Budget Speech DR Persaud - 20123221 11 Apr, 2012
April 11, 2012
Dr. Persaud: Thank you, Mdm. Deputy Speaker. I am making my first speech in this August Assembly and I do so disappointed in the Opposition speakers who preceded me as their speeches were bereft of the content one would expect at the juncture of this country’s history of development under the PPP/Civic. They sought to malign a budget which illustrates vividly the progressive transformation of the landscape of this country visible to every eye, if you wants to see, and exemplifies the PPP/C Government’s commitment to the welfare of every Guyanese. This budget is not a document of empty words but constitutes a rational review of the development of this country and where we are going.
The Former Minister of Finance and the Hon. Member, Mr. Carl Greenidge, has a dismal record touching on the premise of unaccountability. I feel tall when I declare in this House, in this Parliament, that the PPP/Civic Government changed that trend. This Government ensured that the country’s finances were subjected to auditing and presented within the statutory limits of the Constitution.
The crafting of this budget amidst international and domestic vicissitudes to reflect a decrease in international debt and growth in key sectors – among them education, health and social services – is a reflection of judicious management of the finances of this country by this Government.
We feel very proud of the PPP/Civic Government. Let me quote what the former Minister, Mr. Greenidge, the Hon. Member, said in his 1988 Budget, and if he wants I can even loan him my Hansard copy as he is so fond of speaking of and feeling proud of his tenure in that time:
“One of the most glaring consequences of our prolonged fiscal crisis has been our inability to maintain social and economic infrastructure…”
Under the regime of the PNC, of which Mr. Greenidge, the Hon. Member, was a Minister of Finance, this country, Guyana, was dubbed the poorest country in the hemisphere. Today the PPP/Civic Government has reversed this trend. May I, at this point, congratulate the PPP/Civic Government for moving our beautiful country, Guyana, forward.
I have no intention on harping on the past, but rather will move you forward progressively and take you to the current level of development. Young people are now given every opportunity to give expression to their talent and skill in any field of human endeavour. The world is travelling at a fast pace in the evolution of technology; youths are definitely being encouraged to move with the times. Young people in this country require the wherewithal not only to contribute to the country but to be integrally involved in every aspect of development of the critical sectors in Guyana.
The Government’s visionary Information Communication Technology (ICT) sector was not derived in isolation; there was a plan, there was a purpose and one can see the link between the sectors, the provision of resources, training and, it goes one step further towards the provision of jobs. Our ICT sector easily outstrips that of the Caribbean and I can say this as fact. What they have taken years to develop we have jumped ahead to achieve right now.
Government understands that young people need to be equipped with the necessary tools in technology to stand on par with their counterparts in the developed world.
There is projection in the budget contrary to what has been said by speakers in this House. There is projection that at least 16,000 jobs will be available to young people in the information communication sector with the increase in call centres – yes, in Linden too.
I am also going to say, further, there is interlinking, there is infrastructure for networking. Not only has the information communication sector been developed but the One Laptop per Family provides young people – yes you can say “Oh, as you like” but it is true… 10,000 families have benefitted already, 90,000 more families will benefit, youths will benefit. I also what to let you know, to make this all work fiberoptic cables will link every part of this country, even to the most remote areas because there are drop off sites at Lethem, Annai, Kurupukari, Mabura, Linden, Moleson Creek, all the way to Anna Regina. This ensures that large volumes of young people in this country, urban, rural and hinterland young people have equal opportunities and equal access to use advanced technology to research, study and communicate on par with the developed world.
I want to let you know that as I have listened to the Hon. Members on both sides of the House, more so to the Hon. Member on that side of the House, I do not like the way in which young people are being charged to always expect a handout. We have to develop in them a sense of self worth, a sense that we have to work, we have to earn and we have to develop ourselves and Government is providing this opportunity in every single one of their sectors and this is only the information technology sector that I am speaking about.
