Budget Debate 20132079 05 Apr, 2013
Minister of Amerindian Affairs [Mrs. Campbell-Sukhai]: Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to add my compliments to the Hon. Ashni Kumar Singh and the team from the Ministry of Finance for achieving, once again, the goal of presenting to the National Assembly Budget 2013.
The Budget theme, “Overcoming Challenges Together, Accelerating Gains for Guyana”, is reflective of the approach needed to attain the Guyanese dream. The allocation of $208.8 billion targets improvement in all sectors and it also scores very highly when it comes to the welfare and development of Amerindians, while, at the same time, the Budget sets realistic projections for growth and development which is required to sustain a better life for our nation.
The state of affairs of Indigenous peoples in the world today reflects advancements in certain respects of human rights and development and, on the other side, it also notes the challenges yet to be overcome.
The incremental increases in our national income and the prudent management of the economy have resulted in positive growth rates, thereby enabling the People’s Progressive Party/Civic Government in solidifying efforts and measures aimed at alleviating existing vulnerabilities and expanding our achievements.
I feel proud of Guyana’s Constitution, the highest law of our land, which makes provision for Indigenous people to be empowered. Guyana sets the pace for inclusion and participation of Amerindians in many policy-making bodies, reinforcing the basic tenets of non-discrimination against Indigenous peoples.
As we speak of Indigenous people’s representatives playing a role in their development, I noted the Hon. Dawn Hastings’ expressed opinion that the National Toshaos Council (NTC) is not independent, justifying this by pointing out that it is housed at the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs and does not having independent funding.
This Government recognises the profound role for the NTC. We recognise that this Council of elected leaders is working to strengthen the structure and build capacity to carry out its functions, we are aware, as a Government, that the village councils are still not paying up their subscription rates while the NTC too have not been able to mobilise funding through fundraising which is very minimal at the moment. With this being the case, the Government of Guyana makes an annual contribution to the NTC for its operational expenses and exerts no power or pressure on the NTC or its membership.
Government support to indigenous organisations and institutions is nothing new. The Government today provides funding to the operation of a constitutionally established rights commission with objectives to examine complaints of infringements of the law and rights related to Indigenous people. A criticism was made in this House about the Indigenous People’s Commission (IPC) of not addressing the rights of Amerindians and not doing anything about it. Mr. Speaker, you are well aware that they have presented to you their annual reports since the establishment of the IPC, a mere two years ago.
Annually, this Government also financially supports the North Rupununi District Development Board (NRDDB) and the Bina Hill Institute through the National Budget which allocates $6 million towards the operational costs of this Indigenous institution. And just to mention that in 2011 and 2012, the Government of Guyana was the largest contributor to the Bina Hill Institute and the NRDDB paying in excess of $21 million - the Hon. Sydney Allicock is fully aware of this - of which more than 80% of that $21 million goes to salaries of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NRDDB, the Principal of the Bina Hill Institute, tutors and support staff.
Notwithstanding such generous contribution from the Government, I see it as an investment in the strengthening of Indigenous institutions and bodies led by Amerindians which, will, in the future be effective to carry out and continue the facilitation and empowerment of Amerindians, making them objective bodies and institutions that will act in the best interest of the constituency for which they have been selected to lead.
The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government continues to provide greater political space for Indigenous people. The Cabinet and the Parliament all speak for itself. For in this August House are seated Indigenous representatives exercising rights to bring to bear the calling of the Amerindian constituencies.
The freedom is ours to engage with the people, whether at the village level, with the elected leaders, their institutions or individuals who chose to bring to our attention existing needs that require our support so as to enhance livelihood and to continue the development of their villages.
However, what disturbs me most is the intent of Indigenous representatives in this House to seek to deny financial support for many of the projects slated for funding in the 2013 Budget. Here I specifically refer to Hon. Sydney Allicock who ended his presentation in the following words, and I quote from the transcript:
"Mr. Speaker, I am calling on my colleagues to vote against this apology that we have for a budget.”
The Member also reinforced his call by saying:
"I cannot and will not support this document."
