April 13, 2012
Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport [Dr. Anthony]: Thank you Mr. Speaker and Hon. Members. First of all let me also join in welcoming all the new members to the Assembly, especially the young people who are here. We have just heard a very spirited presentation from the Hon. Member Mr. Bond.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle once said that quality is not an act, it is a habit. Over the years Dr. Ashni Kumar Singh and his team have made it a habit of presenting quality budgets on the stakeholders of this country. This year is no exception. Despite the complexity and the quantum of variables and the sectors involved, he has managed to distil the philosophy behind the Budget in three simple, yet sophisticated thoughts, “Remaining on Course, United in Purpose, Prosperity for all”.
The cynics amongst us will say “what course?” and “what purpose”. That course is reflected in the prudent economic management that we have enjoyed and continue to enjoy as is illustrated by the numbers in this Budget. The domestic economy has grown an average of 4.4% for the last five years. Increased External Reserves now stand a historic high of US $798 million. There is stabilisation of the exchange rate and of course we have seen US $1.3 billion in foreign direct investments over the last five years. This is the course that we speak of, not a course of economic misadventure that was so common in a bygone era.
We live in times that are as exciting as it is risky and depending upon how we rise to the occasion we will either benefit from the opportunities or be surmounted by the challenges. Now is not the time to deviate nor to divide, rather it is time to be singular in our resolve to make up a better Guyana. This budget offers us the right policy mix to move our country forward. It allocates resources for us to modernise the traditional sectors to make them more efficient. It allocates resources for us to diversify our economy, to get into oil, the extractive industry, environmental services so that we can become less dependent on the traditional sector. It creates new opportunities for the improvement of living standards, better health, better education and better human services. It will create more jobs. It will allow us to build the transformational infrastructure, laying the basis for our new wave of development, the Amaila hydro project, the speciality hospital, the Information Communication Technology (ICT) backbone, the airport expansion and of course the Marriot Hotel. This is a budget that guarantees growth, development and would enrich us all as a people.
Enriching people’s lives mean investing in them. In my sector, this Government has never failed to invest in Culture Youth and Sports. From 1998 when this Ministry was first created to now, the figures speak for themselves. In 1998 we received $207,693,000,000. This year we have allocated $1,929,774,000. If spending was the only measure of achievement, then by this standard we would have achieved. It is not only the money, but also what this money did and what it would continue to do. We can examine any one of the areas and we will see that the investment made would have surpassed their expectations.
Let us look at youth. We all recognise the importance of investing in youth. While it can be symbolised by the growing allocation to the Ministry of Culture Youth and Sport, that interpretation would be too restrictive. Youth is too big to be contained in one Ministry. That is why government youths services are provided in a multi-sectoral way by several Ministries. The Ministry of Culture Youth and Sports have continued to place emphasis on youth health, youth and parenting, youth jobs, youth and education and youth leadership.
In youth health, our programmes complements what is currently being offered by the Ministry of Health. Our programmes are mainly educational and we place a strong emphasis on educating our young people on sexually transmitted infections including HIV. Of course we have been working to also prevent the chronic non-communicable diseases. We have also paid a lot of attention to the problem of substance abuse. This is a problem that is plaguing our society.
While the Ministry of Health has stabilised the HIV pandemic in Guyana, if we are not vigilant, these gains can be quickly reversed. In 2010-2011, of all the persons diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection about 50% were between the ages of 15 to 25 years. In 2011, of all the persons diagnosed with HIV 17.52% were between the ages of 15 to 25 years. It is for this reason that we must continue to provide education to our young people about these diseases. This education will allow them to make intelligent choices. We in the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport, through the President‘s Youth Award Programme, have been rolling out a programme to educate young people using edutainment. Over the last year we would have reached about 20,000 young people using this methodology.
But while we have this problem with HIV it should be noted that at the global level attention, and the resources, are being diverted from HIV to other issues, because it is felt that we are now on top of the problem in the developing world. But if our funding is diverted internationally it will cause a collapse of the public heath gains made over the years. We have to remain vigilant and at the global level continue to impress on the partners to maintain the funding level. Locally, we must not feel we are on top of the epidemic, but must all play our roles to continue the fight against this dreaded disease. And, we have to continue the education of our young people.
