Billions in 2024-2025 budget projected to address priorities of Amerindian communities – Pres Ali

As the National Toshaos Council (NTC) Conference came to a close on Friday, President Dr Irfaan Ali assured the Indigenous leaders of the Government’s multibillion-dollar investments in key areas of education, infrastructure, healthcare, agriculture and tourism within the hinterland and riverine communities.
The week-long conference saw leaders across the hinterland communities discussing areas of concern with Government officials at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC), Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown.

Amerindian leaders at the NTC Conference on Friday

“I believe that the per capita combined investment we’ve invested in the last three years in hinterland and riverine communities is perhaps the highest in the combined history of our investment in Amerindian affairs,” Ali said. “This is only going to get better.”

“Based on the requests made to the Government, we have immediately set aside $100 million for community grounds and community facilities,” Ali said.
This is in addition to the further $16 billion investment remaining for this year, of which $6 billion is specifically for hinterland roads, he added.
Meanwhile, after committing to an audit of healthcare and education facilities across the country last year, Ali explained that as the Government now has a better understanding of the state of those facilities, they are embarking on an aggressive programme to improve teachers’ quarters and hostels, expand existing schools and build new schools, where practical.
He further noted that the Government is also working to construct new regional hospitals and health centres, while expanding health services and telemedicine sites.
“We want to work with communities in the utilisation of local labour and local materials in the build-out of infrastructure in your communities so we create jobs, we create economic activities and we create demand for your own products,” Ali said.

The President also disclosed plans to work with community members on a programme for the remainder of this year and the following year whereby the Government will increase investments in improving internet connection.
“We’ll look at newer, faster technologies because, by the time we get to the last quarter in 2024, we must have built out a complete platform through which our teachers will sit in their villages and be able to become trained teachers from right where they are,” Ali said.
“This is going to be an expensive endeavour but we’ve committed to this – that our Information Technology (IT) infrastructure must bridge the divide and allow persons in the hinterland to have access to all the facilities, including becoming trained teachers, healthcare workers and more importantly, the full potential of the Guyana Online Academy of Learning (GOAL) programme will then be at your disposal,” Ali stated.
The Head of State further stated that investments are also being made to advance the level of expertise of teachers, declaring that by 2026/2027, all teachers in Guyana will be trained and those who already are, they will move on to become graduate-trained teachers.

In the agriculture sector, the President stated that $300 million will be set aside in the new budget for food security and agricultural development, adding that Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha is working to set up a specific unit that deals with hinterland food security and food production.
“Furthermore, we want you, in every single region, to identify young people who can be trained to become vets, agriculture support staff and extension officers,” Ali said.
“We are willing to immediately train 150 of your young people from your regions and communities in these areas to support food production, food security and agricultural expansion,” Ali said.

By 2025, the President expressed intentions to not only expand tourism products in the country but also on a large scale, noting a need to build the country’s capacity to do so.
He explained that the Tourism, Commerce and Industry Ministry will be launching a special initiative to train and certify young people in hospitality management to allow them to work in the new internationally-branded hotels currently being constructed across the country.

Women and youth
Acknowledging concerns raised on the challenges that women and youth face within the hinterland communities, President Ali shared the Human Services and Social Security Ministry’s plans to work on specific programmes that target these groups.
“We are going to work on an aggressive, integrated plan with the Ministry to support women, children and youth in our hinterland and riverine communities,” Ali said.
As such, the upcoming budget will speak directly to a new initiative that seeks to support women, in areas of skills development.
Ali further assured the Indigenous leaders of their continuous input as the 2024-2025 budget is developed to consider the priority areas raised during the conference these past few days. (Pooja Rambaran)