Amerindian villages in Region 2 get $105M COVID-19 relief fund
Amerindian Affairs Minister Pauline Sukhai handed over $105 million of the COVID-19 relief fund to nine Amerindian communities and one satellite community in Pomeroon-Supenaam (Region Two) last week at State House, Anna Regina, Essequibo Coast.
During a simple ceremony, Minister Sukhai reiterated that the fund is another commitment by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) to its people while campaigning back in 2020.
The sum, she said, would assist to prepare Amerindian villages for the long haul as COVID-19 has affected village economies across the country.
“The impacts in Amerindian villages have been very difficult even those communities that have not been severely affected, have had impact, because their neighbouring villages in many areas of the hinterland have been on lockdown and when communities are on lockdown, the Government supports that community. However, the other communities that were not on lockdown also have an impact,” Minister Sukhai noted.
The Minister explained that in certain parts of the country, villages are sometimes cut off from supplies when others are on lockdown. She noted, for example, the hardships villages close to the Brazilian border are enduring because a new strain of COVID-19 in that country has resulted in a closure of the border.
While the border opens one day per week for trade, circumstances such as those have prompted the Government to provide support to buttress Amerindian communities and stimulate their economies.
“So, what we have today is a grant that you don’t have to pay back, but you have to use effectively in your village. You have to use it and you also have to account for it. You have to use it transparently; you have to engage your community residents; you have to engage the leadership in designing for the use of this grant.”
The Minister also noted that the Government has made several commitments in the manifesto and those that relate to the development of Amerindians would be covered by the investment.
One of those commitments is to introduce connectivity to 200 communities, a programme which started in 2014. At that time 100 facilities were established for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) hubs; however, the previous Administration had set the programme aside and the one that they replaced it with was ineffective.
The Government will, therefore, reintroduce the ICT project in Amerindian communities.
“The investment fund which we will provide will go to 200 communities to utilise part of the fund to prepare the facility once more. Those communities that have built very good facilities and ICT still existing, you will need to repair or refurbish and furnish it again.”
Communities with existing facilities can use up to $1 million on refurbishment. Others can use up to $2 million on the construction of new facilities, while the remaining funds will go towards an economically viable project for income generation for the community.
“This fund is not to be parted up and distributed to households, but to be used as an investment into an enterprise, that will employ a few of the villagers and grow to increase the income of that village and also the income of those who will be employed,” the Amerindian Affairs Minister noted.
The villages are now tasked with deciding the best enterprise to pursue, preparing a proposal and engaging the Projects Department of the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs to review and ensure that the project is sound.
The $105 million disbursed in Region Two is part of $1.73 billion COVID-19 relief fund set aside for Amerindian villages countrywide.
Of the sum set aside for Region Two, Wakapao received $15 million because of the size of its population while the other villages: Bethany, Mashabo, Capoey, Mainstay/Wayaka, St Denys/Tapakuma, Kabakaburi, St Monica, Karawab and Akawini all received $10 million each.
Some of the recipients explained that they were grateful to the Government for its support as they have several projects that they are interested in undertaking to enhance their villages.