In the area of youth and parenting we continue to offer this programme to our young people because we recognise that sometimes they take this responsibility too lightly. Over the last year we have been holding several workshops which are helping our young people to understand their responsibilities, especially the responsibility of raising a family.
In youth education, while there are several ministries offering youth education, the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport has been offering what is called the Youth Entrepreneurial Skills Training (YEST) programme. We have the programme at the New Opportunity Corp (NOC) which has been referred to by the Hon. Member Mr. James Bond. These programmes offer something that is good for the young people and, very often because many of the persons who come to the programme would have dropped out of the school system, it will help to give them a second opportunity at an education.
[Ms. Selman in the Chair at 7.52 p.m.]
I would have spoken about this programme in several other presentations, exerting the virtues of these programmes. So on this occasion instead of talking about the number, instead of talking about how many people would have graduated from these programmes, I choose to refer to two cases for us to understand the effect or impact this programme is having on the persons who access them.
I want to refer to the case of a young girl from Region 9, born on 3rd September, 1994, and lived with her grandmother who became ill and was unable to care for her. She became delinquent and was sent to the NOC in 2007 at the age of 13. She spent three years and completed her studies in English, Mathematics, Social Studies and Integrated Science. While she was at the NOC she also had some skills training and was able to do Information Technology, Electrical Installation and Tailoring. And, yes, we do have a computer lab at the NOC. She also represented Region 2 at the National Athletics Championship, and in those events she got third place. After her discharge from the NOC she was helped by the Ministry’s Reintegration Programme, and used the monies she received to continue her studies at the Kuru-Kururu Training College, another institution run by the Ministry. She completed a course in Business Studies in July, 2011, is now enrolled at the Carnegie School of Home Economics, and is currently supported both by the Ministries of Culture and Amerindian Affairs. She will be graduating soon and intends to open her own business.
Let us look at another example. A young man from Sophia attended the Sophia Training Centre and did six months training in Information Technology and Office Administration. He also attended the Drama Training which was offered at the Centre. That course was taught by one Mr. Howard Lorrimer. He was given a role in the play “The Protagonist” and after that break was able to secure acting roles on such shows as the “Link Show”, “Stretched Out Magazine”, “No Big Thing” and was also in the radio drama “Merundoi”. He now writes and directs his own plays, and has created his own show called “A Different Kind of Thing”. As he puts it:
“I moved from a “nobody” to a writer, director, actor, singer, stand-up comic, and a producer; and it all started at the Sophia Training Centre.”
He urges his fellow young people to make use of the opportunity and said to them, “the sky is the limit”. This is the power, Mdm. Speaker, of the programmes we run. Over the last six years we would have made this life changing impact on more than 2,000 young lives.
There is much more that can be said. We can also talk about the 6,154 young people who would have passed through the President’s Youth Award Programme. Or we could talk about the 7,000 children who benefit each year from our annual children’s camp in every region of this country.
Our Government takes a holistic view of development. We believe that sports and culture is not just a recreational pastime, but is important to cohesion and the wellbeing of our people. Without our culture we will float idly around without an identity. Our culture anchors us and gives us pride as a nation. That is why we have placed so much emphasis on culture and sports.
Let me just look at some of the institutions within my sector - the Walter Rodney and National Archives. Our Archives continue to be the fountain for researchers. Last year we had more than 455 persons using the facility for research. This year the numbers of international researchers are expected to grow, especially since the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has listed us as part of the memory of the world register.
We have been listed for two reasons. The first, relates to the Dutch West Indian company documents, and, the second, to the documents of Indian indentured immigrants. Both of these Archives contain primary sources for researching the history of the period. And it is said that the information contained there can be found nowhere else in the world. It is because of this unique value that Guyana has been placed on the coveted (UNESCO) list. While we feel privileged to be the custodians of these records, they come with great responsibility to protect and preserve, not just as part of our patrimony but, as part of the heritage of the world. In this year’s budget a start-up sum has been allocated to buy equipment for the digitilisation of these records. This multi-year project when completed will allow us to share our heritage with the rest of the world.
We will be having other initiatives, including collaboration with the University of Guyana to start an archivist and residency programme. We will also be partnering with the National Communications Network (NCN) to establish an audio-visual archive. These are some of the new developments taking place at the National Archives.