How does he expect to see improvements in the sectors he critically reviewed in his presentation? Why would he want to deny the Rupununi - the Amerindians- and the nation at large, governmental funded interventions aimed at complementing the efforts of the people across this nation including the Rupununi?
I suspect that he wanted to create conditions that would justify his utterances that the Rupununi is one of the most backward places in the entire Caribbean. Such are the words coming from an Executive member of Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana (THAG), representing Indigenous interests on that body, whose objective should be to work to enhance the tourism product of the Rupununi that will encourage and attract tourists to visit. Instead it appears that he is working against the objectives of THAG, the objectives of Amerindian development, the Region and Nation at large.
This Government has no problem in putting Indigenous concerns first because we are aware of the difficulties and challenges we have had to face to eliminate the wrongs committed against Guyana’s first people, and to eradicate the scars of neglect and marginalisation over the years gone by. And, yes, the People Progressive Party/Civic Government continues to rise to the challenge by making the necessary interventions for Amerindians who deserve to be put on par among all Guyanese.
It is from this premise that I refer to Guyana’s consistent track record in addressing Amerindian rights and development. The Government of Guyana continues to commit financial investments in support towards attaining the goals set by village leaders and their communities.
I applaud the allocation provided in the Budget 2013 which offers pro poor measures that will benefit and address existing challenges and remaining gaps faced by Amerindians and hinterland residents.
Whilst many of the Indigenous peoples and minority groups in other countries painstakingly continue to struggle for their right to lands, Guyana can share beyond our borders the rich experiences and achievements in this area.
It is no secret that Guyana has legislated the process of granting lands to Indigenous peoples and the State covered the cost of demarcation. Currently, Guyana has 98 titled villages making Amerindians the largest private land owners in Guyana. This year’s Budget provides $77.9 million to cover expenditure for titling 12 eligible communities. I am only too willing to provide the go ahead to the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC) to conduct cadastral surveys for an additional eight titled villages that have approved demarcation of their village boundaries.
The People Progressive Party/Civic Government must be commended for the significant decision to commit from the Guyana REDD+Investment Fund moneys for the Amerindian Land Titling Project (ALT) so as to bring closure to all outstanding tilting and demarcation requests which will result in expanded ownership of lands used and occupied by Guyana’s first peoples.
On the first day of our debates here on Budge 2013 I noted the concern of the Hon. Member Mr. Bulkhan and his call for Guyana to ensure that the hinterland economies are put on a sustainable path. I wish to point out that Region Nos.1, 7, 8 and 9 are mostly referred to as Guyana’s hinterland and in these regions the populations are mostly Amerindians. My response will therefore be confined to interventions and initiatives undertaken by the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs in the context of the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS).
The LCDS speaks to pursuing a low carbon growth path. Amerindians are awaiting in anticipation funding from GRIF notwithstanding that they have not committed their forests.
The Amerindian Development Fund (ADF) will make available investment funds totaling $350 million that will capitalise community development projects to be implemented in villages over the coming years.
Of the 166 community approved projects submitted by village councils for funding this year 27 projects in sectors such as agriculture, tourism, services, forestry, mining, processing and infrastructure, will receive a total disbursement of $135 million.
To give you a snapshot of the villages and the project to be implemented by the Amerindians, I wish to crave your indulgence in citing the villages that are going to be benefited this year. Barabina, Baramita, Hobodia, Kamwatta, Four Miles, Manawarin, Three Brothers, Waikrebi; all these communities, including Kamwatta which is a satellite of Santa Rosa, are located in Region No.1. Bethany, Santa Mission, St. Cuthberts, Maraikobai, Siparuta - a satellite of Orealla, Karrau, Itabac, Parumia; Kurukabaru, Kairisparu, Monkey Mountain, Annai Central, Bashaizon, Massara, Parikwarunau, Ruperti, Rupanau, Yurongperu and Sand Hills. These 27 communities and villages including satellites will stand to benefit in the initial phase of the Amerindian Development Fund Community Development Project.
I also want to use this opportunity to highlight that these projects were formulated by the local villages and were subjected to peer reviews at the meetings of the NTC, including final review by the beneficiary representatives just two weeks ago at the launch of the ADF and Inception Workshop at the Princess Hotel.
