A total of $95 million was disbursed to Amerindian villages in Regions Three, Four, Five and Six in an effort to overcome the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ministry of Amerindian Affairs has a total of $1.75 billion as a COVID-19 relief fund for the villages across all regions. Subject minister, Pauline Sukhai, on Friday revealed that the fund can only be used to create income generating projects, which will also provide job creation or to develop infrastructure in these villages. The first set of grants was distributed on Friday at the Sophia Exhibition Centre in Georgetown.
“This we expect, as a government, will be utilised in a sustainable manner, transparent and with full accountability and as Minister of Amerindian Affairs, our ministry will collaborate with the village councils to ensure that the proposals for the infrastructure development and the income generating projects will be done collaboratively, as a team developed in conjunction with the villagers,” the minister stated.
Sukhai explained that the COVID-19 relief fund will be used to supplement the annual Presidential Fund for villages.
In a breakdown of the monies that will be disbursed, Minister Sukhai revealed that $542 million will go to villages in Region One; $105 million for Region Two; Region Three will receive $23 million; Region Four will get $47 million, while Region Five will receive $15 million; $30 million will go to Region Six and Region Seven $216 million; $208 million will be disbursed in Region Eight while Region Nine will receive $454 million and Region Ten $92 million.
Minister within the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, Anand Persaud, who was also present at the simple handing over ceremony on Friday, further revealed that the funds are to be used for new construction or the rehabilitation of Information and Computer Technology (ICT) hubs in the villages.
Minister Persaud also urged that the village council present their proposals for either the income generating projects or infrastructural development projects at the earliest time.
Two villages from Region Three were given their grant on Friday – Santa Aratak received $10 million while Lower Bonasika received $3 million.
In Region Four, St Cuthbert’s Mission received $15 million, Swann Village received $10 million, while the village of Waiakabra received $7 million and Long Creek $5 million.
The sole Amerindian village in Region Five, Moraikobai received $15 million. Over in Region Six, Orealla/Siparuta received a total of $20 million and Cashew Island received $10 million.
Village Toshaos or representatives for the Village Council traveled to Georgetown to receive the grant.
The News Room spoke with Carl Penux, the Toshao for Orealla/Siparuta, who revealed that he will discuss with the councils to combine an income generating project which will also enhance the infrastructure and drainage in both villages. Both villages have their own village council, which is governed by Penux.
“We have a lot of white sand, so for both communities so we have been selling this sand, but we want to expand that; we want to make concrete blocks which we will sell out of the community and help the communities to construct better houses and building. We are also thinking about purchasing equipment such as an excavator that is not only going to help us in the sand business, but also the agriculture business,” Penux explained.
He further revealed that an expansion of the agriculture sector will greatly benefit the villages.
“We can start farming especially rice that is one of our main crops that we want to start farming,” Penux said.
Colin Adrian, the Toshao for Moraikaboi, explained that an expansion of the tourism sector in the long run will ensure sustainability of economy and job creation. He also mentioned venturing into agriculture and agro-processing as well as infrastructure development.
“We are looking to creating an access road, connecting the highway to Moraikaboi and if we are going into agriculture, definitely we will have to have an access road where we can have the buyer come into the village rather than we bring the produce out,” Adrian explained.
For St Cuthbert’s Mission, the immediate focus will be on the COVID-19 response and job creation, Toshao Beverly Clenkian explained.
“Our men they have been out of jobs since the COVID-19 pandemic and we as seen getting the grant here today our plans is to propose a project where our residents can benefit…we can do like some chicken farms we can also do like sustainability farming like cash crops,” Clenkian said.
Moraikaboi continues to battle its first wave of the virus while Orealla/Siparuta and St Cuthbert’s Misson have been hit with second waves.