What about the museum? The Ministry continues to operate four museums. These are the Dutch Heritage Museum, the Walter Roth Museum, the African Heritage Museum, and the Guyana National Museum. During the last year there have been about 50,940 visitors collectively to our museums. The renewed interest is primarily due to the annual exhibitions and special exhibits now on display. One such exhibition is in the cartographic room which displays maps of Guyana going back for the last four centuries. This year we would continue to improve the services provided at all our museums, and in particular we will continue to develop attractive and educational exhibits. With this in mind we will commence the construction of a walk-through aquarium at the National Museum to showcase the bio-diversity of our aquatic life forms. We will also enhance the museum outreach programme because we will be providing them with a vehicle so that they can take scientific exhibits to schools to enhance the learning experience of students.
The Walter Roth Museum - traditionally we have been collecting and housing artifacts from various communities. This year the museum will be collaborating with various hinterland communities to develop eco-museums. [Interruption] This is what we are doing, developing eco-museums. These eco-museums are fundamentally different from the traditional museums because they offer the visitor a lived experience, that is, a more holistic interpretation of the community’s cultural heritage. The development of these museums will not only help to preserve the culture but will foster greater appreciation of the cultural practices of these communities. It will also promote the sustainable economic development of these communities.
What about publishing? The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports is very pleased to be associated with the upswing of publications in Guyana. The Ministry, which operates the Caribbean Press, has completed 26 books in the Guyana Classics Library and the final 10 will be completed this year. In addition, we have published the National Assembly speeches of Dr. Jagan from 1947 to 1987, and copies of these publications can be found in the library of the National Assembly. [Mrs. Backer: What about Burnham’s speeches?] I am very happy that the Member has asked about President Burnham’s speeches. I am happy to tell you that we have President Forbes Burnham’s speeches, along with President Desmond Hoyte’s speeches, and Janet Jagan’s speeches, and are working on them. And, they would form part of the presidential library series. So we are not discriminating. And, in fact, the first volume of President Burnham’s speeches is right now with the editors. In addition, we have started work on a number of books by Guyanese writers for children. Later in the year the Ministry would also embark on consultations with a number of stakeholders with a view of creating a book exhibition in Guyana. We believe that such an event would be an outlet for Guyanese and Caribbean creativity.
What about cultural education? The Ministry placed renewed emphasis on cultural education in our country. To raise the general cultural awareness the Ministry has been holding a number of lecture series that includes the Edgar Mittelholzer lecture series which was started in 1967 by A. J. Seymour. We have resuscitated it. We have also started the Republic of Guyana Lecture Series, and already held two such lectures.
[Mr. Speaker resumed seat at 8.06 p.m.]
Last year we started another series in honour of the late Dr. Desiree Fox. We will continue with such educational lectures.
Another thing we will be doing this year is to expand the scope of education being offered and improve the quality of cultural education being offered. Therefore, the Ministry will be working this year to establish the Institute of Creative Arts. This will be a consolidation of the Burrows School of Art, the National School of Dance and the National Music School under one umbrella. In addition, we will work to develop two other faculties, one in drama and the other in film. A curricula review has already started with the existing institutions. And opportunities are already been explored for the courses to be properly certified and accredited both nationally and internationally. At the National Music School we already have the first batch of students and they are expected to write an external music examination in May of this year.
What about the performing arts? During the last year the Ministry continued to give support to the performing arts. We have created a platform to allow our artists to perform and become recognised. We continue to invest annually in Mashramani Song Competitions, the Chutney, the Soca, and Calypso Competitions. We continue to invest in the Steelband and National Drama Competitions and, of course, the Guyana Music Festival. In preparation for these competitions the Ministry would have also invested in various workshops to assist the participants to improve their performances. While many of our artists have been able to perform unhindered at home, some have been experiencing some difficulty in performing regionally. To minimise these difficulties the Ministry will be working to establish a registry for cultural workers that will be compatible with similar databases that exists in sister CARICOM countries. We hope by doing this some of the problems which our cultural artists have been experiencing will be alleviated.
What about festivals? Apart from the many religious and secular festivals we have here in Guyana, this year the Ministry will be hosting the Inter-Guiana Cultural Festival. This Festival which started last year is intended to bring the three Guianas together. We have started preparing for this Festival with the establishment of a broad-based host committee. We have also been preparing for several commemorative events.