No doubt the allocation by the Minister of Finance in this year’s budget of $3.1 billion to continue this dynamic interlocking provision of the most advanced forms of internet technology to equip our youth to face the fast paced global changes in the world cannot and should not be dismissed.
The Government of today is cognizant of the value of education for youths as they prepare to enter the working world to maintain a family and, more importantly, to carve out their independence financially.
The multipronged approach and thrust to nurturing young minds in and out of school, improving their academic credentials and providing them with the tools to access education at every level is now available to every Guyanese be it from the rural, urban or hinterland communities.
The PPP/Civic has not reneged on its promises in the manifesto as relates to universal education access and facilities for youth. More schools populate Guyana. There is obvious rehabilitation going on in schools. There is development of facilities conducive to learning. There is improvement in technology, in scientific equipment necessary for academic prowess. We do not say that we can be compared in any way to the big developed countries but we are moving, we are trying and this is what this budget is all about – building on a strong foundation.
In the hinterland, I can say, there are a number of schools. The number of schools has not only increased, but the numbers of students have increased. Let me tell you: the Paramakatoi Secondary School now boasts 700 students compared to 35, Santa Rosa now has 300 students and a new secondary school will be built in Kato, one is currently being built in Sand Creek.
I have to come back once in a while to the past. No longer do our hinterland children have to come in droves – and that too only 1% of them – to acquire education at that level, it is provided right there in their communities through 13 high schools; 5,768 students attend these schools and they are in North West, Santa Rosa, Port Kaituma, Wakapau, Saint Cuthberts Mission, Waramadong, Bartica, Paramakatoi, Mahdia, Annai, Aishalton and I can go on but I think that the message is clear.
Under the PPP/Civic Government the hinterland children have been given back their fundamental right to education at that level which they were deprived of under the PNC Government.
It does not stop at just education; there are innovative programmes, such as the National Feeding Programme which filters down into the Hinterland, the School Uniform Programme; we cannot say that these are things that are not being done. Students who need boarding or need to attend schools out of their communities Government pays for – their boarding, accommodation, food, their uniforms, everything. [Dr. Ramsarran: Transportation is in there too.] Yes, thank you Minister, transportation as well. 63 are currently boarding at Student dormitory at Liliendaal and there are other Guyanese students who are boarding around the country. How can any Opposition with the interest of Guyanese children at heart, more so the hinterland Guyanese children deny the obvious provision that has been made to remove them from the obscurity under which they languished in the years gone by.
As I said, provision for education is not only made in school but out of school. The Guyana Learning Channel which broadcasts programmes complements the education curriculum for all students countrywide.
Young people in their pursuit of academia, more than any other time in history, are more diligent. Young women easily surpass their male counterparts. The number of graduates from the University of Guyana has increased. I am a product of the University of Guyana, and a proud one. Had I not had this Government in power I would have had to do National Service and perhaps I would not have been where I am today. Many young women, like me, serve this country at all levels and they serve at the University of Guyana, as I did or in various sectors across the country.
Not only the University of Guyana has been earmarked in this budget for development in research, infrastructure, student loans, science and technology, education, curriculum reform, but also tertiary level education has been earmarked for continuous improvement to cater for all students who enroll in the diverse programmes.
