Ramson requests $75M supplementary funds for community grounds
By Jemima Holmes
One of the highlights in Thursday’s reconvening of the National Assembly came compliments of sport, though not one ball was bowled or a goal scored, in the Arthur Chung Conference Center.
A fiery exchange of jabs between Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Charles Ramson Jr, and shadow Minister of the same Institution, Jermaine Figueira, proved that they would do well as pugilists going jab for jab.
However, it also brought to light the continuous efforts of the Ministry to upgrade community centre grounds across the country.
The topic at hand was a $75M request by the Sport Ministry in the supplemental budget for the purpose of continuing work at several grounds.
Prompted by a question from Opposition Member of Parliament Jermaine Figueira, Minister Ramson shed light on the Ministry’s request for $75M.
“There was so much neglect for community centres and grounds by the last administration. I have been able to make the recommendations to the Cabinet for the request of additional sums. So, part of the supplementary Budget that has been tabled by the Honourable Minister with Responsibility for Finance, we’ve just asked for an additional $75M for community grounds,” Ramson explained to the National Assembly.
Further, he highlighted, “So that the Regions of 10, 7 and 1, the entire country, will be able to get the allocations for their grounds and community centres.”
Under the premise that funds had already been allocated in the 2021 National Budget for this project, Ramson was again prodded by Figueira to state why the grounds needed more funding.
“When we had the requests to come to locations by the representatives of the regions, the communities, the residents and the community centre representatives, those requests came in such an abundance that the Ministry engaged in an aggressive community ground assessment programme,” Ramson related.
“And when we started to go there, that was how we were able to get the assessment of how bad the neglect was. It was so bad that even the public facilities, the Gymnasium, for example, which is right here in South Georgetown, which is an area that serves probably a 100,000 people, the bush was this high,” Ramson illustrated with hand gestures to the Parliament.
He concluded his answer by saying, “Bigger than me! Heaps of junk filled the yard, and that is the condition and the care that you were showing to the Guyanese people.”
In a burst of vigour that was punctuated by applause from the Government’s side of the house, Ramson listed the community grounds that have benefited from the budget allocation and will continue to benefit from the supplementary funds.
“Reliance, Queenstown, Affiance, Cornelia Ida, Tuschen, Meten-Meer-Zorg, Zeelugt, Zeeburg, Goed Fortuin, Success, Buxton, Enterprise, Better Hope, Enmore, Bath Settlement, Blairmont, Bush Lot, Cotton Tree, Port Mourant, Line Path, Rose Hall Canje,” the Minister listed.
On the topic of the multi-purpose sport facilities that have been earmarked for Regions 2, 6 and 10, Ramson explained the technicalities with regard to the allocated funds, and even gave an update on the Ministry’s negotiations with the foreign entities that are expected to fund the projects.
“If you go to the project details, it says here for that specific detail, it says $200M has been allocated, but as you should know, because it says so in the details, it says it is foreign-funded.”
He continued by saying, “So you have to be able to finalise the terms of the agreement before you get to be able to access the money.
The Government of Guyana is in the final details of fleshing out the details of the terms for the grant, and there are some bits of information that I’m able to share at this stage and some that I’m not,” Ramson divulged.
Posing a final question to Ramson on that Thursday afternoon, Opposition MP Figueira probed the overlap of multiple sport facility projects in some regions, specifically Regions 6 and 10, where synthetic athletic tracks are being constructed.
To this Ramson answered by saying that the projects are completely diverse.
“These are entirely different projects. There are two in Region 10, for example, one is on one side of the river, the other one is on the other side of the river. They are two different orientations for sports, one is for track and field, one if going to be for multi-purpose sport facility, and the project themselves are not going to augment each other. They are two different projects,” Ramson asserted.
Of the $1.5B Sport allocation in the 2021 National Budget, $915.5M was allotted to the improvement of community grounds countrywide, to expand their use as parks and create premium, multi-purpose sporting facilities of international standards, commencing in Regions 2, 6 and 10.