BUDGET 2019 SPEECH
By: Hon. Valerie Garrido-Lowe, MP
Minister Within, Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs
Mr. Speaker, I rise to make my contribution to the debate on Budget 2019, under the theme, “Transforming the Economy, Empowering People, Building Sustainable Communities – FOR THE GOOD LIFE”.
Mr. Speaker, once again, Hon. Winston Jordan, Minister of Finance and his hardworking Team, have managed to craft a Budget, that would touch the lives of all Guyanese in a positive way… it is most definitely a people’s budget, and I would like to compliment, and thank them for that.
I would also like to thank the staff of the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, who worked patiently and tirelessly with the Ministers, to ensure that the Indigenous and Hinterland people, across the ten regions of this country, were equitably represented in this budget.
Indeed, Mr. Speaker, Budget 2019’s theme is quite apt. I am very proud to say that the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs has been “Transforming the Economy, Empowering People and Building Sustainable Communities – FOR THE GOOD LIFE” in Guyana’s Heartland since 2015 when the APNU+AFC Government came into office.
Mr. Speaker, poverty limits one’s right and freedom to realize one’s full potential, to almost non-existent, and our Indigenous people have been living in poverty for too long.
Mr. Speaker, according to Amartya Sen, the UN noble Laureate…
Poverty is not just a lack of money; it is not having the capability to realize one’s full potential as a human being.
Mr. Speaker, for the past three years, since this Government took office, the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs has been focusing on building the capacity of our Indigenous and hinterland people.
Your Government, Mr. Speaker, does not believe in handouts. We believe in empowering people and giving them the economic support required so that they can create successful and meaningful lives for themselves.
To this end, Mr. Speaker, the Hinterland Employment and Youth Service, has provided one year of training to 3,795 youths in 222 villages over the last two years. This training allows for capacity building, strengthening of life skills, bolstering literacy and numeracy skills, creating self-awareness and building esteem, strengthening individual vocational interests and entrepreneurial aptitudes, with agriculture and eco-tourism being mandatory,
Mr. Speaker, so far 2,054 small businesses, some individually and some in groups, were established by these youths in villages as far as KOKSHIBAI, TIPIRU and ACHIWIB in Region 9, and MONKEY MOUNTAIN AND RED CREEK in Region 8. Businesses range from cattle rearing, Poultry Rearing (Broilers, Layers and Ducks), Crop & Vegetable Farming, Nursery (Grafting of Fruit Trees), Fishing, Fish Farming, Sheep, Goat and Pig Rearing, Cassava Bread/ Quinches/ Cassareep Production, Honey Production, hardware stores, floating grocery store, and the list go on and on. YOU NAME IT AND THE HEYS ARE DOING IT!
Mr. Speaker, to date, Government has invested $2.3 BILLION for the development of our hinterland youth. And, in the 2019 Budget, in order to ensure that these businesses grow in strength and flourish, a further $176.1 MILLION is allocated for monitoring and mentoring, along with additional monetary support.
Mr. Speaker, other than producing young entrepreneurs, HEYS is really a stepping stone for many of the youth. The training they received has allowed them to acquire the confidence in themselves to reach for their stars, hence, some have moved on to attend GTI, GSA, the Guyana Defence Force and the teaching profession.
Recently, we have received a request to provide 12 HEYS Youth from Regions 1, 7, 8 and 9 to be trained as Peer Educators and Dot Supporters to provide care and support under the National TB Programme.
HEYS Youth in Governance.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to say that Village Elections during the May – June 2018 period, saw a number of HEYS Youth and Facilitators being elected to serve on the new Village Councils.
Mr. Speaker, in keeping with the Principles of the GREEN STATE DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY in developing green and sustainable economic sectors, and in line with the 17 SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS, the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs is leading in the projection and implementation of these national and international goals.
SUSTAINABLE, ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY AND INCOME GENERATING PROJECTS
The MONKEY MOUNTAIN LAPIDARY, for instance … Mr. Speaker, this year $10 MILLION was allocated for the Monkey Mountain Lapidary Workshop. I am happy to say that 7 persons are, at this moment, being employed in the construction of this workshop which will be completed before year end and will be commissioned in the New Year. The women are extremely excited about this and have asked to design the front of the building with semi-precious stones that they have gathered.
The first training of youth and other villagers from four villages has been completed and tools to mine the semi-precious stones, when the need arises, have been provided. The second training is being done, as we speak, in Kurukabaru where five youth each, from another four villages are gathered for two weeks.
Mr. Speaker, for 2019 an additional sum of $3 MILLION has been allocated in this budget to support this project to purchase jewel boxes and bags crafted by the Indigenous people themselves, and the provision of internet connectivity. The marketing of these semi-precious stones, jewellery and ornaments and other craft, will be done via the internet thus utilizing modern technology to generate income for hundreds of residents in Monkey Mountain and the surrounding villages.
