Budget Debate 20133275 04 Apr, 2013
Minister within the Ministry of Agriculture [Mr. Baksh]: Thank you Mr. Speaker. Hon. Members of both sides of the House I wish, like my colleagues on this side of the House, to thank and congratulate the Hon. Dr. Ashni Singh and his team for a well prepared and presented Budget 2013.
When I listened to some comments from Opposition side of the House, the two days we were debating here I thought we were sending the Hon. Minister Dr. Ashni Singh and his colleagues to some university and were bringing them back to this House at this time to mark their exams. From all that was said on the budget there was little if not very much that could have been seen as a positive thought coming out from the Budget. If we are the examiners, I am certain in every aspect of the Budget if they were to be marked by the Opposition side would have been given zero, whether dealing with the infrastructure or health because everything coming from the Opposition is actually saying to us that they would have marked zero. From the positive side, this side of the House, I am certain they would have been marked with a star. I am certain if I was one of those examiners, I would have given them “excellent”.
It was good sometimes to hear from all the speakers so far about how we care for the poor, the needy and the destitute. It is good to hear that, but Comrades and Hon. Speaker, it is sometimes good to reminisce on where we came from and where we are today; where we came from and who were in office at the time when they were telling the same workers and the same poor farmers that they must tighten their belt; they must work harder and sleep less. It is the same thing that we are hearing today. Today, we are hearing about the care the people from the Opposition have for the same people they treated in such a manner when they were in government for 28 years.
Comrades, we have taken a principled position as a political party; from where we came from to this date, to always be on the side of the majority of people, the people who need to be assisted. And we have taken a positive position in the previous budget and the present Budget even to excel along the line to ensure the ordinary people are secure.
The world we are living in is faced with new global challenges. In Guyana, there is a role to be played by all of us, not only in this House but all of us as Guyanese. The State has its role to play and I hope and humbly believe if we are the leaders of the State, we can equally and collectively play that role to advance Guyana and the same people who we are talking about; the poor and needy, the destitute and the poor farmers and workers will be the main beneficiaries. That is the objective of the PPP/C. There is a role for the cooperatives, a meaningful role for the cooperatives, and also a role for the private sector.
It was mentioned here as if Guyana is being sold to a 20% person. This was mentioned by some people of the Opposition. 20% of the population of this country are living in heaven, while the other 80% are living in hell. That is what was actually mentioned by Members of the Opposition. By that, they were saying the ordinary workers were being advantaged by the 20%.
Today, when you look around the entire Guyana, not Region No.2, the Region that I am responsible for as a Member of Parliament, that Region was called the Cinderella County – today Cinderella is a princess.
The private sector today is growing, it is creating jobs. The private sector is helping also in a collective way between the state and small cooperatives; the bigger manufacturing institutions are assisting in creating jobs. Ordinary workers are being benefitted. If Guyana at any time, by any party, takes a position that foreign monopoly transnational corporations are to take over the economy I will be the first to oppose. We believe and always stand on the side of progressive entrepreneurs and we lend full support and that is why today our Guyana is flourishing. Overseas Guyanese alone with other foreign investors see Guyana as a place to invest all because of the prudent management of our economy. A lot of Guyanese today are coming back because they see Guyana as lucrative for investment. That is why many transnational corporations and huge businesses are looking to Guyana more than any other Caribbean country for investment. Because of the atmosphere that is being presented by the PPP/C Government they see investment in Guyana as lucrative.
We heard criticism about some industries that are coming in Guyana, these huge investments that are taking place. We are a developing country. Even the most advanced countries in the world like the United States of America (USA), England and Canada do not have all the technology in the world to advance their society the way they would like to in certain areas. Guyana as a developing country needs a tremendous amount of technology which we do not have at this time. That is why we have to import some of the technology; we have to. We need foreign technology to advance our development and growth as in the case of CGX, the Marriot Hotel, the Amaila Falls and others. Sometimes we fail to see what is taking place around us. Sometimes we have alluded to the fact that we would wish to take some Members of this Hon. House to visit some of the regions. I wish they can go and see what is taking place. I have been a root man, I have been on the ground for a number of decades, and I can tell you from my guts heart what is taking place in the various regions.
