April 13, 2012
Ms. Hastings: Thank you Mr. Speaker and Hon. Members of this House. Allow me to make my contribution on Budget 2012, under the theme, “Remaining on course, united in purpose, prosperity for all”
The budget prepared and presented by the Hon. Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh is of no doubt one that appears good in terms of quantitative measures, but a poor one in terms of qualitative growth. I say this since the budget, as it stands, only signals the priorities of the Government. The priorities of the Government are not merely the priorities of the Guyanese people. With the problems increasing in our society, what does this budget have to offer with respect to solving them?
My perusal of the estimates for the 2010 and 2011 budgets shows that while infrastructural projects were done on roads, airstrips and bridges, the people in this country did not get the value for money. I say this as these roads and airstrips continued to collapse soon after works had been completed.
Typical example, the Kamarang airstrip, which I traverse, in and out, when I am attending sittings of the National Assembly, which was recently repaired, is almost back to the state it was before, although millions of dollars were spent. The Bartica/Pataro road, which serves the miners, residents and school children who attend the three miles..., is already in a deplorable state when works were done on same for three consecutive years, in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Would it not have been better if studies where done so as to find out what sort of vehicles traverse this road?
The residents of Bartica are calling on this Government to build a proper or a heavy duty all weather road, which they can enjoy using for a long period of time. I am hoping that this mistake will not recur for the Imbaimadai and Ekereku airstrips and Kako, Waramadong, Kamarang and the other roads that are targeted for this year.
Let me now turn to education. While the Government recognises that this vehicle is a pre-requisite to the successful development of a nation, does it fail to recognise that a nation is made up of small communities and villages? If one is so serious about responding to the educational needs of our people so that there can be prosperity for all, as the theme states, then the Government needs to respond accordingly to the educational needs of our people, despite their geographical locations. With the allocation of $25.6 billion for this sector, I am hoping that the teaching block and the dormitories, which are being targeted for this year, be constructed and completed to the value of the money that is to be spent.
As I reflect and recall my last speech on Budget 2011, I had called on this Government to establish a science laboratory and a Home Economics Department at the Lone secondary school at Waramadong. I must inform this Hon. House that to this date there is none, although the school continues to offer subjects such as integrated science, food and nutrition, HSB, just to name a few.
Mr. Speaker, tell me, is this what the Hon. Minister of Finance refers to as remaining on course? Indeed, the situation at this school has remained the same after 19 years of governance under the PPP/C. Is this how we plan to improve the literacy and numeracy standards of our children, at the primary and secondary schools? If so, then definitely the Ministry of Education needs to revise its strategic planning document. Every time a new dormitory or a school is being constructed, the requirements, as outlined in the non-academic standards, have been ignored to the plight of the teachers and students, who have to teach and learn in an un-conducive learning environment.
Child-friendly classrooms are far from reality in most of our hinterland schools. Lack of curriculum guides, textbooks, adequate and appropriate furniture continues to prevail and these definitely adds burden to the teachers who are not properly paid.
I now refer to the Hon. Minister of Amerindian Affairs’ speech. Yes, Hon. Minister, we have young people who are trained at Kuru Kuru College, GTI and other secondary schools under the Hinterland Scholarship Programme, but have not yet acquired jobs to this date. I was hoping to hear the Hon. Minister giving us figures of the number of young Amerindians who were trained and who have completed studies under this Hinterland Scholarship Programme and what sorts of jobs are they enjoying today, but this I did not hear. That which cannot be measured, cannot be improved.
The people of Region 7 are now calling on the Government to have in this year’s budget an allocation for the construction of a fully equipped technical or vocational training school in the Upper Mazaruni. This would create jobs for the young people who have completed training at Kuru Kuru College and GTI, to teach either on a part-time or a fulltime basis. I must inform this Hon. House of what is happening. When something goes wrong with an outboard engine, a little generator, water pump, solar systems and ATV’s that were distributed by the Office of the Prime Minister, these would have to be flown out to Georgetown to be rectified at an additional cost, whereas, if our local youths are trained to handle this, repairs could be done right there at a lesser cost.