This year will mark 40 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. Over the years we have seen this relationship grow and blossom. To highlight this significant milestone we invited, last year, seven top Chinese artists to visit Guyana. They came and created beautiful paintings of Guyana’s hinterland, and this year as part of the anniversary celebration they will be showcasing these masterpieces in one of the top galleries in Beijing.
This year also, we will start preparations for two important milestones on the nation’s calendar. In 2013 it would mark 250 years since the historic slave uprising in Berbice, regarded as one of the earliest uprising in the western hemisphere. That uprising fired the imagination of the enslaved to fight for a better life. Next year also, we will mark 175 years since the arrival of the first Indian Indentured Immigrants to Guyana. To highlight these two significant dates…
To highlight these two significant dates the Ministry will establish shortly two national committees to recommend appropriate ways in which we could commemorate these significant dates on our national calendar. I hope that some of the Members of the National Assembly who have an interest in these matters will join these committees.
The National Trust is constantly working to protect the country’s tangible and intangible heritage. The Trust will continue to maintain various monument sites across Guyana. We will complete the rehabilitation of the 1763 Monument site later this year. Our hope is that we can restore the fountain and add lights to enhance the beauty of this site.
We would also unveil a new monument this year, this is the 1823 Monument which will be a tribute to all those who lost their lives in the uprising of 1823. A renowned Guyanese sculpture, Mr. Ivor Thom, is presently working to complete this project. I heard the Hon. Mrs. Backer asking about what we did last year for the “International Year of People of African Descent”. This is one of the tangible projects which will be coming out of that year. [Mrs. Backer: That was last year.] The project started last year and it will be completed this year. [Mrs. Backer: Where is it going to be?] That is the other thing, and I am coming to that now. The Hon. Member has asked about the sighting of the 1823 Monument. On two occasions we went out to the public to ask for suggestions of where to site it, whether we should go on the East Coast of Demerara or should we have it in Georgetown. I would like to throw that out again because we have not made a final decision on the sighing of the monument. [Interruption] This is consultation.
Maybe for the education for the Hon. Member let me give an insight into what we are constructing. The monument we are constructing is going to be a 15-feet high bronze statute, and it is taking some time to construct. The foundry is located right here in Guyana, and the local artists are making that monument for us. We do not have to send it to England to be constructed. We are constructing the monument locally and that is why it is taking some time. We are building local capacity.
In addition, more emphasis will be placed on how we protect our historic environment. As you are aware the world history books talk about old world civilisation such as those in Sumer, in Egypt, the Harappan, and in China. The earliest of these are the Sumerians and they are thought to have existed from about 3,500 years before Christ, or as the archeologist would say before present time. In the new world the two important centres of civilisation were in ancient Peru and the Olmec of Mesoamerica. The ancient Peruvian civilisation is thought to exist from 1,000 Before the Common Era (BCE) and the Olmec some 1,500 BCE. These areas are now centres for archeological research and give us a better insight into the pre-history of the world.
We in Guyana are now learning more about the pre-history of our country. Last year there was a scientific theme which conducted research in the Berbice River area. We have uncovered evidence of early human settlement. We have been able to carbon date this settlement back to the Mid-Holocene period which would have been between 6,000 to 3,000 BC. This is an important finding and researchers are confident that with more studies into this area we will rewrite the history books of the world. We need to demarcate the areas for protection and have allocated resources in this year’s budget to start the mapping of this area. We hope that we all can agree that this is part of our heritage and it deserves protection.
I now turn to sports and the budget shows Government’s firm commitment to the development of sports in Guyana. We will continue to invest in the development of sports infrastructure. The construction of a 25 metre warm up pool at the National Aquatic Centre will allow us to hold Carifta swimming championships in 2013. Right now we have several rising stars in swimming and I would like to single out Jessica Stephenson, who have already won a gold medal at the 27th Carifta Championships and we expect her to win some more.
At Lenora, works have been ongoing on the synthetic athletics track. Contracts have been awarded and the work is progressing on the parameter fence. The land filling of the entire site, the parking area, internal roads, the synthetic track, the football field and also the areas designated for long jump, pole vaulting, shot-put, etc. In this year’s budget, with the moneys that we get, we will start the construction of the stands and the administrative building. This project will be completed in 2013.
