A PERCENTAGE of revenues from the impending oil and gas industry should be placed into a special fund for development within Indigenous communities, Chairman of the National Toshaos’ Council (NTC), Nicholas Fredericks, said in an exclusive interview with the Guyana Chronicle.
Though cognisant that the National Assembly, in January 2019, passed a bill for establishment of a Natural Resources Fund, Fredericks believes that a special fund should be created to allow Indigenous communities to access finance for the execution of developmental projects when the country starts raking in revenues from the oil and gas industry in 2020.
“We keep hearing about the Sovereign Wealth Fund, but maybe [there should be a] call for a special fund for interior communities where you can develop your proposal and access finance from this fund to implement your village project,” the NTC chairman told this newspaper.
He said extensive consultations with Indigenous villages, the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, and the Department of Energy could result in an innovative system being put in place for Indigenous Guyanese to access much-needed finance. “I can see that with the revenue there is a lot of potential, but you need to have a structured mechanism in place that should be working for the indigenous communities,” Fredericks said, while underscoring importance of educating indigenous peoples on the oil and gas industry and its benefits to Guyana.
Using monies from the fund, the NTC chair said Indigenous Guyanese can expand their cottage industries and place even more emphasis on producing value-added products. There is also much room for development of the arts and craft industry, but Fredericks said there is need for finance. “Building on what exists in the community, you don’t want to reinvent the wheel, there are so many things that are happening in the villages that if you put a proper structure, and financial support for these things, you can have powerful businesses being developed in these villages,” he posited.
The fund aside, the NTC Chairman endorsed President David Granger’s vision of placing tremendous emphasis on education as the country enters this new era of economic development. “Education is key,” he said, while noting that it is important to provide the present and upcoming generation with the highest quality education, so as to foster development within the country across all sectors. Fredericks also made a pitch for the establishment of more technical schools in the country. “More of the Bina Hill Institutions are needed within the different regions, for youths who did not do well at secondary school, could have an opportunity to learn a skill,” Fredericks posited.
Ahead of oil production in 2020, the Granger administration has been working to ensure human development takes place in the hinterland, just as it occurs on the coastland, especially in the areas of education, health, livelihoods and social protection.
In the education sector, from which Indigenous communities benefitted, $170B was injected over the last four years as part of government’s push to bridge the gap between the hinterland and coastland.
Additionally, the Hinterland Employment Youth Service (HEYS) and the Youth Entrepreneurship and Skills Training (YEST) programme, have been stimulating jobs and entrepreneurship within indigenous communities. “Jobs are important in providing incomes for households and in diversifying and stimulating village economies. Hinterland development is about human beings, it is about people and we are on the right path.
Hinterland development is advancing,” President Granger said, as he addressed over 200 toshaos and Indigenous leaders during the opening of the National Toshaos Council conference last Monday.