it has been doing a fairly bad job at expanding and managing them effectively.
“These programmes had been a dismal failure under the current administration. It’s a failure so much so, that additional time and extension had been requested to help bring closure to some of these projects,” she explained.
The former Minister said it, therefore, begged the question as to whether there was any seriousness by the coalition Government to ensure that there was a concerted effort to inject investment into the hinterland to ensure there were positive opportunities for growth and development.
While noting that Budget 2018 has included sums to launch an Information Communication Technology (ICT) programme for the hinterland, Sukhai told the media conference on Wednesday that the same programmes were proposed and initiated by the PPP/C Government.
“We were on track of that proposal execution to the extent that facilities were constructed to house the hardware of all the hubs, again which were expected to be completed by 2015…two years later and 2018 Budget is still struggling to reinvigorate this programme,” she posited.
She argued that this was “not good enough” for Indigenous people, particularly youths. Sukhai said in an era where ICT was widely used, it was expected that by now many people in the various Amerindian villages across the country would have already benefited from these facilities and would be computer literate.
Apart from these concerns, the former Minister also noted that Budget 2018 offered nothing new to the country’s first people and there was no significant support that would be given. She said it was all a continuation of programmes that have been there for many years which include the presidential grant, eco-tourism incentives and farm-to-market initiatives.
“This is something that is a constant. I had expected that the Budget would have brought on board something newer…transformative initiatives and move away now from the foundation which they inherited, to one where there would have been an accelerated approach in terms of injecting additional investment to induce employment,” she added.
While jobs remain a major concern for all Guyanese, the hinterland region faces the most issues when it comes to this. As such, the former Amerindian Affairs Minister said she was expecting the Budget to deal with this very critical issue. She noted, however, that Government plans to pump more finances into projects that have not been successfully implemented.
She spoke about the coffee project in Santa Rosa, Region One (Barima-Waini), whose implementation and execution has been a dismal failure for two and half years.
“I don’t expect anything different under this budget…Investment of rice in Monkey Mountain has been a failure, investment of tomato factory in Paramakatoi has also been another big failure,” she pointed out.
Sukhai continued, “If this is all that is being offered in the Budget 2018, for me it’s a disappointment. It’s pathetic and it shows no real support for Indigenous or Amerindian development, much less bridging the gap between the hinterland and the coastal region. Job creation should have been the major hallmark and new projects should have been created and expanded.”