Over $1B in flood-relief grants disbursed so far
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Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha, addressing the concerns of some farmers
Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha, addressing the concerns of some farmers

–persons not listed but have genuine losses will be accommodated, says ‘Agri’ Minister

THE Government of Guyana has already disbursed in excess of $1 billion in flood-relief cash grants across multiple communities in Regions Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) and 10 (Upper-Demerara-Berbice), according to Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha.

“The programme started in Region Five, then we continued in Region 10. We went in Kwakwani, we went in the Berbice River, places like Hururu, Kimbia; we went into the Demerara River at Malali and Muritaro,” Minister Mustapha said in a brief interview with the Guyana Chronicle on Tuesday.

He said that during his distribution outreaches, he encountered a number of persons who claimed to have suffered losses, but said that their names were not included on the list of cash recipients.

To this end, he said that efforts will be made to ensure that every household that has suffered losses as a result of the floods, benefit from the relief efforts which total $7.8 billion.

Farmers of Black Bush Polder, Region Six, an area which suffered most of the agricultural losses due to the floods, assemble at the Yakusari Primary School to collect their cash grants

“There are a few queries which we are looking at, so if there was anybody who was not captured [in the list of cash recipients] and they came to the distribution site and made a query, those queries would be verified by our extension officers,” the Agriculture Minister said.
He added: “as long as the claims are legitimate, they will benefit from the programme.”

Asked whether a new budget would have to be prepared in order to accommodate the additional beneficiaries, Minister Mustapha said that such a determination has not been reached.

“I can’t make that decision yet because we would have to verify and the extension officers will have to do assessments like what was done earlier, so I will look at it,” he said.

The Guyana Chronicle understands that prior to the announcement of cash grants, many persons hadn’t thought it necessary to report their losses. As a result, many could not have had their claims verified in order to be included on the current list of recipients.

Notwithstanding this hiccup, Minister Mustapha maintained that all legitimate claims will be entertained, following the requisite verifications.
In reflecting on the programme, the Agriculture Minister expressed disappointment in the misinformation being peddled by persons within the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC).

Mustapha went further to rubbish rumours that only a limited number of persons in Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) have benefitted from the flood-relief grants.

“None of this is true. We haven’t even started [distribution] in Region Four, so how can anyone [be discriminated against] in Region Four?” Mustapha asked.

He referred to funds that are being distributed based on previous assessments which were not done by politicians, but by public servants under the employ of the Ministry of Agriculture and its relevant agencies.

Minister Mustapha believes that the opposition’s criticisms were fuelled by discontentment for the assistance being provided by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government.

“When they were in government, they never helped the people of this country, and within one year, we were able to help in a number of areas,” the minister said.

He made specific reference to the $25,000 cash grants which was given to each household across Guyana; the $19,000 education cash grant which was provided to every child within the public school system; the $25,000 one-off assistance for pensioners, as well as the cash grants for vulnerable persons including persons with disabilities and those who receive public assistance.

“APNU [+AFC] is criticising because in their five years in office, they didn’t help…they siphoned off money for themselves, like what they did with the SLED (Sustainable Livelihood and Entrepreneurial Development) fund. The man who is talking about discrimination, he was the man that get [money] from the SLED fund,” Mustapha said.

He added: “They [members of the former government] are now looking back, and they are seeing that the PPP/Civic government is helping the farmers and they are feeling envy, because they haven’t done anything for the Guyanese people.”

MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Mustapha said that the various relief measures are a testimony to the government’s commitment to help the people and to make a difference in people’s lives.

He said too that once distribution of the flood-relief cash grants concludes in Region Six, the distribution team will be moving on to Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) followed by the other regions.

“People who are affected by the floods are really looking forward for this help,” the minister related.
It was on August 1, 2021, that President, Dr. Irfaan Ali, announced his government’s intention to provide financial assistance to various categories of persons who had been affected by the ongoing floods, which started more than three months ago, and persists in some areas.

The President had said then that the assistance will cover various categories of households and farmers, and that it will not exceed a ceiling of $10 million per individual.

“In these categories, farmers within the context of a homestead would receive $100,000 each; those with kitchen gardens will receive $50,000 each, and households excluding homestead and kitchen garden will receive 50,000 each,” the Head of State said.

He added: “The combined assistance to homestead farmers, kitchen gardens and households for these categories will be in excess of $3.5 billion.”
The President, in his address to the nation, recognised too that the rains had a significant impact on the rice sector, with approximately 50,000 acres and 2,000 farmers being directly affected. As a result, support will be given to rice farmers on a categorised basis.

“For rice that was ready to harvest but lost in the floods, $80,000 per acre would be given to those farmers. For rice sowed and lost in the autumn crop, these farmers will receive $65,000 per acre. For land that was completely prepared but was not sown, $45,000 per acre would be given to these farmers,” President Ali specified.

In addition to this, he said that 60,000 bags of seed paddy would also be made available for rice farmers.
“The combined assistance in these four categories would be in excess of $3.2 billion,” he noted.
He said that support for the livestock industry will also be given based on categories of subsistence farmers, small farmers, medium farmers, and large-scale farmers. So far, in excess of 2,000 livestock farmers have been affected.

“In total, these four categories will benefit from in excess of $600 million direct transfers,” Dr. Ali indicated.
The floods, caused by heavy rainfall, resulted in some 300 communities being directly affected for a protracted period of time.

An initial assessment showed the agriculture sector being most affected, with some 92,000 acres of farm and farmlands being completely affected, and approximately $23 billion or more in loss of production.

President Ali and his Cabinet have pledged to assist all affected persons to “get back on their feet.”

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