$800M for Amerindian Development Fund – Govt

…announces new cold storage enabled ferry for NWD
…25,000 solar units for hinterland

President Dr Irfaan Ali has announced that in the emergency budget for the remainder of the 2020 fiscal year, $800 million has been set aside to further boost the Amerindian Development Fund (ADF).
The Amerindian Development Fund (ADF) will be established to provide funding to support the socio-economic development of Amerindian communities and villages, through the implementation of their Community Development Plans (CDPs). CDPs were identified and developed by the Amerindian villages themselves which proposed their priority projects to be financed under the GRIF ADF.
The CDP must be approved by a village general meeting, via consensus or by majority vote. All residents are encouraged and entitled to participate in the entire process. The proposed projects vary in nature but can be categorised into the following broad sectors: agriculture, including processing; village infrastructure, tourism, manufacturing, village business enterprise, and transportation.
“In order to help hinterland communities, to promote development in hinterland communities and return those jobs that were lost. That is the reintroduction of the CSO (Community Support Officers) programme, we’ve set aside $800 million for the Amerindian Development Fund,” the President announced on Monday.
For the launching of Amerindian Heritage Month, President Ali announced a series of measures which will be implemented by his Administration to bring back economic vibrancy in Indigenous communities; including rehiring the 2000 Community Support Officers (CSOs) who were terminated by the previous APNU/AFC Government when it took office in 2015.
He also stated that CDPs will be reintroduced to ensure that Indigenous peoples are able to determine the sustainable livelihoods they desire. The President further added that his Administration will return to the ground-breaking partnership forged through the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) and advance the innovative “OPT IN” feature which allowed villages to benefit directly from the proceeds of Carbon Trading Services.
At Monday’s press conference the President also related that some $1.5 billion has been set aside for the improvement of roads in the hinterland as well as in the rural and urban communities. This, he noted, will improve communication, link and access to communities.

New ferry
“In order to ensure that food production in Region One (Barima-Waini) increases. in order to support the farmers, support the community, support trade, support building of services, reduce the time of connection between Georgetown and the rest of Guyana and Region One, we will commence – in this budget – the work to have a new ferry for North West and this ferry would be able to also provide cold storage capacity for farmers from Region One,” Ali announced.
The ferry service to and from the NWD has been in a deplorable state for quite some time. In 2018, the Government had identified Indian companies – Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Ltd (GRSE) and SHOFT Shipyard Pvt Ltd – as potential builders of a new vessel to ply the North West route.
The new vessel is seen as a vital addition since MV Barima and Lady North Cote, which ply the route are aged and in dire need of refurbishment. These vessels date back to Guyana’s colonial pre-1966 era.

Removal of VAT on hinterland travel
In 2017, the APNU/AFC introduced taxes on flights to interior locations – a move that was heavily criticised. They relented and in 2019 removed the VAT from 54 interior locations while leaving it in place for the others.
A few of the 54 listed locations are located in Regions One (Barima-Waini), Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni), Eight (Potaro-Siparuni) and Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo). They include Achiwib, Aishalton, Annai, Baramita, Chenpau, Dadanawa, Iwokrama, Kamarang, Kato, Monkey Mountain, Orinduik, Paramakatoi and Waramadong.
However, President Ali announced that his Government would be removing the VAT imposition altogether.
“Members of the hinterland communities, the business community, the air operators, the tourism sector has been raising this continuously. The increase in goods and services and movement of people has brought tremendous burden on hinterland people. We are removing that burden by the removal of VAT on hinterland travel,” he explained.

Solar units
Just over a week ago, Public Works Minister Juan Edghill had announced that through a partnership between the Governments of Guyana and India, approximately 25,000 solar units will be procured for hinterland communities as the new Government embarks on pursuing renewable, clean and cheap energy for citizens.
This position was reiterated by Ali at Monday’s press conference.
“In keeping with our commitment in ensuring that every household in our country benefit from access to electricity and energy, we’re going to implement a programme immediately within this emergency budget that will bring 25,000 solar units to the hinterland,” he said.
The project was accelerated following discussions between Ali and Indian High Commissioner to Guyana, Dr KJ Srinivasa, along with the officials from the Ministry of Public Works. (G2)