“A fit and proper budget” – Garrido-Lowe says
Pointing to several projects included in Budget 2018 to improve hinterland communities, Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs, Valerie Garrido-Lowe, during her presentation in the National Assembly on Monday deemed it “a fit and proper budget.”
However, Opposition Member of Parliament, Yvonne Pearson-Fredericks said she feels insulted by the Minister’s comments.
Pearson-Fredericks, who delivered her presentation just after the Minister, said “as an indigenous person standing here in this house, I feel insulted…by the honourable member saying this budget – the journey to the good life continues – is a fit and proper budget. What is fit and proper about the 2018 Budget?”
However, Minister Garrido-Lowe said the budget “reflects the careful management of the country’s resources.”
Her comments came days after the National Toshaos Council (NTC) criticised the allocations in the Budget for indigenous peoples. Garrido-Lowe pointed to several projects in Agriculture, Value-added and Tourism, which she said are geared at bridging the gap between the hinterland and coast, ensuring equal opportunities for all.
Among the projects highlighted are the establishment of a facility for the production of sun-dried tomatoes to which Government invested some $59M in Paramakatoi where approximately 58 farmers will be benefitting; Rupununi Essence; a Ground Coffee facility in Region One to the tune of $10M; a Crab meat and Fish processing plant; the establishment of a Lapidary workshop at Monkey Mountain and another $10M facility for the production of cassava flour, also in Region One to benefit some 400 farmers from surrounding villages.
She also mentioned $17M allocated to build ecotourism lodges and train persons in five communities, the allocation of monies to purchase transportation for communities and $8.6M for the implementation of language revival projects.
“Cassava is a healthy dietary choice which should have been promoted long ago to the Guyanese,” the Minister said, noting that the indigenous peoples produce more cassava than is consumed.
As such, she said, “the opposition dare to say that we have nothing in store in this budget that will create a good life for our Guyanese people. What I am outlying here is a good life for our indigenous people.”
However, the Opposition Parliamentarian, Pearson –Fredericks in her presentation described the items listed by the Minister as “petty things.”
“What we see is a lot of window dressing in the 2018 Budget. The journey to a dying economy is what we see, the journey to corruption and lack of transparency, that is what we see, a journey to hardship and increased poverty, that is what we see,” the Opposition MP said.
She pointed to the need for officials to visit communities and ascertain why some projects are not prospering.
“Where is the good life? There is no good life anywhere around, and if there is no good life, how can the good life continue?” she questioned.
Pearson-Fredericks called on Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan to provide to the National Toshaos Council the full $37M that they requested to develop their communities.
At the weekend, NTC Chairman, Lennox Shuman expressed disappointment with the $16M proposed for the organization for 2018 – a figure which represents no increase from what it was given for 2017. He compared the allocation to the monies provided for Minister’s housing noting that “a minister’s comfort is more important than the indigenous people’s issues.”
Shuman asserted too that the $16M is grossly inadequate to fully execute the work programme of the NTC which includes the development of strategies for the sustainable use of lands and resources.