This bottom up approach is commendable and diffuses the comments I have heard in this House that consultation is lacking and that the Government dictates to Indigenous people. We should be proud of our village councils and the villagers as they have demonstrated that they are capable of identifying the priorities within their locations and are more committed to take direct ownership and lead in the process of community development.
Another initiative that speaks to sustained economic growth in Indigenous communities is the National Hinterland Secure Livelihood Programme where seven community projects were established and remains relevant for more that 200 farmers living in 15 villages in the Mabaruma sub-region. To date these projects combined have benefitted from allocations totaling $91 million in the fields of apiculture, aquaculture, cassava processing, pineapple cultivation, ginger processing, crab fattening and a crab oil line of cosmetic products.
Over the last two years, I must admit that the communities encountered technical challenges, in the apiculture, aquaculture and crab fattening initiatives. We are working with the communities to correct and assist in this regard. Unpredictable weather conditions also, over which we have no control, of course, was a major constraining factor.
The Ministry continued to provide support which resulted in pineapple farmers successfully acquiring the renewal of their organic certification from ECOCERT in the latter part of 2012. This is an important requirement for entering the competitive export market for organic products. Later in this year we expect the beginning of process of chunked pineapples that will be exported from the Mabaruma sub-region.
The acquisition of technical support for the apiculture project saw the regrouping of the bees into hives, and this year the farmers will construct the honey processing huts.
Similarly, a cosmetic scientist from the United States of America was engaged to enhance production of a safe value-added cosmetic products line which includes lotions, soaps, and oil from crab wood seeds, increasing the potential for its marketability, both locally and for export. Currently these products can be obtained in selected stores in Georgetown, in the Craft Shop at the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, and several shops in the Region - Kumaka and Mabaruma among other locations.
The Yarakita Cassava Producers have commenced mechanised processing and production of value-added products, meeting the market demands of the Mabaruma sub-region.
The ginger farmers in Arukamai will see the installation of the ginger processing machinery in advance of the harvest later in this year.
Last year’s budgetary allocation under this programme also supported the aquaculture project in the sum of $2.6 million for repairs to the fish ponds destroyed by the floods, and $1.7 million for the purchase of an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) for monitoring purposes.
This brings me to the Presidential Grants Project which supports economic activities in villages throughout the rural, coastal and hinterland regions. Village Councils continue to build management capacities that support implementation of the small and economic social projects. Available grants for 2010-2011 amounted to $353.6 million, and of this amount $262 million has been released to 169 community projects. Under the Presidential Grant Fund funding is provided and made available to 187 villages including their satellites, communities and settlements combined.
I wish to take some time to provide the details on one region, Region No. 8, which I find during the debates has been the most mentioned region thus far.
If we go to Kaibarupai in Region No. 8 we have provided investment funding to the tune of $6 million. If one visits that community one will see there is a community centre and a rest house which is in operation. One will also see the community village shop which is providing basic services and goods to the community.
Moving to Micobie, one will also see the establishment of their Guest House. The Guest House has already earned $222,000 in profits. In the same community one will move to the poultry farm. The poultry farm has in its account $685,000 in profit. In the same community one will be taken to the fuel station, and that small fuel depot is also providing basic services in the provision of fuel to the community.
I could go on to list Monkey Mountain, Kanapang, Kamana, Itabac, Kopinang, Tuseneng, Kato, and Kurukabaru. I am willing to share all these successful presidential grant projects, small as they be, which are existing in communities. Of course, we do not have 100% success. Basically, we did have a few and I could count them on my fingers, failures in some communities. The failures are caused by highly influential attitudes that are placed as a burden on the backs of Indigenous people. I would like to rest that away from this House. We can deal with the influences that caused a few of our villages not to be careful about the investments and the time they spend to culling their energies to make these projects successful.
Overall, the National Secure Livelihood Programme, the Presidential Grant Fund and the soon to be implemented Community Development Project will cause a transformative and sustained approach to small enterprise development in agriculture, services, forestry, mining, and social and productive community infrastructure in villages that once had little or nothing.
