People’s Progressive Party (PPP) presidential candidate Irfaan Ali continued his countrywide outreach on Saturday in Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) where he met with residents of several villages, outlining plans which will allow the Berbice economy to be revitalised.
Ali met with persons at the Port Mourant Market and then had a walkabout in New Amsterdam before going to East Canje where he held two meetings. According to Ali, he is trying to meet residents in as many communities as possible to hear the issues and concerns at the grassroots level. He told the media that it is very important to get an understanding of regional issues in addition to national issues.
“We are also listening to some of the ideas and suggestions to address regional issues… the closure of the sugar industry, the increase of land rentals, the new taxes and licences fees that is affecting small business in this region are some of the issues that the people would have raised but they would have also given us some ideas on some of the things they see. Some of the things are very basic which can improve their lives,” Ali said.
The presidential candidate said the intention is to charter a way forward that would bring Guyanese together with a goal of adapting an integrated approach towards development, where all can benefit.
“All regions can see a hopeful future, all regions can see a future in which the lives of the residents in that region would be uplifted,” Ali added.
According to the presidential candidate, one of the common complaints in Berbice is the drastic increase in water bills in 2019. He noted the closure of the sugar estates is not only having a negative impact on business, but it also has a psychological effect on persons as they struggle to earn a livelihood.
“One of the things that people don’t value and that you hear on these community outreaches is the psychological effect that people are having as a result of losing their jobs. It is very difficult for parents to say to their children that they can’t have this or that or they can’t go to school because they don’t have the financing to do it at the moment.”
Ali also spoke of some of the issues which have been making headlines in the local press; chief among them being the New Amsterdam Hospital, the Special Purpose Unit (SPU) charging persons $500 to pass through the cultivation area on their way to the savannah to fish and the Guyana Water Incorporated.
“The water issue in Region Six seems to be multi-faceted. One is that persons are not getting water; there is a shortage of water with some communities being locked out of the supply of water. Then you have the increase in water rates although they are not getting water…Then some of the fisher folk met us and said that they have to pay $500 to go to catch fish and to get the bon carilla to sell. These are people who lost their jobs and don’t have anything to sustain their families and help their children and now they are forced this way. It is like penalising some who are already suffering and it is really affecting people psychologically,” he said.
Noting the harsh reality of what he has been observing on the ground, Ali said polices must be put in place for relief to Berbicians.
“We have already spoken about the reopening of the sugar estates,” he said, while also expressing that the steep increase in land rental for farmers will be addressed by his administration.
“In some cases, the increase is between twelve hundred and four thousand per cent. This has to be reversed because the farmers are not making that. The New Amsterdam Hospital – health care nationally has been on a decline… These are all issues that people have been raising that we will have to address,” Ali said
The PPP presidential candidate has been conducting several outreaches to hear the needs, concerns and issues affecting Guyanese.