Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport [Dr. Anthony]: Thank you very much. Mr. Speaker and Hon. Members, I rise to make my contribution to Budget Debate 2014, under the caption, “A better Guyana, for all Guyanese.” Indeed listening to the Minister Ashni Singh, and subsequently reading the details of the presentation, it is clear that there is something for everyone, whether you are young or old; whether you are school age or middle age; whether you are from the hinterland or the coastland; whether you are employer or an employee, the budget has something for you.
There is no doubt it is difficult to collate all these competing interests within the country into a comprehensive and coherent presentation. Minister Singh and his team have demonstrated that this is not just a theoretical exercise, but one that is taken seriously and it is deliberate plan to increased prosperity for all Guyanese.
It is little wonder that despite the world economic crisis, post independent Guyana has recorded the longest period of uninterrupted real economic growth from 2006 to 2013. This is indeed a commendable achievement. This is also testimony to our prudent polices of investing in Guyana and Guyanese. There is no doubt today, that a great deal has been achieved. But to consolidate the gains that we have made and to build upon the foundation that was laid we have to invest more, especially in our young people.
Again government must be commended for its multi-sectorial approach. This year we note the substantive increases in education, health, housing, sanitation and water. All of these investments will benefit our young people in a direct or in an indirect way.
In addition to these general investments, they are more youth specific investments under the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport, the Ministry of Labour and Human Services and the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs. These include the programmes such as:
• National Training Program for Youth Employment,
• The Apprenticeship Program,
• The Board of Industrial Training Program and
• The Youth Entrepreneurship and Apprenticeship Program in the Hinterland.
Together these programs are intended to reach out to every young person who needs assistance as their transition to the world of work. The Ministry will continue to run its traditional programmes providing educational support to young people who need a second chance at an education. The residential programs at the Kuru-Kuru Training Centre and New Opportunity Corps (NOC), the non-residential programmes at Sophia and Vryman’s Eryven have trained hundreds of young people and have apprenticed them at job sites. The President Youth Award Programme and the Youth Volunteer Platform continues to offer young people an opportunity to be positive role models in their communities. Both of these programs are growing; the President Youth Award Programme is expanding with the formation of new units in various regions. This year we will expand the pilot volunteer programme to more schools.
In addition, the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport will like to recognise successful young people who have played a positive role in their communities. Later in the year we will start the National Youth Award Scheme. The criteria for these awards will be published shortly and we encourage everyone to nominate progressive young people for these awards.
During 2013 and into 2014, extensive consultations were held to formulate the National Youth Policy. A youth steering committee was formed to guide the process, and a stakeholder group was formed comprising a representative sample of young people to bring the views of their peers. In addition, about 1000 questionnaires were distributed across Guyana to solicit the views of young people about what they want in this new National Youth Policy. After these extensive consultations, a first, then a second and now a final draft will soon be completed. We are thankful to the Commonwealth Youth Programme for their assistance in making the new National Youth Policy a reality. We envisage that based on the policy, a number of new initiatives will come on stream, including creating structural mechanism for coordination and implementation and addressing concerns and priorities that have been outlined in this document. With the implementation of these programs, this year promises to be another good year for the young people of our country.
Culture and cultural expression are multifaceted and all encompassing, reflected in knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, customs, traditions and distinctive institutions and in numerous ways, giving meaning to life and civilisation. Yet, like the air we breathe, its contribution to society can often be ignored or taken for granted.
We in the Ministry have been working hard to ensure that we realised the full potential of our cultural assets. With this in mind, the Ministry has placed a lot of emphasis on cultural education through the dance, art, music and drama schools. These schools are training our future choreographers, dancers, artists, musicians and dramatist.
This year the National Dance School celebrates 45 years of service to the development of dancing in Guyana. We are please to say that we have expanded the programmes that are offered. Currently, we have 440 students enrolled at our main school, with another 180 students in our satellite programmes. Another 300 young people were introduced to dancing and drumming in Regions 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7, through our dance outreach program.
Last year we ran a small pilot programme where we encouraged three members of the National Dance School to write CXC Theatre Arts Option 2. Of the three persons that wrote the exam, all passed with grades I. But more importantly, as a testament to the high level of dance education that we are offering at the school, Mariela Bennett and Jerusha Dos Santos was 3rd and 5th, respectively, on the Regional Top Ten Merit List. We are encouraged by these results and we intend to scale up the program in future years.