What about boxing? Boxing has always been popular in Guyana and we have seen resurgence in boxing, both at the amateur and professional levels. This year we will be adding new gym equipment to the Six Head Lewis Gym and our intention is to make this into the best boxing training facility in Guyana. A Cuban coach has already been contracted and has been working with our boxers. He will be here for the next two years.
This year we will also start the construction of a sport institute at the Woolford Avenue site, it will provide space for training and house a sports library where coaches, officials, sportsmen and women and, of course, those students who are writing sports at the CXC level, will be able to use it. This will vastly improve our human resource capacity necessary for a vibrant and robust sport system. This year we will also commence work on the National Coaches Accreditation System and an Official Accreditation System. With these systems we will help to professionalise the sports sector.
The Ministry will also have a very strong focus on school and community sports. In partnership with the Ministry of Education, we will be working to get more schools involved in physical activities. We will promote the development of cricket, football, volleyball, basketball, athletics, table tennis and chess, both at the primary and secondary levels of schooling. At the community level, we have allocated $180 million for the improvement of community grounds. I understand several Members have been asking for grants to assist them in their community, through this facility, we will be able to work with you to improve those grounds. [Mr. Jones: ...over 200 grounds... look it is right here.] I can give you a list of the grounds that we would have completed. I am very happy that you are reading that. The grounds will be improved and the Hon. Members, who have an interest in helping to improve their community grounds, can talk to us and apply to the National Sports Commission. We have also been working with a number of national sport organisations to get them to own their own assets.
The Government of Guyana would have given to the Guyana Olympic Association one acre of land for the construction of its head office. The Government of Guyana has also given one acre of land to the Guyana Karate Association for the construction of a dojo. I have heard the Hon. Member, Mr. James Bond, talking about public/private sector partnership and we have a number of associations who have approached us for us to work along with them, so that they can develop facilities for their perspective sports.
A facility is being looked at where a synthetic turf for hockey can be put down. The Guyana Table Tennis Association would like to develop a centre of excellence for table tennis and we will work with them to ensure that this happens. What about power lifting? The Power Lifting and the Weight Lifting Associations are asking us to develop a strength training centre and we will be working with them to establish such a centre. This will be public/private partnership. [Mr. Harmon: What about football?] For football - at the Lenora facility, in the middle of the synthetic track, there will be a football field and that facility – the synthetic track and football field at Lenora – will be able to accommodate between 8000 -10000 spectators, when it is completed.
There are many other things that we will be doing for sports, but I do not have enough time to tell you all the good things that will be happening during this year. I have listened to the Hon. Member, Mr. Trevor Williams, who in his presentation raised a couple of issues. I would like to thank him for his remarks and I would like to point out to him that the question he asked about computer labs in the school system, I want him to know that at the secondary level 72% of our secondary schools already have computer labs. At the primary level, 15% of our schools already have computer labs. He also asked or he said that, one of the things we should do, was introduce, I think, regional mechanical shops. I want to say to the Hon. Member, that we have a number of technical vocational institutes in various regions. In Georgetown, you know, we have the Government Technical Institute, the Guyana Industrial Training Centre, in Linden the Linden Technical Institute, in Region 2 the Essequibo Technical Institute, in New Amsterdam the New Amsterdam Technical Institute and the Upper Corentyne Industrial Training Centre...
I can go on, because there are a number of facilities where we are training young people. So, I would like the Hon. Member to know that it is not only about a workshop, but we have institutions in these regions that are taking care of training.
The Hon. Member, Mr. James Bond, spoke about the NOC (New Opportunity Corps.) and I think that report, which he quoted from, the OAS Report of 2008 would be a little dated now. So I told my Hon. Friend that I would like to invite him to visit the NOC, so he can see what we are doing at the NOC. [Interruption] He can come anytime he wants and I am sure that if he visits the NOC, he would be able to see the good programmes that are happening there. You would be please to note that we have a computer lab at the NOC.
I am pleased with this year’s budget, especially in my sector. It allows us to expand our programmes and to serve our people better. Building a better Guyana is not about blaming the past or denying our short comings, it is about recognising that we need to rise above pettiness and a partisan old style approach to one of trust and better cooperation. It is not so much about where we stand, but it is in which direction we are moving and I want to say that this budget is moving us in the right direction. Let us stay the course for the prosperity of all of our people. Thank you very much. [Applause]