House approves $26B supplementary funding

– clears way for Govt to aggressively pursue developmental agenda

The Government intends to continue its aggressive developmental agenda as the National Assembly on Thursday approved the Supplementary Appropriation Bill which comprised Financial Paper No. 3 and Financial Paper No. 4 of 2021.
The Financial Papers had been presented by Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh to address a number of urgent interventions across several key sectors, including agriculture, housing and water, health, education, public works and security.
Many of the interventions of national importance were not only necessary due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and surmounting Climate Change challenges, but also due to the underdevelopment vacuum created in a number of major sectors as a result of the former administration’s lax approach to the management of the sectors, which had a domino effect on the country’s economy.

Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Gail Teixeira in discussion at the ACCC on Thursday

The Bill, amounting to over $26 billion, comprised Financial Paper No 3 of 2021, totalling $5.1 billion, which caters for Contingency Fund advances for July 22 to December 9, 2021. This provided for a number of interventions, including payment of one-off cash grants to severed sugar workers, out-of-crop support to the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), and cash grants to private school students.
Financial Paper No. 4 sought funding for several initiatives, including resources to support Amerindian development projects and programmes, as well as funding for the rehabilitation of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), which was destroyed by fire in November.
Additionally, the Bill includes funding to assist to clear the arrears to the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) Incorporated and payment on the mobilisation advance on the City Hall Restoration Project.

AGRICULTURE (Assistance to Sugar workers)
The Bill catered for disbursement of the one-off cash grant of $250,000 to each severed sugar worker, which were handed over about one week before by Dr Ashni Singh and Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha.
The grant was handed over to sugar workers at four estates – Enmore, Skeldon, Rose Hall and Wales. The closure of the estates under the previous Government had left thousands of workers on the breadline, but this was only the tip of the iceberg, as due to thousands being suddenly without jobs, the domino effect was that village economies experienced sudden death, and as time progressed, reports from various villages indicated that some unemployed persons even committed suicide due to their being unable to provide for their families.
Some sugar workers noted that they were still facing hardships, with some still remaining displaced since 2017, when they were dismissed, but hundreds have since resumed duties with the assumption to office of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) in August 2020. This was due to immediate efforts being made to reopen some of the estates and resuscitate and revitalise the sugar industry. Work continues aggressively in this area to bring the estates back to fully operational level. With the recent disbursements, over $1.3 billion were injected into the estates’ surrounding communities.

The Bill also catered for cash grants to children attending private schools, with this initiative being the first time that students attending private schools would receive the grant. Thousands of parents of students attending private school clamoured for their children to be included as recipients of the cash grant as they noted that many of them struggle to pay private school fees. President Irfaan Ali, after listening to their pleas, in September last granted approval for the Because We Care cash grant to be extended to these children as well. The previous APNU/AFC administration had stopped the issuance of the cash grant to children attending public school.

The Bill passed in the National Assembly today also comprised Financial Paper No 4 of 2021, for which $21.47 billion was sought, and included supplementary funding of $755 million for countrywide drainage and irrigation interventions as Government continues to address the impact of flooding across the country. It would be the second time in the same year that the country is experiencing unprecedented levels of rainfall. President Ali recently activated a Cabinet-level Task Force to respond to the current rainy season, so as to ensure that there is a proactive and coordinated response and mitigative systems are in place and functional as the rains continue.

Meanwhile, the Supplementary Appropriation Bill also includes $7.7 billion to support the acceleration of the National Housing Drive, for which the Government has surpassed the targeted allocations of 10,000 house lots by the end of 2021. It was in stark contrast to the number of house lots allocated (totalling 6,680) during the entire APNU/AFC’s tenure, as that administration struggled to make progress in allocations under that major sector of the country.
As those years went by, the number of Guyanese demands for house lots had grown astronomically, with a huge backlog of applicants created over the five-year period of APNU/AFC’s tenure in especially Region 4 (a stronghold of the APNU/AFC), and the current administration has been making steady efforts to speedily address the situation and meet the huge demand. In La Reconnaissance, East Coast Demerara, 1000 persons received house lots, another 1000 received lots for homes to be constructed in Great Diamond and Grove, another 1000 to low-income earners on the East Bank of Demerara as well, in addition to 400 distributed in Linden, Region 10, among other areas. Meanwhile, construction of 100 affordable homes in Region 6 has also already commenced.
The Housing and Water Ministry and the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) are also carrying out infrastructural works such as road networks, drainage and irrigation systems, and electricity and water for 22 new and existing housing schemes in Regions Three, Four, Five and Six.
On the East Coast of Demerara alone, infrastructural works to the tune of $3.7M are ongoing in Cummings Lodge 1768 and 1767, LBI, Mon Repos, Annandale, Vigilance, Bladen Hall and Strathspey.
The Government has also commenced construction of a four-lane road from Eccles to Diamond, which will bring relief to thousands of residents on the East Bank of Demerara who suffered as a result of traffic congestion during their daily commute.
Relatedly, $1.1 billion is provided for the upgrade and expansion of coastal and hinterland water supply, which includes supply in many of the areas opened to satisfy the needs of Guyanese, including single-parent families and young professionals. The Government also introduced, during its first year in office, interventions within the housing sector designed to rapidly increase output through legislation and by partnering with the Private Sector.
These interventions included increasing the low-income mortgage loan ceiling to $12M in support of the housing programme, as well as granting approval to the New Building Society (NBS) to raise its loan ceiling to $15 million, thereby allowing for house lot recipients to have more options for access to financing for the building of their homes. The Bank of Baroda was also another financial institution that came on board to offer home loans at competitive interest rates. President Irfaan Ali has also noted that Government intends to establish a new City along the Linden/Soesdyke Highway, which will be known as Silica City and which will transform the national skyline and help mitigate the impacts of climate change on Georgetown.

In the area of infrastructure, as Government continues with its aggressive infrastructure agenda, the Bill includes additional funding for the Sheriff-to-Mandela Road Project, critical sea and river defence works in several areas, and reconstruction of bridges at Issano and Bamia, as well as funding for the Baggage Handling System at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA).

Other allocations catered for in the Bill include medical supplies to continuously address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic (Government is currently administering booster vaccine doses countrywide, especially as the pandemic continues and a new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, has emerged). Other support measures to address the pandemic include continuous provision of medical supplies for health workers, increased oxygen and ventilators’ supply for the hospital at Liliendaal, as well as cleaning and sanitising supplies for all Regions to combat the virus and its variants. Presently, the Government is awaiting the arrival of vaccines for children aged 5-11 years old, so that these children can return to face-to-face classes. In January 2022, Government would allow for all students aged 12 and above to return to face-to-face classes, as that age range of students would have been vaccinated through Government’s aggressive and successful vaccination drive.

In the area of security, Government has been making efforts to boost this sector through the rehabilitation and reconstruction of a number of Police Stations, as well as making provisions for the Guyana Police Force to better tackle crime-fighting. For example, the Ruimveldt and Providence Police Stations are currently under rehabilitation, and provisions have been made for eight containerised offices and construction of two bridges for the Brickdam Police Station, which was recently ravaged by fire.
Security has been boosted in all Regions at all Government and Regional buildings, while additional provisions were made for more fleets of vehicles for the Guyana Police Force, to improve response time to crime fighting and increase patrols in communities countrywide.