The Ministry continues to promote the masquerade art form. In 2013, we developed an instructional handbook and DVD to assist dance groups and soon we will be making this online so that anyone can go and download the programme.
In the area of art, the E.R. Burrowes School continues to make a positive contribution to art in Guyana. We have 51 students currently enrolled in our programme and we have started a special programme where 39 students are now being prepared for Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC) Art. This is new programme that the school is investing in because we see these students as potential students coming into the Burrowes School for its diploma programme. We are also going to be running some new courses, which includes fashion design and photography. Apart from these specialised courses that the institution is running, we will start a course in art appreciation, which will be available to the general public.
At the Castellani House, our National Gallery, this year our priority programme would be to repatriate artwork done by Winslow Craig in New Zealand and to back them to Guyana. These beautiful large sculptures were created while Mr. Craig was on a study tour. Once we bring them back to Guyana, they will form part of the National Collection.
During the year, we want to also extend the holdings of the National Art Collection and bring the Collection to the people. One way of doing this is to publish photographs of our art holdings. We have received a commitment from Guyana Telephone & Telegraph Company (GT&T) to fund a series coffee table books depicting the art heritage of Guyana. This multiyear program will commence this year and it will make our collection more accessible to the general public.
I am pleased also to announce that this year we will have the 2nd Visual Arts Competition and Exhibition under the patronage of H.E President Donald Ramotar. This exhibition and competition will take place in November of this year. We once again expect that there will be a high level of participation and we feel that this would be one of the highpoints in our cultural calendar for 2014.
In the area of music, the National Music School has expanded its intake almost fivefold. Despite this expansion, we continue to enjoy 100% passes in the external exams and we are writing the Royal School of Music Exam. We have expanded the school steel band program. This year we are currently in 13 schools, in Region Nos.3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 10. Again, during the year we have budgeted moneys for two steel bands, one will be in Region No.8 and the other will go to Region No.9. We will also be providing them with instructional manuals and DVD once that have been developed by the Ministry.
Last year, we partnered with the Guyana Music Teachers Association to host the biennial Guyana Musical and Arts Festival. There were about 500 entries in the 69 categories of the competition. This has really renewed and revived music competition in Guyana. This year we continue to work with Guyana Music Teachers Association in training music teachers in preparation for the next Festival.
Again, for the first time, we ran a National Song Competition and again we were pleased with the response. We had 30 choirs taking part and the New Amsterdam Multilateral School was the winner in the large category.
In the area of drama, the National School of Theatre Arts and Drama is now offering a certificate and diploma programme in Drama. On the 28th October 2013, we had our first convocation where 12 students graduated with diplomas. For the current academic year we have about 45 students in the diploma programme and 15 in the certificate programme. We also continue with the National Drama Festival, which has now become a cultural staple to drama development in Guyana. Last year there were 43 plays that were entered into the festival; 42, which were specially written for the festival. We are pleased with the opportunities that are being offered to our dramatis by the festival.
Last year was not without its challenges at the National Cultural Centre. As you would know, the air conditioning system of the National Cultural Centre, which is almost three decades old, finally collapsed. We need to replace the system. One of the things that we have done in this year’s budget is that we have allocated close $55 million dollars to replace the system.
In addition, substantial sums of money will be spent to improve the sound and lighting at the National Cultural Centre.
In the area of film, later in the year, we will be working with various stakeholders and a programme will be launched to teach people how to make films in Guyana. We recognise that there is a need for us to tell our own stories, by producing our own films about ourselves. We hope that this programme will eventually grow into a full-fledged film school. Apart from our film programme, this year we will be working very closely with the Catholic community to host a documentary film festival. We intend to develop this into a premier film festival for local films. We hope that we will receive the support of Members in the House.
In addition to what we are trying to do, we are pleased that over the last year a number of international film companies had been attracted, coming to Guyana to produce documentaries. As Minister Ali would have said, there was Gold Rush which was being produced here but in addition to that there was a company from Germany, Blue Paw, that came and did a film, it is called The Journey, where it traced the source to the Essequibo. It started from the mouth of the Essequibo and tried to trace the source of the Essequibo River. In addition, it did another film called the Day of the Caiman; another is the Eyes of the Harpy Eagle, one is on the anaconda and one that is called Big Five. These films are now on the international market and are bringing Guyana to the rest of the world.
There was the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) which came down here and did two films last year for the television series on National Geographic called River Monsters. They did a special film on Arapaima and another on the catfish called the loulou. These films will be aired during this year. Again, because of the viewership that it attracts, I think, Guyana would now become better known in the international community.