Let me turn to a comment that the Hon. Member on the other side of the House, Dr. Vindhya Persaud, who commented that Guyana has moved forward and the young people of this country are now on par with their counterparts in other parts of the country. I must say, how can we say that Guyana has moved forward when children in the Hinterland are not on par with their counterparts on the coastland in terms of getting access to internet service? There are no internet services of which I know that have been allocated or budgeted for by the Government in the Upper Mazaruni or either in the middle Mazaruni.
Hon. Member, Dr. Persaud, I too am a proud product of the University of Guyana, but my credit goes to the foundation of my education. I am a product of a Hinterland Scholarship that was offered under the governance of the PNC. The PNC had started free education, from nursery to university. I stand in this House a proud woman, because I can say I have a job today. Hon. Members of this House, I say a proud product because I give credit to my early days of schooling, those years in which the Hon. Members on the other side of the House talk so negative about, as if nothing good had been done for those 28 years.
Let me turn to the health sector, listening to the Hon. Minister’s Budget Speech 2012, they have a very good plan in building a state of the art speciality surgical hospital at Liliendaal. We the people in the Upper Mazaruni would have welcomed the upgrading of the Lone Kamarang District Hospital. I heard him talking so much about cataract, I was waiting to hear when he would speak about Kamarang, but probably by speaking so much about cataract, maybe he has cataract in his eyes, that Hon. Member could not see that a lot needs to be done at the Kamarang District Hospital.
Guyanese in this part of Guyana need to enjoy and receive equal health services as that of those we received on the coastland and elsewhere. Any rational, objective and right thinking person, especially Amerindian brothers and sisters in the Hinterland, would agree with me that in this Budget 2012, it does not really make a difference to an ordinary man. My reason for saying this is that the present increase of $600 for our pensioners in no way can be adequate, when food items such as a loaf of bread cost $600. A pound of chicken, beef or fish is almost ranging from $650 to $900 per pound, just to name a few. A pack of milk cost $1,200 - $1,500, how do you expect our elderly people to live?
The air transportation which is the only means, to this day, to go in and out of Kamarang and Imbaimadai, the cost for return is presently $38 000 with Air Services Limited and almost $40,000 with Trans Guyana Airways. Recently, I have learnt that the Air Services Limited scheduled passenger flights into Imbaimadai and Paruima, so those residents in Imbaimadai, the ordinary man, will now have to catch a flight to go into Kamarang and then pay an additional cost from Karmarang, to either hire a boat to seek as a passenger in order to reach to Imbaimadai. How can an ordinary man afford to charter a flight which ranges from $300,000 -$450,000? I am calling on this Government to address this issue and matters that affect people in this part of Guyana.
I now turn to youth and sports – I refer to the Hon. Member, Mrs. Valerie Garrido-Lowe, who said that Amerindians are gifted for athletics and sports in which they engage themselves, meaningfully. I am asking the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport to please allocate some money, which he has allocated for this year’s budget, to upgrade our sport grounds at Jawalla and Kamarang. For every year we have our annual district games, where all the young people would come together from various villages, both male and female to compete in football, volleyball, cricket, archery and swimming and every year the cost of these, with the input from the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs... the young people would come together to enjoy what means to be a young woman and a sports man. Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Dr. Frank Anthony, I extend my invitation to you to come and visit during this time.
I now turn to agriculture - the people in the Upper Mazaruni are very proud farmers. I must inform this Hon. House, as I did previously, that there is a community called Paruima, which under PNC, had produced large cabbages and plantains. I do not know how many of you have seen a large plantain - but the biggest pumpkins and vegetables of all sorts. These fertile lands that are there need to be used in a way that can bring an income to these farmers, [Member: Make plantain chips.]Yes, we need to make plantain chips and these other things that can be sold to bring in an income. But what happens, the farmers are not motivated to plant in large quantities since there is no market for the products they produce. So I am calling on the Minister of Agriculture to find ways and means of going into these areas and taking in their expertise so that they can educate the people or the farmers in this part of Guyana, so that much can be gained from our agriculture projects.
In conclusion, because I think I have said enough and I am hoping and expecting that this Government, who calls itself caring, but sometimes I think it to be scaring instead of caring; I have a responsibility to represent the people of my Region. I am hoping that their hopes and expectations be taken into consideration, so that we can all enjoy a good life, as the APNU states in its manifesto, “A good life for all Guyanese”. Mr. Speaker, thank you very much for your attention. [Applause]