Mr. Speaker, this project speaks directly to the theme of Budget 2019, and is a definite solution to the poverty the people of Region 8, have been forced to endure for years, because of the conscious neglect by the previous administration. Mr. Speaker, 22 plus years, was enough time to implement innovative and sustainable measures to reduce poverty in this region … but the will was not there, Mr. Speaker… and whatever was done is miniscule when compared to what this Government is doing for our indigenous Guyanese in a little over three years.
SANTA ROSA GROUND COFFEE: Mr. Speaker, this year this project received the sum of $10 MILLION. So far 15 acres of land has been cleared, NAREI has tested the soil. The Santa Rosa farmers are building their shade house nursery to accommodate the arrival of over 13,000 invitro, disease free, sterile stage 1 Robusta coffee plantlets from NATURE SOURCE IMPROVE PLANTS Laboratory in Tapachula, Mexico. These coffee plantlets will be in the nursery for a little over two months before they are ready to be planted in the farms. A coffee expert from Jamaica will be on the ground with the farmers to ensure that everything is in order.
Mr. Speaker, this is a multi-year project, hence, an additional $15 MILLION has been budgeted for the construction of the Processing Facility and furnishing of said facility next year. This collaborative effort between the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs and the Santa Rosa Village Council, has seen the Council donating one acre of land as the site for this project. With the assistance of the Ministry of Social Protection, Co-op department, the Santa Rosa Coffee Co-op has already been formed.
Mr. Speaker, this is another transformative and sustainable project that the almost 10,000 residents of Santa Rosa will benefit from in the next two years, until the next 90 to 100 years. Coffee will become part of their DNA. Mr. Speaker, this Government cares for our people; we are not only looking after their present, but the future of their grand-children, great grand-children and great, great, grand-children.
SMITH’S CREEK CRAB AND FISH PROCESSING FACILITY: Mr. Speaker, when I first visited Smith’s Creek, two years ago, it made me sad to see how our indigenous brothers and sisters were living in that community. The lands where they built their houses were not filled properly so their yards were mostly muddy – and most of their houses had no walls. Many of them cannot read or write, either. And, it is not as if they are living far into the hinterland where access is difficult – they are just beside the river. Mr. Speaker, the residents of Smith’s Creek were living at that location for several years, and the powers that be then, could have done much to see that they enjoy a better standard of living. But nothing was done.
Mr. Speaker, this Government, because we care for the welfare of our people, in 2018 provided $10 MILLION for the establishment of a Crab and Fish Processing Facility. As we speak, residents of this community are making the blocks that will be used to build the facility. Approximately 50 workers have been employed to clear one acre of land and dig the drainage around that acre of land, build a koker and a dam. And they have already done so and received their payment. They have now proceeded to making concrete blocks.
Mr. Speaker, with construction commencing during this month, the facility is expected to be commissioned early February next year.
Mr. Speaker, this is also a multi-year project and Budget 2019 has an allocation of a further $6 MILLION for the installation of a solar system, and the marketing aspect of the business. With assistance from Global Seafoods, residents who will be working in the facility, will undergo strict training in the processing of fish and crab at the highest hygienic standard.
This project will also impact two nearby communities, Mohrawana and Imbotero, and later other riverain communities, transforming their economies, thus raising their standard of living.
Mr. Speaker, this is no handout. This is your Government investing in the ordinary people, building their capacity and providing the economic support so that they can have the opportunity to live a good life.
CASSAVA FLOUR PROCESSING FACTORY: Mr. Speaker, $10 MILLION was allocated for this project in 2018 to construct a Cassava Flour Processing Factory, clearing and preparing of 30 acres of land, and the purchasing of the cassava sticks for planting.
Mr. Speaker, construction of the facility will commence during this month and should be completed within two and a half months. This will create employment for many of the villagers who will be providing most of the materials being used, with added persons working on the actual construction.
In the 2019 Budget, Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased that an additional $16 MILLION will be invested in this project for equipping the factory and operations start-up. Training in the processing of the cassava flour will also be conducted for persons who will be working in the factory by the Ministry of Social Protection, Board of Industrial Training department. And for training in packaging, we will engage the Ministry of Business.
Mr. Speaker, this is a fantastic project; not only will the factory produce cassava flour for use in the region and further afield, but it will be producing cassareep, starch and other by-products of the cassava. This project will generate sustainable income for the 30 farmers and their families and the entire population of 900 of Kwebana, and hundreds of farmers from neighbouring villages. Again, with the assistance of the Ministry of Social Protection, Co-op Department, the Kwebana Farmers Co-op has already been established.
Mr. Speaker, the indigenous people are ready, and willing, and happy to do what they know best – farming, fishing and art and craft… and they are excited about the value-added element.
Mr. Speaker, this is the opportunity they have been waiting on for so long, an opportunity to carve out a good life for themselves with adequate support from Government – a caring Government… and that’s who we are.
Sun-dried Tomato: Mr. Speaker, it would be remiss of me not to make mention of the sun-dried tomato processing facility in Paramakatoi.