Let me just mention some areas that some decades ago were remote villages and are now moving to townships. If you go to Port Kaituma in Region No.1 you will see what is transpiring there; you will see hotels going up. Go to Kumaka, Mabaruma, Moruca, and Santa Rosa in Region No1; Cotton Field, Anna Region in Region No.2; Charity and Parika, Region No.3; Bartica, Region No.7; Lethem Region No.9. I was there just recently. Investors will not go there to do business to the huge extent that I am seeing, that anyone could see, unless there are economic benefits. Go into those areas and banks are there. Never in the history would you have found banks in some of these remote areas. Go into to those areas you will find hotels being established that attract tourism; very good hotels. There are multipurpose shopping centres in these areas. There are supermarkets in these areas. There are vast growing housing schemes in these areas. These are positive tendencies that are happening in these areas. If we do have veils on our eyes because of our politics let us take them out and see Guyana first.
In agriculture, prior to 1992, the conditions of our infrastructure was atrocious in this country; lest we forget the conditions of our infrastructure such as kokers, sluices, drainage canals, rivers and sea defenses were extremely terrible. We overcame these challenges since the People’s Progressive Party took office. We are proud as a Government to show to the Guyanese people and people of the world who are visiting Guyana that we have advanced in these areas. The Government of the day has spent tremendous amount of moneys in the last two decades. Budget 2013 will certainly enhance this process.
Several new pump stations and sluices were built in the following areas, and these are just the tip of the iceberg I am giving to you. Pump stations that were commissioned and are to be commissioned in 2013 are Kitty, Liliendaal, and Lusignan; Dawa has already been operating; Anna Regina in Region No.2; No. 19 and No. 42 in Region No.6.
Rehabilitation of Pumps is ongoing in the following areas: Stanleytown in Region No.3, Trafalgar in Region No.5, Anna Regina and Cozier in Region No.2.
The Greenfield Pump Station will serve from Mosquito Hall to Dochfour assisting in drainage. This is an area of thousands of acres of land that never had the opportunity for drainage systems and access to farm and market. This pump station with other road services we have built in the past years would assist over 350 farmers; mostly cash crop farmers will benefit. And as such about 1,500 acres of land will see the advantage of this project. Also, flooding will be eliminated or curtailed.
At Black Bush Polder and Canal No. 2 there is a new sluice and a pump station presently being erected in those areas. Over 5,000 families and farmers would be beneficiaries.
For the major projects that are being undertaken in several regions I will begin from Region No.2. It was mentioned in the budget that for the Aurora Land Development Project $500 million was allocated. Work is ongoing on the 5,500 acres of land. Over 300 young families would benefit from this project. When we are talking about security for the young people these are the programmes and plans; part of it I have mentioned.
There is the excavation of drainage channels and the construction of embankment in Lower and Upper Pomeroon where more than six thousand acres are being empoldered and hundreds of poor farmers are the beneficiaries.
At the moment Region No.2 is being blessed with a new pontoon with two long boom excavators to ensure the sea sluices are cleared.
The empoldering of farmlands from Grant Relief to Vergenoegen.
For the excavation of drainage channels in Supenaam Creek and Bethany Community Budget 2013 offers a great opportunity for expansion in these areas. These are linking main Amerindian communities.
Region No.3, Revetment work at Canal No.2.
Construction of new drainage outlet, sluice and pump station for Canal No.2 Polder.
Construction of sluice door at West Bank Demerara.
Construction of timber revetment at Boerasirie Water Conservancy.
Construction of embankment, concrete structures, sluice and installation of HPDE tubes at eastern and western Hogg Island.
In Region No.4, construction of sluice at Grove/Diamond, East Bank Demerara.
Rehabilitation of drainage sluice at Garden of Eden.
Construction of sluice at Buxton.
Construction of pumps at Greenfield.
Construction of the East Coast Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC) Northern Relief Structure.
Contracts were awarded for the construction of a heavy duty bridge, outfall sluice and head regulator.
Revetment works undertaken at Beehive.
Excavation of canals in Friendship. These are all works, and as I said it is just the tip of the iceberg that will be done in Region No.4.
In Region No.5,construction of sluice at Profitt, Abary.
Construction of sluice at Cottage, Mahaicony. The outfall is being excavated and a canal is being linked to the sea sluice. All these are to bring relief and benefits to farmers and residents in those areas.
Construction of internal dam and embankment at left bank Mahaicony
In Region No.6, Construction of sea sluice at Mara.
Supplementary drainage for Black Bush Polder.
Construction of sluice and pump stations also in Black Bush Polder.
In Region No.10, construction of soak away structures and drainage system at Canvas City and Block 22, Linden.
Construction of Control Structures in West Watooka Phase 1 and 2.
Works were also done to develop cattle pastures in the following areas: $10 million were spent on 20 acres of land to assist in cattle rearing in the Lenora area; in the MMA area approximately 2,500 acres of land were utilised for pasture development to assist cattle farmers.