The transformative social and economic shift are most visible already in villages such as Santa Rosa in Region No. 1, Paruima in Region No. 7, Kato in Region No. 8, Woweta and Karasabai in Region No. 9, just to pick the few that immediately on landing one will notice this transformative effect of the investments that communities have been making complemented by the Government of Guyana providing investment funding to these communities.
We must also remember that capacities are being built, skills are acquired and jobs are created. And I wish to salute the village shop attendants, the boat captains, the drivers for mini buses and pick-ups, the tractor operators, guest house attendants, the farmers and even the vaqueros who contributed to the success of the village enterprises.
I must admit that there are specific needs for increased technical support, for agriculture, processing, packaging, tourism and marketing strategies and, of course, governance to consolidate the many emerging economic initiatives in these activities. The Ministry is hopeful that the support component for training will have an impact on strengthening the management capacities and capabilities of the Indigenous peoples to ensure that all the projects are sustainable.
The People’s Progressive Party/Civic Government is all too willing to provide the support to partner with the Amerindian leaders to propel forward by making available those investment funds to assist the growth of enterprises, with potential for expansion and sustaining existing initiatives. Sustained economic projects will spearhead the movement towards less dependency, and as the sectors develop realising the full relevance for community development, income and capacities.
Our task is far from over and we need to maintain the momentum. The comment made by the Hon. Bulkan on Tuesday that hinterland programmes identified in the Budget are not good enough for hinterland development and that Government needs to ensure that hinterland economies are put on a more sustained path, clearly reflect his inattentiveness to the new dispensation that obtains in the many villages, communities and settlements that abound in the hinterland.
I dare the colleagues of the Hon. Member Allicock to vote against Budget 2013. I dare you to vote against Budget 2013, an act that will deny more than 15,000 Amerindian households vital interventions and investment funds aimed at consolidating efforts towards greater productivity, community food security, consistency in product availability and opportunity to market their indigenous products.
Expose your true intentions behind the shouts of concerns for Amerindian development.
I wish to assure this August House that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic Government has, within the levels of resources available, continued to progressively direct investments in changing the economic and infrastructural landscape of the hinterland, moving it from a status of a once backwardness in the years gone past to current buoyancy.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Member your time has elapsed.
Prime Minister and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs [Mr. Hinds]: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Hon. Member be given another 15 minutes to conclude her presentation.
Question put, question carried
Mrs. Campbell-Sukhai: A lot was already said about education. However, I wish to highlight the increasing access to education by hinterland students. Approximately 30,000 school-age children access nursery, primary and secondary education. This is an unprecedented in the history of Guyana. Students continue to receive substantial support enabling them to enjoy this basic right even as resident settlement pattern proves to be challenging both to the student and the Government.
Today, Region Nos. 1, 7, 8 and 9 can boast of having access to 12 secondary schools over and above the single existing secondary school located in Region No. 9 in 1992.
The problems raised in the educational sector by the Hon. Member Allicock were, of course, way out of line and yet the Hon. Ms. Hastings ... [Interruption]
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, allow the Hon. Member to address the House.
Mrs. Campbell-Sukhai: Thank you Mr. Speaker for you protection. Today, Region Nos.1, 7, 8 and 9 can now boast of having access to 12 secondary schools over and above the single one existing in Region No.9 since 1992. The problems raised in the educational sector by the Hon. Member Allicock were, of course, way out of line and yet the Hon. Ms. Hastings raised real challenges existing in the sectors. I wish to assure that Government's effort to address the need for additional class rooms and dormitory spaces is on the agenda. At Kato, the PPP/C Government has committed $728 million to establish a State of the Art secondary school. Again, this will be done in the most popularly mentioned region in this House during this debate, Region No. 8.
Transportation needs of our students continue to be a challenge and we continue to address it. Every year both land and water transportation are provided towards improving access to transportation in villages which have an impact on school children, health emergencies and transporting produce. The last three years have seen an investment in the sum of $23.6 million for water transport and land transport of $90.6 million investments.
To alleviate the burden of parents in providing uniforms to school children, the School Uniform Distribution Programme benefitted 30,000 Hinterland students, this cost $76 million and this is a significant sum.
