THERE were many sighs of relief and expressions of happiness on Monday, when over 700 residents along the East Coast of Demerara (ECD) benefitted from the government’s one-off $150,000 fisherfolk grant.
Spearheading the distribution exercises at the Unity and Lusignan Community Centre Grounds was Vice-President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, who was joined by Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha, and Minister of Local Government and Regional Development Nigel Dharamlall.
The senior government officials were greeted by many enthusiastic persons, including boat owner, Bibi Nadiea Jabunauth, who told the Guyana Chronicle that the funds will help her conduct much-needed repairs to one of her boats.
“My husband, he goes out in the sea and fishes wasn’t catching; right now he is at work, and everything is okay for now, because we glad for the little money to repair the boats and everything,” the woman said.
Mark Semple, a boat captain, said that fisherfolk have been reeling from the effects of flooding and climate change, so the support from the government is well appreciated.
Semple related that he has been unable to ply his trade for some weeks, due to a broken engine that needs repairing. He intends to use the money to do just that.
“I got an engine giving me li’l problem that I got to look after, so I got to fix that,” the boat captain said.
Sattaur Khan, who has been fishing for more than 30 years, said persons in the fishing industry, particularly fishermen, are often overlooked, and with the recent weather conditions, catches have been difficult.
“First time fishermen get something; when thing giving way we don’t really get, but we get now, and we glad. It has been hard, you know; really hard, so I glad we get the li’l help,” Khan said.
Vice-President Jagdeo said the government is committed to providing Guyanese with support to cushion the effects of the rising cost of living. Support has so far been in the form of the COVID-19 cash grants, the flood-relief grant and other measures implemented by the current administration over the past two years.
Regarding the fisherfolk grant, VP Jagdeo said that while many persons were looking forward to the rollout of this iniaitive sooner, a rigorous verification exercise was needed to ensure that only those who are entitled benefit from the grant.
The government had initially estimated that it will be paying the grant to about 5,000 fisherfolk, but after the verification process, this number has topped 6,000.
At the launch of the initiative last Friday in Berbice, Vice-President Jagdeo explained that the names submitted to receive the grant fall into three categories: Persons on the voters’ list with identification cards; persons without identification cards and have to be verified; and persons who are neither on the voters’ list nor have any form of identification.
Over 90 per cent of the listed persons to receive the grant fall in the first category, and will receive the grant without hesitation. Once the identity of the others is verified, they, too, will receive the grant, Vice-President Jagdeo said.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OPPORUNTIES
During Monday’s exercises, Dr. Jagdeo encouraged the fisherfolk to use the funds wisely and invest in other business ventures.
The Vice-President also advised the beneficiaries to capitalise on the many educational and technical programmes being provided by the government.
“You could start a small business. You got to explore that sort of help with us, because that’s what we’re here for; to assist people to make a transition to upgrade themselves; improve their lives. But if you don’t take this step and you complain; sit down at the seaside or a corner shop and only complain, things will pass by you; development will pass by,” Dr. Jagdeo said.
He noted that with the major buzz of investments Guyana has been receiving, skilled workers in various sectors will be in high demand, so fisherfolk should take advantage of those training opportunities.