We have expended a total cost $26M on our Beef Bull project, where 33 Beef Bulls were purchased for distribution to farmers. There is a big demand for beef going out from Guyana because we are free the from foot and mouth disease. For the Community Drainage and Irrigation Programme (CDIP) programme works were done to enhance both domesticated families and business communities. This programme is also creating employment for the poor and ordinary families.
Designation, number, monthly cost and yearly cost - labourers alone out of this one project by the Ministry of Agriculture is 1,640 persons at a monthly cost of $41,000,000 and a yearly cost of $492,000,000.
Foremen – 126 persons are employed at a monthly cost of $3,780,000 and a yearly cost of $45,360,000; Coordinators – 10 persons are employed at a monthly cost of $750,000 and a yearly cost of $9,000,000. Out of this project alone 1,776 families are being assisted. These are very poor families and they are doing a tremendously good job to assist in all 10 regions in the residential areas, mainly, to assist in the clearing of drains and to give the residents living in the community better irrigation.
This Government is spending $546,360,000 per year on this project. Is this not an area where this Government should really be applauded for the work that is being given to ordinary people to survive and exist and at the said time have a clean environment?
There is a cycle of change taking place in and around the sea coast, especially between Regions No.1 and 6.Severe siltation is taking place in and around our sea sluices which sometimes lead to mud fears around ½ to ¾ miles. This is creating serious blockages at our sea sluices and affects the free flow of water. This creates additional problems, especially, if there is a heavy rainy period and high tide. Anyone of us, if travelling on land or air or if you take a drive across between Regions No.1 and 6, you would see about ½ to ¾ mile or a mile out there with mud flats, which are creating serious problems. The accretion is a very good and helpful process certainly to assist our sea and river defences. It is also giving us an opportunity to plant more mangroves plants so that we can protect not only our environment, but our sea sluices from siltation.
While that is so, it is also creating a serious problem, as I said, because of the siltation that is taking place. Within 24 hours those sea sluices can be cleared and it again can create siltation. As a result, from the 2013 Budget, for the moneys that are allocated the Ministry is not embarking on a programme to deploy at least one pontoon with two long boon excavators. Each of those pontoons with the two excavators will cost the Ministry approximately $100 million. That is an investment to protect our environment, our farmers and the residents of every part of Guyana.
Additionally, with the present allocation of the 2013 Budget, farmers will be much more secured with the ongoing additional work that will be done by the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA). Furthermore, we are doing block drainage work in several areas in farming communities: in East Berbice, West Berbice, Mahaica and Mahaicony areas, Black Bush Polder, the Essequibo Islands and Essequibo Coast, Wakenaam, Leguan. What I meant by block system is, we have been hearing about flooding all the time, where famers are being affect. The Ministry of Agriculture is blessed with 62 excavators, sixty two excavators in a country where its economy is based mainly on agriculture. We are doing as much as we can. Much of these excavators sometimes are more than 10 to 15 years old and when we come with a budget here for moneys to be spent... these excavators are to help ordinary poor people that we are talking about. I would like to ask that when we are doing consideration, especially for the agricultural budget that we have the full support of this House.
Budget 2013 will have a great impact in the Hinterland communities and the riverine areas with the expansion of rice cultivation, soya beans, peanuts, pineapples, spices, aquaculture and cattle rearing, more and more as I have said the last time. In Region No.2 alone, prior to 1992, we were only producing around 550,000 to 600,000 bags of paddy per crop. That means twice a year with 1200. Today, because of the drainage and irrigation system in that region; because of the type of work that we have been doing to maintain our irrigation and drainage system, we are producing over one million bags of paddy per crop. Today, because of the blocked drainage that we are doing in both lower and upper Pomeroon, we are having at the minimum of 20 loads of oranges, bananas, plantains and other ground provisions coming to Georgetown. We are even exporting to Linden. [Interruption] [Mrs. Backer: Linden is a part of Guyana.] You are in need that is why we are giving to you. We are humble people.
I have mentioned how much work we will be doing in Linden also. This will directly result in the creation of jobs, generate additional income and thus improve the livelihood of persons in these communities that I have mentioned. More markets are available that we need to grow more to satisfy the demands. Today, we are exporting 90 commodities to 19 different countries in the world. Never in history have we had that.
