– says gov’t priortises Amerindian development
Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai passionately defended budget 2024 in the ongoing national budget debates on Wednesday, while blazing the previous APNU+AFC Coalition Government for neglecting the Amerindian Land Titling project, as well as their welfare during its time in office.
The National Assembly was reminded that this critical project which will guarantee legal protection of Amerindian-owned lands was stagnant during the opposition’s tenure and immediately after assuming government, the PPP/C moved to resuscitate the programme.
Within two years, about 20 investigations were conducted and in less than two years, seven extensions were awarded, while eight demarcations were conducted and land titling will be further advanced by the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs in 2024 with an allocation of $800 million.
“The APNU+AFC had no intention to advance land titling for Amerindians…It was under the PPP/C Government that the percentage of land owned privately by Amerindians increased from 6 per cent to 16 per cent. The ALT project will go down in the history of this house and in the records. It will show that the majority of lands titled to indigenous people were all done under the PPP/C Government,” the minister emphasised.
Minister Sukhai further disclosed in the house that millions of dollars from the Amerindian Development Fund (ADF) were also unaccounted for during the opposition’s five-year tenure.
Furthermore, close to 2000 Community Support Officers (CSOs) who were gainfully employed under the previous PPP/C Government were dismissed without pay in 2014.
Now, 2600 Amerindian youths will be supported with an allocation of $1.2 billion provided in the 2024 budget and they will even receive skillset training that is suitable to the needs of their respective villages.
“If you had an interest in them, you would have not disengaged them…1973 young people were sent home in June without pay,” she highlighted. Minister Sukhai further noted that more resources are being made available in sectors including education, health, and other integral social sectors by the government across Amerindian communities.
Budget 2024 includes an allocation of $9 billion, which includes $2.7 billion in carbon credit funds to support village-led projects in over 200 Amerindian communities.
Initiatives geared for the first people include $100 million to support the hosting of the National Toshaos Council (NTC) Conference, $3.4 billion for Presidential Grants, $147 million to promote Amerindian culture, and $100 million to support hinterland students under the Hinterland Scholarship Programme.
She emphasised that the budget is designed to sustain the country’s development, and provide support to vulnerable groups including women, youth, and persons living with disabilities, as well as public servants and farmers.
“Guyanese families do not have to fear the removal of cash grants from their children any longer. The pensioners do not have to fear being unable to pay their water or electricity bills any longer. That is assured under the PPP/C Government. The APNU+AFC thought those support measures to vulnerable groups were excessive, and so they cut them,” she pointed out.