By September of 2014, one of the things that we would like to do is to bring these four schools, which I spoke about, together into, what we are calling, the Institute of the Creative Arts. This would allow us to manage our programmes more effectively and to offer some core courses on Guyanese culture across the different faculties. We are also exploring various partnerships between our institutions and other universities abroad. One such partnership would be with the University of Ohio.
I will now turn my attention to the national archives. At the Walter Rodney National Archive over the last year our focus has been on digitalising our archival holdings. There were two projects, which are ongoing concurrently, one to create a searchable digital database with all the indentureship immigrant records and the other to take digital images of these records. Later on the two will be merging, and then eventually taking them online so that people can research online. Substantive progress has been made in this area. This year we have budgeted sums moneys to continue with the building of this database. A programme has started in which our audio holdings will be documented and we have been able to identify thousands of audio recordings in various institutions such as the University of Guyana, in the National Communications Network (NCN), and so forth. What we have found with these audio holdings is that some of them have been infected by fungi and we need to clean them up and preserve them. During this year the national archives would be contacting these institutions and bring these recordings into the archives. Later on we would be digitalising those sounds and create an audio archive in our national archives.
Works also have started on conservation of our Dutch holdings. These are a lot of paper holdings and we have been working closely with the archives of the Netherlands to ensure that we are able to make a proper catalogue and to describe what we have in our Dutch holdings.
Last year we would have benefited from a number of scholars coming from the archives of the Netherlands to work with our staff at the archives. They have assisted us in setting up a paper conservation lab and this year we have budgeted sums of money so that we can expand the paper conservation lab.
At our museums, again, they continue to play a very vibrant role in Guyana’s cultural life. At the National Museum there would have been more than 15 exhibitions. Apart from that, it would have started the mobile museum programme which is now benefiting close to 66 schools. Schools would request of the museums and they would be sending out cases of museum pieces to them. There are 66 schools enrolled in this programme.
Through the Walter Roth Museum, apart from up keeping the museum, there were several initiatives being taken in the area of archeology. We have been able to work with a number of stakeholders to develop an archaeological development plan for the Berbice River area. As you know, I would have told the House in previous presentations, of the importance of the findings in the Berbice River area. We have been able to map several archeological sites and this year we will continue this research. We will be partnering with the University of Florida during this year and we will be working to identify the artefacts that are there and carbon dating some of those artefacts.
Last year we were able to do work in Region 9 where we discovered artefacts that are close to 300 years old. We have to do a lot more work with our local communities because we are being told that there are persons going into the area, raiding those sites and taking away the artefacts. If we are not careful we will be losing this part of our patrimony. This year we will be spending a lot of energy trying to do work in these communities.
At the National Trust we will be spending moneys to upgrade the 1763 Monument site. We will also be working on the restoration of the armory at Fort Zeelandia and some additional work on the windmill at Hog Island. Some preliminary work will also start on the restoration of the roof of St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Leguan. This year also work will commence on the site at Palmyra for the indentureship monument.
As trust to protect our national heritage, one of the things that we will be doing is signing up to two United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) conventions. Cabinet has already given approval for Guyana to accede to the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage and to the Convention on Intangible Heritage. During this year we will accede to these two conventions and we feel that it will open the door to more technical and other assistance in the area of heritage protection.
In the area of literature, the Caribbean Press continues to publish books about Guyana’s past and present. To date, the press has published close to 68 books about Guyana and has another 45 books listed for future publications.
This year, on the 16th December, would mark 100 years since the birth of Edgar Mittlelholzer. We want to feature Mittlelholzer by publishing some of his works. I am pleased to say that this year, among the publications of the Caribbean Press, would be a book that was done by Mittleholzer called Shadows move among them. For that book, the scholarly introduction has been the practice, or the preface of the book has been written by Dr. Rupert Roopnarine. Three volumes of the Mittlelholzer Lectures would be done. Those lectures, which was started by A. J. Seymour in 1967, we have been able to put together and they have been edited by Andrew Lindsay. Hopefully by the end of this year those three volumes will be available for the general public.
One of the things, which will be done, is publishing another book about Mittlelholzer. As you know, on the 5th May, 1965 Mittlelholzer ended his life tragically by committing suicide. The book, The Idyll and the Warrior, was written by his widow and tells us about his final years and his frustrations as he led up to this tragic point in his life.