Also, with the introduction of shade house and drip fertilisation in different parts of the agricultural areas in our country, we have extended now on school farms. This would help to complement the Government’s School Feeding Programme by cutting costs and helping families and communities to develop more rapidly. In Saint Ignatius and Lethem alone we have visited there and saw where this programme was implemented. The headmistress of that community said to us that they have been helping the school with the produce coming out from this farm cutting costs by 50% and they had $140,000 in the bank. That in itself shows that it is a positive position that we have taken to assist these schools and communities with this type of activity.
Moreover, there are numerous developments taking place in other parts of Region No.2. We are opening much more farmlands in areas such as Cozier, Underneeming, Siriki, Karawab, St. Monica, Karakaburi and Warapana. These are riverine communities linked to Amerindian communities and the block systems that I have mentioned before. People cannot farm the way they used to farm in the past. With the rise of the river, the river defences are becoming poorer to defend these farmers from flooding.
The health services in Region No.2, including the Pomeroon, so far, these have decrease by approximately 30% from 1992. At the moment, there are 11 health centres and these health centres are in many rural communities: Eighteen health posts and one reporting centre. They have seven medexs now, 18 midwives, five nursing assistants, 34 community health workers. This stretches across the region that brings a lot of benefits, far way more than we have experienced prior to 1992.
Mr. Speaker, the education sector in Region No.2, which was mentioned before, in the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) results for the last examination Region No.2 topped the Caribbean. Ms. Hakh from Golden Fleece Essequibo attended the Abrams Zuil Secondary School. She topped the Caribbean. That is to show that education is now moving not only before when we used to talk about Queens’ College and Bishops High School and all of these top ranking schools in Georgetown. It is the very poor people we are talking about to represent, it is their children that are having the facilities and benefits in these institutions being established.
We have today and this has increase by about 30%, in the various areas: Nursery Education – 1,087 students; Primary Education – 6,433 students; Secondary Education – 4,485 students. Never before students, for example in the Wakapau area - for those who have ever been there would know the main, where the school is situated there are about seven to eight villages which are about ten to fifteen miles apart. Places like Mora, Miri, Harasherema, the children used to paddle in rain to get there. Today, there is an established dorm there where these students can stay and have three meals. They have dorm mothers and dorm fathers, cooks and security. The State pays for all of that.
There are other dorms for example in Pomona area, recently built and they house 60 students. Where did these students come from? Was it the Supenaam Creek? They are from the Bethany Amerindian Community and the Mashado Amerindian Community. Ninety percent of them are staying there, 60% of them gets free meals, free security and gets to study in the same or even better atmosphere than some of us who are here.
There are other dorms at Charity that takes care of students from the Upper and Lower Pomeroon. Just at the end of last year a new secondary school was built and a new dorm has been established at Charity. [Ms. Ally: I will go and check it.] Go and check it, I would be grateful to go with you too, you are beautiful to walk with. At Anna Regina Secondary School there is also a dorm in Wakapau.
We heard some criticism about the question of the One Laptop Per Family (OLPF). 85 rural communities, to some extent the riverine communities and especially the coastal area in Region No.2, they have received 3,659 laptops. This means a tremendous lot to ordinary poor people. They had trained before they received the laptops and now that they can receive it they can even train other persons and their families.
There is a programme also that we have established in Region No.2 where centres are set up. We do not have at this stage the amount of computers that we can give to every family, but we give it to the schools, community centres, we have established clusters and the parents, guardians and ordinary poor people who cannot afford a laptop can go there to be trained. Also, they can have access just as any other person who can afford it.
Mr. Speaker, I can assure you, with the free flow of electricity in Region No.2, every single community, here again Hon. Member, Cde. Ally, I want to invite you to Region No.2 to see where in every community there is a welder shop, barber shop, furniture shop, tire shop, a repair shop for something because of the free flow of electricity. Small entrepreneurs are developing, a middle class is coming up and restaurants are developing. We are talking about persons finding jobs. Persons with seven subjects CXC and persons who go to university today see a different way out. These are farming families and workers families they do not want to go to the big jobs in the offices sometimes. A lot of them are becoming good entrepreneurs because they see an opportunity to make more money. That is why they are establishing their own independence and that is the growing middle class we are seeing that brings benefits not only for themselves, they bring benefits to other persons within their community because they are creating employment for them and these are ordinary people.
I want to conclude by saying that I beg of all of us to look at what is presented in this year’s budget. The Hon. Dr. Ashni Singh has done an extremely good job with his team. I want to again congratulate him. You have been doing this for Guyana some years now and I know that you will be continuing here and sometimes even in other places that will contribute to the development of Guyana.
I want to thank you Mr. Speaker for giving me this opportunity to contribute to this debate. [Applause]
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