MINISTER within the Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Ministry Valerie Garido-Lowe, yesterday lamented that Amerindians have for too long suffered from underdevelopment, poor health care and training facilities.She made the observation in her budget presentation, and promised that the Administration, during its tenure in office, will improve the lives and livelihoods of this ethnic group.
And on that score, she said budget 2015 is the first step in the new journey and towards the development of a green and sustainable economy.
The Government, she said, is committed to the investment in the people, including the Amerindians, and every effort will be made to ensure that they benefit equitably from the resources of the land.
Improving the standard of the Indigenous communities, the Minister told the House is a key area of focus of the Administration.
She informed the House that all weather roads will be built in Regions 7 and 9, and internal network will be constructed in Bartica, Mabaruma and Lethem.
These developments, the minister noted, will provide meaningful employment for youth, which will be ably supported by large scale agriculture investments, particularly in Region 9.
Strong attention, she said, will be paid to crop diversification with focus on cultivation of ginger and black pepper, among others, together with the rearing of livestock.
According to Minister Garido-Lowe, movement in this direction will not only create employment, but play a key role in strengthening food security in Indigenous communities.
This aside, she said, the Administration will ensure that all hinterland communities benefit from potable water, and are given an opportunity to grow and develop.
In this plan, the minister said investments will be channelled towards women’s development and empowerment, to create more opportunities for Amerindian womenfolk.
These are likely to include jewellery making and training of women in various skills areas. The Administration, Minister Garido-Lowe said, is not interested in providing hand-outs for the people, but opportunities for them to be employed and to earn an income that will sustainably improve their well-being.
On that note, she commended budget 2015, saying that it provides a fresh start to the development of Guyana.
People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) Member of Parliament (MP) Alistair Charles, speaking immediately after Minister Garido-Lowe, was quick to inform the House that Amerindian development really happened when the former Administration was in power.
He reminded members of the august body that hundreds of Amerindians were trained as doctors during the tenure of the former Administration.
And apart from the training of doctors, significant improvements were made in education and other social services in remote communities, he said.
Charles also noted his dissatisfaction that the $10,000 grant given by the former Administration will not continue this year.
The Government had explained that the programme is under review, contending that it is unsustainable in its current form.
The Administration has also said that it is likely that any assistance given will be to parents who are in real need of it, making it clear that the willy-nilly distribution of the $10,000 grant to all and sundry will not continue.
The PPP/C Member of Parliament (MP) was also critical about the dismissal of some 2000 Community Support Officers (CSOs), contending that the decision by the Administration was unjustifiable.
And on that score, he informed the House that he is yet to hear from the Administration on what they will do with the money, whether it will be reinvested into Amerindian communities.
The Administration has maintained that the CSOs were involved in doing political work for the PPP/C.
Charles also told the House that it is good to hear that the Minister within the Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Ministry talk about construction of roads in the hinterland, pointing out that the PPP/C has done great in these areas of the country.
He said the former Administration has also helped in the provision of electricity to hinterland residents by giving them solar panels through the Hinterland Electrification Project.
And while acknowledging the strides made in the health sector, in wrapping up his presentation, Charles called on the Government to provide a specialist doctor at the Lethem Public Hospital.
By Tajeram Mohabir