a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day; teach him to fish and he’ll eat for the rest of his life”. Never a saying more true.
Amerindian communities have progressively evolved with time and so have their needs, which are no different for families in the hinterland than they are for those living on the coast. Yet, economic disparities single out Amerindians from the rest of Guyanese as Guyana’s development continues to evolve unevenly across regions.
But while land is indeed a prerequisite for the successful development of all Amerindian communities, (as it constitutes the basis of wealth for any Guyanese citizen), tenable social and economic policies are also necessary to optimise the use of those lands.
The LCDS funded GRIF Amerindian Development Fund (ADF) Project, was part of a greater plan to promote sustainable economic development through local projects geared towards generating steady village income. Each participating community came up with a Community Development Plan (CDP) to match the potential of its land and the needs of its people. Some villages chose farming, (predominantly cassava), while others chose pisciculture, cattle ranching, tourism projects and one village even opting for mining.
Under the ADF, a technical team led by the then Amerindian Affairs Ministry was responsible for assisting in the implementation of the CDPs presented by communities, providing managerial guidance, technical expertise and funding of up to million per village. The project was scheduled to last for three years starting from October 2014.
However, difficulties ranging from a small overall budget (less than US million), squandering on expenses such as lavish Daily Subsistence Allowances (DSAs) based on UNDP standards, (can go up to thousand per night and per person in Region 2) and stalling the project for an extended period of review under the Allicock administration, were all part of the failure of the ADF project.
Incidentally, lack of support from the Allicock administration forced the Project Manager to resign, causing the project to go months before a new head was recruited. The project lacked vision and direction. It had become a failure.
The attitude of Allicock and his team suggested that they neither understood the dynamics of this project, nor its importance to the Amerindian people. Yet, when the time came to account for its failure, Allicock decided to throw the blame on bad management. But what did Allicock and the coalition actually do to enhance village economies in their almost one year in Government? Absolutely nothing.
In less than a year, the coalition cut 000 school vouchers to Amerindian parents, removed reimbursements for fuel used by residents of Region 9 (ordered by Carl Parker, the Regional Executive Officer), discontinued the Youth Entrepreneurship and Apprenticeship Programme (YEAP), subsequently slashing stipends (up to 0 000 per village) for 1972 Amerindians. Hand-outs have become the order of the day. A few bicycles here (literally a few), free shoes for children there and used clothes by a charity organisation overshadow sustainable development policies. The HEYS Programme which supposedly replaced the YEAP has been implemented in Region 8 only, and since its commencement last year, the Amerindian beneficiaries were still not paid their stipends. Bravo.
These are all initiatives which inject revenues into local economies, promoting growth and development, increasing the feasibility of village projects. As if this was not enough, the Government as well as Amerindians are forced to source products from places such as Brazil, to maintain initiatives like the school feeding programme. For instance, Amerindians of Region 9 are purchasing chicken and meat from Brazil, despite the existence of the ADF project which was intended for the purpose of building resilient village economies conducive to more self-sufficient communities.
Apparent lack of experience in governing a country, coupled with the absence of goodwill translated by myopic and anti-poor policies, guides the failures of the Allicock administration in every programme it was left to manage. These short-lived initiatives serve no other purpose than to render Amerindians more dependent on the State for their subsistence, increasing their vulnerability and reducing their access to socioeconomic rights.
What the Government of Guyana is doing, is back-stepping years of cumulated progress aimed at reducing disparities in Guyana, consequently accentuating poverty and augmenting the future efforts which will have to be pumped into reversing the detrimental effects engendered now.
The ADF project is a first example in this direction.