A book, which has been lost for about 100 years, by Egbert Martin, will be published. It is a book of prose called Scriptology. We are pleased that this year we will be able to bring that book alive. A book by A. J. Seymour’s book, Collected Poetry, will be published. Again, I am pleased to say that Ian MacDonald and Professor Jacqueline de Weever have contributed to the forward of this book.
A number of contemporary writers will be done. We already have received their work and they are being edited. These persons include Portia Dodson, Pearl Lewis, Andrew Hutson, just to name a few. Very shortly an anthology will be launching in which 21 young poets will be featured. I am very pleased that one of our Member of Parliament (MP) in this House, the Hon. Member Mr. James Bond, who is one of the poets, has been featured in this publication.
The publication of the presidential parliamentary speeches will continue. So far the 7 volumes of Dr. Jagan’s speeches from 1947 to 1987 have been completed. We are still doing work to try to find the missing period from 1987 to 1990. Two volumes of Mrs. Jagan’s speeches in Parliament have been published and three volumes of Mr. Burnham’s speeches in Parliament have been completed. This year work will continue on another volume of Mr. Burnham’s speeches. Later on when the Burnham Speeches will be completed we will move on to our other Presidents.
The Ministry is also very serious about developing the creative sector in Guyana and to helping our cultural practitioners to be able to earn a living from their trade. One of the things that we did last year was in partnership with MASHAV and the Young American Business Trust. We were able to host a business lab for cultural practitioners. This week long lab we were able to teach cultural practitioners how to move from a concept that they might have about creating a business to actually working them through and be able to come up with a detailed project document for that business. I am very pleased to see in our budget, this year, that there are many avenues where these young people can now turn to for affordable financing. Under the initiative announced by the Minister of Finance for small and microenterprises, I am sure these cultural practitioners would qualify and be able to start their businesses this year.
Earlier this year we invited a prominent Jamaica professor in the creative industry, Dr. Dennis Howard, to come to Guyana and to assist us in the formulation of a strategy for the creative industry. We were able to host consultation workshop where we attracted about 40 people from various areas of culture. They have produced a preliminary draft and Dr. Howard is currently finalising this which he will present to us later in the year. From this document we will then be able to map a strategy of how we move forward and things that we ought to implement to facilitate the creative sector.
A lot can be said about sports in our country. Sport is indeed very vital to the development of our country. Studies have shown that for every dollar invested in sport it returns an average saving between $3 and $41. A study, which was conducted, shows that in terms of physical and mental health, for every dollar invested it returned close to $3.75. In the area of community regeneration, for every dollar invested it can turn over about $3.00. In the area of community safety, for every dollar invested we get between $3 and $41. These figures were tabulated from various sources and presented in the national sports plan. Using this as a guide, we can see that the investment of $995, 381 million in this year’s budget, certainly the multiplying effect would be a tremendous one for our country.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Minister, you would require 15 minutes for extension.
Mr. Hinds: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Hon. Minister be given 15 minutes to continue his presentation.
Question put, and agreed to.
Dr. Anthony: Again, in the area of sport, it is the Government’s aim to have every Guyanese participate in sport. To do this the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport has adopted a life cycle approach to sports, meaning that it wants everyone, young or old and all those in-between to take up a sport and to be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day. This is more challenging than it sounds, since we live in an obesity promoting environment. When we survey across many ages and stages of life, the barriers include lack of knowledge about how to begin an exercise regimen, time and scheduling challenges, lack of social support and insufficient motivation or energy to pursue such a regime. To this end, during the year the Ministry will be offering programmes to help people overcome these barriers.
In his book Disease Proof, Dr. David Katz has pointed out:
“…that improvement in lifestyle can lead to an 80% reduction in heart disease, a 90% reduction in diabetes, and a 60% drop in cancer rates.”
We want our citizens to reap the benefits of exercising and eating right, so that during the year the Ministry will work with villages, with our communities across Guyana to establish community exercise groups (CEG) to promote healthful living as part of our “Get out and Play” programme.
Cricket has had its fair share of difficulty off the field and it has impacted on the game on the field. We hope that later in the year we will be able to pass the cricket legislation by consensus which will assist the game to grow and develop. Regionally, the West Indies Cricket Board has given permission, as you know, to Caribbean Premier League (CPL) for the T20 which had its first matches in 2013. This private sector venture really invigorated the game in the Caribbean. During 2013 there were 24 matches in six countries and with 29 broadcasters picking up this broadcast and broadcasting it to 25 countries for more than 2,635 hours. The matches, which were broadcasted here, or from here, helped to put Guyana on the world stage.
