As the debates into the 2018 National Budget continued in the National Assembly on Monday, the opposition People’s Progressive Party had cause to ask the government whether the political divide meant that they were living in separate countries.
The parliamentary opposition advanced arguments that were in stark contrast to the government’s project for the economy and well being of citizens.
It was PPP MP, Yvonne Pearson who called the government into the question as she assessed incentives in the budget for Amerindians.
Pearson challenged her colleague MP, Minister Valarie Garrido-Lowe’s presentation which was premised on provisions for Indigenous citizens.
The Minister told the House that the budget is, without doubt, a fit and proper budget and caters for the development of hinterland communities and its residents.
But Pearson, who spoke after Garrido-Lowe said as an Indigenous Person, she felt insulted by the Minister’s rambling.
“What is fit and proper about the 2018 budget?” she asked, prompting a brief period of heckling by other opposition MPs.
Pearson continued to advance arguments that would support her belief that promises of a good life were purely misleading.
“There is no good life anywhere around and if there is no good life then how can the journey continue?”
Minister Garrido-Lowe has said during her presentation that the government was moving to bridge the gap between the hinterland and the coastland through improved infrastructure and grants to support hinterland development and job creation.
But again, Pearson challenged this notion, saying that while she agrees that there was a need to bridge the gap, the widening gap could not be ignored.
“There is no bridging of any gap… we need to empower Guyana’s first people,” the PPP MP said as she accused the government of window dressing in the 2018 budget instead of seriously addressing issues.
Minister Garrido-Lowe during her presentation pointed out that budget 2018 will allow for the pursuit of inclusive growth within the Green State Development Strategy, through which hinterland regions will become prime in their importance given their immediate custodial role in the conservation of ecosystems.
The flagship initiative, Hinterland Green Enterprise Development Centre, is being constructed at a cost of $200 million at Bina Hill Institute in Region 9.
Over $200 million has been allocated to support services to hinterland communities next year.
Additional initiatives promoting the development of hinterland regions and indigenous peoples include presidential grants, support to eco-tourism and cultural projects, the upgrading of farm to market roads and the provision of all-terrain vehicles, boats and outboard engines for village development.