Laudable plans in store for Hinterland Development

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The hinterland, home to our indigenous peoples, spreads across three-quarters of our nation’s landmass.  Yet, there has not been much development in this area for some time.

 

In fact, President David Granger alluded to this in his 2015 address at the National Toshaos’ Council meeting. Granger cautioned about the general perception, hostile attitude and divisive polices meted out to the Indigenous peoples in the past.

 

The Head of State said that this undermined, “…our sense of solidarity and impoverished a large section of our population alienating (while) the hinterland regions and gradually creating ‘two countries’ instead of cementing our people into one nation.”

 

It is therefore imperative that there is integration between the hinterland and the coastland if the nation is to move forward in every regard.

 

This was acknowledged by Finance Minister, Winston Jordan as he said that the thematic bridging of the divide between the inequity of hinterland and coastal development initiatives forms a substantial thrust of Government’s prescription for corrective measures.

 

Jordan said that substantial financial provision has been made to promote the preservation of indigenous cultural identity, social integration, economic prosperity, physical infrastructure, green energy, sustainable development and the protection of Indigenous lands.

 

Speaking to some of these plans, he said that in 2016, the Government will be investing over $4 billion, in support of the Plan of Action for Hinterland Development. The Finance Minister expressed that in excess of $280 million has been allocated to promote economic prosperity, tourism development and preserving cultural identity.

 

The Parliamentarian explained that this sum is inclusive of grants for 211 Indigenous communities that will build village economies and fund eco-tourism projects. He said that it also includes support to women’s groups, the construction of community centres and the procurement of musical instruments, sports gear and sewing machines.

 

The Finance Minister expressed that the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs will work with communities to prioritize the outcomes they want to achieve, and identify the key barriers to achieving them.

 

He said that the Ministry will assist communities in designing projects that take a comprehensive approach to addressing their particular challenges. Jordan asserted that it will help communities develop plans to mitigate risks to development projects, and plans for maintaining valuable community assets.

 

Finally, the Ministry he said, will help communities develop evaluation plans to assess whether their objectives were achieved, and identify lessons learned to improve future project implementation.

 

In order to support hinterland education, the Finance Minister articulated that the Government has made provision for the design of a new dormitory at Liliendaal, to accommodate students with interest in enrolling in institutions of higher learning.

 

The Finance Minister said that there will also be support to the Bina Hill Institute and the procurement of buses for the transportation of school children. Additionally, Jordan expressed that nearly $1 billion has been budgeted for the Hinterland Employment and Youth Service (HEYS) project.

 

Launched in October 2015, Jordan recalled that the project will prepare youth for leadership roles in their communities. In 2016, he said that the project will provide training for more than 1,000 hinterland youths in areas such as garment construction, carpentry, joinery and entrepreneurship.

 

The Finance Minister said that it will entail six months of classroom training and six months of practical training. Participants will benefit from a stipend (part of which will be saved on a monthly basis) as well as business mentoring. On completion of the training, he said that participants will have the opportunity to develop viable business plans, which will be awarded grants for start-up.

 

Moreover, the Finance Minister said that education assistance for hinterland students will be fortified with the provision of school uniforms for over 30,000 school children at a cost of over $89 million and over 450 hinterland students will benefit from the Hinterland Scholarship Programme.

 

The Finance Minister noted that the lack of access to markets is often a key barrier to community development. He said that communities will not benefit from new technologies or training if they cannot sell their products to a market for a profit.

 

Jordan asserted that costly transportation makes it difficult for hinterland communities to market their products and sell them at a competitive price.  To help narrow the gap in living standards of residents of our coastal and hinterland regions, Jordan noted that the Government has allocated over $2 billion for the establishment and improvement of physical infrastructure throughout the hinterland regions, in 2016.

 

Of this amount, he said that the sum of $1.7 billion has been identified for the rehabilitation and surfacing of roads in areas such as Mahdia, Bartica, Ituni, Kurupukari, Tabatinga and Port Kaituma.

 

Additionally, provision is made for the rehabilitation of Bartica stelling. Under the Hinterland Electrification Programme, over 6,000 solar home systems have been installed in communities in Regions One, Seven Eight and Nine.

 

During this year, electricity systems in St. Cuthbert’s Mission, in Region Four; Orealla and Siparuta, in Region Six; and Culvert City, in Region Nine, will be extended. The Finance Minister explained that the extension of these networks is intended to enhance the capacity of the grid to serve a larger segment of the population residing in these communities.

 

The Finance Minister noted that it is essential that public services touch every corner of our country. To make this possible, he said that the provision to the National Communication Network (NCN) has been increased to cater for the establishment of new communication stations in the hinterland regions.

 

The Finance Minister said that the intent is to extend the frequency of national radio and television to our Indigenous brothers and sisters in near and far flung areas.

 

Jordan said, too, that new stations will help to promote the Indigenous languages, culture and way of life while bridging the divide between coast and hinterland.

 

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