Mr. Speaker, with careful monitoring and nourishing by Dr. Suresh Narine and his team from IAST, the Paramakatoi Sun-dried Tomato Facility continues to grow into a strong cottage industry, producing quality tomato ketchup and salad dressing. Last year this project started with 51 farmers; now it has grown to 135 farmers, many of whom are women. The one solar dryer, a donation from the Canadian High Commission, is now not adequate enough to dry all the tomatoes being produced, hence, they have invested a further $5 MILLION for another solar dryer this year. Government’s investment of $59 MILLION plus the Canadian grant is reaping benefits for the hardworking farmers of Paramakatoi.
Mr. Speaker, the 2019 Budget supports by way of almost $60 MILLION, more green, innovative and sustainable, income generating projects in Paruima in Region 7, Santa Cruz and Tobago Hill in Region One and Maruwanau and Bina Hill in Region 9.
Mr. Speaker, these projects will directly impact the poor and the vulnerable by creating employment and generating income in these communities, thus raising the standard of living and providing the opportunity for our Indigenous brothers and sisters to live a good life.
Mr. Speaker, the 2019 Budget continues to touch the ordinary peoples’ lives in a very special way. The students of Chenapau in Region 8, for instance, walk for two and a half days to attend Secondary School in Paramakatoi. They sleep the first night in the Jungle and continue to walk the next day. This has been going on for years. Mr. Speaker, in this day and age, this is unacceptable, even in the hinterland. Hence, the sum of $2 MILLION has been allocated to build a rest shelter for these students and their parents who visit them periodically. Another $2 MILLION has also been allocated to build another rest shelter to accommodate the students who walk from Karisparow to Paramakatoi. These shelters will bring some form of comfort while Government will be looking into building proper roads and bridges so vehicles will be able to traverse these roads.
Education and Hinterland Development:
Mr. Speaker we cannot under estimate the value of Hinterland development through education. Education is still considered one of the most significant steps towards empowering indigenous peoples to participate and mainstream more fully in their communities and our beautiful country. It is certainly an indispensable asset to attain freedom and social justice.
The Government of Guyana through the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Communities would have delivered a comprehensive support and access programme which includes the President’s 5 B’s, that saw increase attendance and improved performance at the nursery and primary levels in the Hinterland.
Additionally, the schools uniform programme for which $89,479,340 is included in the 2019 estimates, continue to bring relief to more than 33,000 Hinterland students in 67 schools at every level of the school system, all leading to the positive impact resulting with exceptional performance of students who enjoyed quality education through the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Secondary Scholarship programme for which $108,460,000 is in the 2019 estimates.
Over the period 2017/2018 more than 186 students were enrolled in the programme while a significant 87% or 89 out of 95 student matriculated with 5 or more subjects inclusive of English and Math’s with Grades 1 to 3.
Through Quality administration by this APNU/ AFC Government the Ministry Of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs is pleased to announce, Mr. Speaker, that because of this programme more than 67 students would have gone on to register as students of the University of Guyana and other tertiary institutions.
Mr. Speaker, Government, recognizing this growing need for support for Indigenous and hinterland students pursuing tertiary education, Budget 2018 provided for $186 MILLION to construct a dormitory to accommodate 120 students. This dormitory will be completed and outfitted in the first quarter of 2019.
This Mr. Speaker is a demonstration of the APNU/AFC Government commitment that Guyanese citizenship – inclusive of our indigenous peoples are guaranteed equal rights and equal opportunities towards elimination of inequality, particularly between residents of the coastland and the hinterland and to quote His Excellency, “this is essential to ensuring first class citizenship for everyone”!
INDIGENOUS RESIDENCE: Mr. Speaker, this Government has also recognized the need for an improved quality of service and accommodation for our indigenous people who are required to travel to Georgetown for medical treatment and or other necessary social services, e.g – first time mothers who are referred to hospital in Georgetown to be monitored by experienced doctors and Toshaos who need to transact business on behalf of the village. Mr. Speaker, at least three rooms will be provided for them in the extension.
This facility was designed to accommodate 120 persons and at times there are as much as 193 persons needing accommodation, hence, the reason for the construction of the new extension at a cost of $27 MILLION provided for in the 2018 Budget.
Mr. Speaker, the 2019 has provided $28 MILLION to furnish this extension, the new dormitory and the extension of the Ministry’s Head office.
Mr. Speaker, I must mention that in partnership with IDB and the Ministry of Public Health a new maternity waiting room was constructed to the tune of $10.7 MILLION to accommodate 15 beds which will add to the 22 beds that existed previously. This will strengthen health delivery and bring comfort to our indigenous women.
THE YEAR OF INDIGENOUS LANGUAGES: Mr. Speaker, the sum of $36 MILLION has been provided for activities to mark the year of Indigenous languages in 2019 which will see villages taking part in various activities to promote the nine indigenous languages spoken in Guyana.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank this Government that I am proud to be a part of, for giving the indigenous people of this country, a chance that they have never had before, to transform their lives by empowering them and providing the financial support they need. And I have no hesitation in endorsing the 2019 Budget of $300.7 BILLION to this August House.