The Hinterland Scholarship Programme now offers for eligible students to be able to attend the secondary school where they have been placed as a result of their achievements. This year allocation provides $66 million for the Hinterland Scholarship Programme, benefitting 388 students, an eight percent increase over last year’s scholarship numbers.
I am proud to announce that 62 students graduated from the Hinterland scholarship Programme in 2012. Currently, Hinterland scholars are offered a minimum of nine subjects at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations and 80% passes are achieved. I say this is commendable, as it equals the successes of their counterparts in the school that they attend.
The Ministry of Amerindian Affairs continues to grant direct subsidies to students through accommodations, boarding and pocket allowances to hinterland students to facilitate better learning conditions and access to schools that they have worked for and achieved. The impacts of these initiatives in the educational field will no doubt ensure that Amerindians benefit from the Government’s investment in human capital.
It would be remiss of me not mention the opportunities to tertiary educational for Amerindian students. My Colleague, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues provided already, quite a snap shot of what obtains in one single region as it relates to student of Indigenous parentage who benefited from tertiary education.
Whilst the entrepreneurial initiatives in the Villages are taking place, the current focus and continued development of economic infrastructure, such as improved water, provision of electricity and transportation will facilitate better competitiveness for village products.
The road constructions and rehabilitation has been a process in development and the PPP/Civic Government has been endeavouring to continuously undertake. The $2 billion Hinterland Road Programme for upgrading the main roads network will see the central connection of Linden to Lethem improved; Lethem to Aishalton extended into Region No.8 and Region No.9 into the North and South Pakarimas. I beg that the Member, who asked when, should take a visit to these areas and speak to Minister Benn on these matters.
Infrastructure is a positive indicator of development. The hinterlands’ topography and geographical location makes it difficult for transportation and communication. However, with the continued intervention on Amerindian development impacts on the following and we are not afraid to mention.
The Hinterland Solar Electrification Programme has taken has taken off successfully. The Ministry collaborated with the Office of the Prime Minister for the distribution of solar panels to Amerindian villages. A total of 10,858 solar panels were distributed during this second phase. A question was asked sometime on Tuesday in this House on how the solar panel units are distributed and if they are working. I open an invitation to those how asked the question. When you take a sojourn into the Hinterland, you will enjoy the evening, as each house in the villages that have received such panels, light up as the evening comes in. It is a sight to see whereby today, when it was farfetched for our Indigenous population to ever consider owning a solar panel or enjoying lights in their homes, it is a reality today.
Investing in the people’s health – the truth of the matter is that the Ministry which oversees the Ministry’s hostel has accommodated, last year, 1,229 patients. This is still a concern with our Government. Therefore, I wish to assure this House that the allocation provided to provide such a service has been well spent. Today, we have introduced various protocols for the operation of that hostel. I wish to say that today, while the numbers have remain high it is not all patients included in that number because today we still cater for patients’ relative to accompany them to assist during the time when they are out of hospital and when they need very soft caring from their families.
Cultural and Heritage is also a focus of this Government. This year we will once more be showcasing Amerindian Heritage in its splendour. We have over the years moved this event to one that now is much an attraction to all Guyanese. While it may be one of the main events that highlight Indigenous culture, it is an event that brings to life in this Nation the recognition that Indigenous people is a focus in our country. Many countries do not afford their Indigenous people such an opportunity to showcase their culture, heritage nor tradition.
Our Welfare Services also provide great assistance to communities and residence, which over the years were not able to access any form of opportunity to register themselves, but with the advent of our Government, this registration for birth certificates has been a great challenge.
While I rush the ending of my presentation because I realise the time is going, I want to say that we have completed, over the 20 years that we have been in Government, more than 30,000 birth certificates for Amerindians. A poor legacy left by the proceeding Government which our Government has had to address. If in the time of the Opposition they could not even afford the basic opportunity and courtesy to Indigenous people to provide them with a document of identity, then that tells a sad story on their part.
I end here by saying to my colleagues on this side that we will stand firm and that we will provide the support to the Minister of Finance to channel this budget that obtains in this House today for the benefit of our Nation so that our Guyanese people can start to live the Guyanese dream, which my colleague, Irfaan Ali has so very well put to this House.
Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the time. [Applause]
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