By Bibi Khatoon
As a result of the COVID-19 measures implemented to curb the spread of the disease, local airlines have doubled their cost for transporting goods to hinterland villages, leaving residents with limited access to affordable items.
Mapping and Geographic Information System (GIS) Specialist of the Amerindian People’s Association (APA), Michael McGarrel, said Air Services Limited increased their freight charges from $130 per pound to $290 while passenger seats moved from $33,000 per person to $68,000 to Region Eight.
McGarrel recommends that the Government looks at subsidising airlines going into these regions in order to reduce the price of travel.
“The steep rise, for example, to take freight to interior locations is very alarming. What it will do to our communities is that the price of goods in the communities itself will go up, it will go up significantly as well and this will have an impact that will cause our communities to suffer more,” McGarrel explained.
The Indigenous leader is also calling on the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) which has undertaken relief aid, to assist the residents with seeds for farming since some of their crops were damaged in flood and drought while others have simply moved away from the traditional economic activity.
McGarrel was speaking during a panel discussion hosted by the APA on Friday. Joining him was Governance and Rights Coordinator Laura George and APA’s Executive Director Jean La Rose.
La Rose believes the COVID-19 measures were implemented too suddenly.
“Unfortunately for some of our indigenous communities, they needed a lot more preparation to deal with issues like this. Things like sugar, rice, salt and so forth has to be taken in by plane and to make a sudden stop and not give these communities enough time to have these provisions –the businesses as well as residents –can have a very heavy effect on the communities,” La Rose said.
Meanwhile, George pointed to the fact that communities in Regions Eight and Seven were severely affected in 2017 by severe flooding and with the May-June rains around the corner, their plight can be worsened.