The Mona School of Business & Management did an impact study of this tournament and it stated that overall in the tournament close to US$23.2 million was invested. The direct impact of that on Caribbean economy would have been $36.4 million and that the direct and indirect impact, across the Caribbean region, would be close to $105.6 million. Here in Guyana the study also shows that we would have benefited from direct and indirect impact of close to US$4.9 million. This clearly shows the economic impact of this tournament and we look forward, and we have started talking to CPL, to ensuring that Guyana is one of the venues in the 2014 edition.
By the end of this year the national synthetic track, at Leonora, will be partially operational. We expect that by the end of the year the synthetic track, the football field, the 2 northern stands, the parking, access roads and the club house will be fully completed. With those sections completed the facility can be put to use. However, the two southern stands still need to be built and these capital expenditures, we anticipate, would be in future budgets.
During the later part of the year the Ministry will by hiring staff to administer this facility. We would also be recruiting full time athletic coaches who would offer programmes at the synthetic athletics track.
At the Guyana National Stadium, development of this facility will be continued. This facility has now become one of the popular venues for live entertainment. The Ministry will procure some mobile stands, which can be easily set up on the tarmac, so that when there are concerts there can be seating available. During the year the outer parking lot will be fenced. This would prevent the indiscriminate dumping of construction material that is currently ongoing on the Ministry’s property.
We are once again pleased that $300 million have been allocated to the development of community grounds. Over the last three years Government would have spent $500 million on community grounds. This would have resulted in a welcome transformation of these community assets, with close to 500 communities benefiting from this grant funding. Within the next few months, the lights at Albion will be able to turn on when this is completed. For the first time there will be lights at Albion and international matches will be played, if we like.
The Guyana Football Federation (GFF) has approached the Government of Guyana to build a football training facility at Leonora. The request is for the Government of Guyana to provide 10 acres of land, and the GFF would build the football facility using resources allocated through International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) Goal Project. The projected investment over the next five years would be approximately US$6.5M. The Government is very supportive of this request and would be signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the GFF shortly.
Last year the Guyana Motor Racing Club (GMRC) became a full member of the international motor racing body, the International Automobile Federation (FIA). The FIA has given a grant of €800,000 to the GMRC to be able to develop a master plan for the circuit at Timehri. The aim is to make the circuit into a class 3 track. Already a team visited Guyana and has commenced the discussion and design of the class 3 track.
We expect, also, that our partnership with the Guyana Karate College will come to fruition. As it is known some time Government would have allocated one acre of land to the Guyana Karate College for the construction of a Dojo. This year we are assured by the college that it will be able to start the erection of a permanent home for karate at Liliendaal.
We will also urge the Guyana Olympic Association, which the Government would have given one acre of land, to also follow to suit.
The Ministry remains open to develop partnership with national, or local, organisations or individuals who would like to invest in the sports sector. We have received other expressions of interests to develop cricket, golf and tennis facilities, and each of these would be considered on its merit.
As we debate this budget, Guyanese, from across our country, are watching what we do in this House. They are paying attention to how we conduct ourselves. What will they see? What will we tell them? What will we show them?
Already, we have seen and we have heard from the Opposition benches, and I am not sure what signal is being sent. When the speakers were talking about Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) and the moneys that we wanted to invest in it we are getting, I think, mixed signals. On one hand, we are hearing that we care for the sugar workers and, on the other hand, we are hearing that we are not ready yet to invest in the sector. I think it is important that we invest in the sector. As someone who have grown up on a sugar estate - I come from Enmore - and who come from a sugar family, I think it is very important that we invest in this sector.
Many of us who are here - I heard the Hon. Member Keith Scott talked about our ancestors - we came here transplanted from the different continents, coming here to work on sugar plantation, and sugar has been part of the history of this country.
There was a popular saying in the United States of America, not so long ago, during the 2007 economic crisis, that some for the main pillars of its economy was too big to fail.
If we look and put it in context in our economy, sugar is too big to fail. Therefore, we must not make the mistake of not investing in the sugar sector. Those who dare to do that would do it at their own peril. Therefore, I urge that we reach across party lines for the good of our people. They are weary. They are tired. They are tired of this politics of frustration. They are tired of this threat of cutting and chopping. I know we can do better in this House. Our people deserve better. Let us behave maturely and let us vote for this Budget.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. [Applause]