Young people in Guyana, like anywhere else in the world, have diverse interests and diverse interests lead to differences in career ambitions. With the decentralisation of services and facilities and the injection of finances in an extensive, but not exhaustive, list of institutions and training facilities, the construction of vocational centres, Government has catered for youths in all stages of the education or vocational climb and with an expected expansion in our human resource pool in every single Region. All youths have been targeted: school drop-outs, victims of neglect and abuse, orphans, those with special needs, those who are vulnerable, those have been denied education in the past, those who need to improve in core subjects to progress further in the working world. I can name all of these institutions and I can tell you that they are functioning and that people are graduating and coming out of these institutions every year: the Cyril Potter College of Education, construction vocational training institutes in Regions 3 and 5,a new $427.5 million technical institute at Leonora, facilitation of skills training under the Board of Industrial Training (BIT) in Region 2, National Training Programme for Youth Empowerment (NTPYE) which allow not only youths but single parents to be trained in mechanics, electrical repairs, welding, masonry, catering, patient care assistants, record keeping, cosmetology, garment construction and information technology. There is infrastructural works at the Smythfield Drop-In Centre, the Sophia Training Centre, the facility at Madewini Youth Camp, the Community Action Component (CAC) of the Citizens Security Programme which targets out of school youths in communities such as: Sophia, Annandale/Lusignan, Port Mourant, Kilcoy/Chesney/Fyrish, Overwinning/Edinburgh, and Agricola/McDoom. By the end of 2011 over 1400 youths would have benefitted from that programme alone. Additionally, hundreds of youths completed training under the Youth Entrepreneurial Skills Training at the KuruKuru Training Centre and Sophia. Through its vocational and skills programme, Government would have trained in 2011 over 2900 out-of-school youths and other vulnerable young people under these programmes.
Apart from our local programmes, scholarships are offered to students. We can speak about the various types of scholarships offered. Scholarships are offered to our hinterland students through the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, GFC and the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture. There are many other scholarships available. The recent one made known would be the scholarships to Cuba where a number of our students were trained in medicine, engineering, architecture and a number of other fields and today we are seeing the benefits when those students come back to Guyana and can fill voids and spaces which would have existed if we had not undertaken that initiative. These are young people – not young people from Georgetown – from every corner of the country. That is what the Government is all about: universal access, universal opportunity and catering for the welfare of every single Guyanese.
Mdm. Speaker, the generous allocation of $26.5 billion for the education sector in 2012, is not only an investment in our youth of Guyana but is a legacy that will not be forgotten.
We can talk about employment; much has been said. We look at the traditional modes of employ and every year at least 6,000 or more young people emerge from schools and they fill voids in areas such as teaching, nursing, security, technicians; but yet, look at the vistas that are opening. Employment vistas are opening with the expansion of the housing programme, construction jobs are available. When one talks about drilling and exploring for oil those job opportunities will open up for young people. When one talks about other areas that are under discussion and development by this Government of Guyana how can we say that young people do not have opportunity for employ? Before we say that, we should also insist that our young people access the opportunities that are available to them for education and training to prepare them for employment, and that is available too.
As a young person I am not going to stand here and say that everything has been done and that every Member who sits here is complacent and confident that all that has been done; I would not be true to myself, but if you were true to yourself you would admit that things have been done. Things continue to happen and things will continue to happen if we can work together for the future of Guyana and our people.
All Guyanese youths are urged to explore their creative dimensions and through the Ministry of Youth, Culture and Sports young people would have received training in drama, filmography, dance, fashion and various arts. They are given various fora at which to exhibit and express these talents. The recent acquisition of a music school opens yet another avenue and all of these avenues encourage our young people to chart bold directs and to become pioneers and entrepreneurs in the creative arts.
More young people today own business; more young people today are doing things out of the box. Youthful energies can now manifest themselves in manifold directions through the sports infrastructure which caters for all Guyanese. Let us list them, if you have not already heard them, or read of them in the present budget. I will list them for you:
the National Aquatic Centre at Liliendaal
the country’s first public squash courts at the Racquet Centre in Georgetown
the completion of the Bartica Community Centre
the upgrading of the National Gymnasium
the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall
the National Stadium…
There is a multitude of programmes that exists and I would like to go on all night telling you about it, however I want to say this, I feel pain and am disturbed and I say it with a heavy heart when I hear Members of the Opposition, like the Hon. Dr. Norton, present to this country half truths and distortions and I want to let him know as a female and as a doctor I totally disagree with his standpoint on the HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccine. I would hate to tell my daughter and countless of young women that in the future, when they reach their thirties that they are having cervical cancer because this has been stopped. If one looks at authoritative medical websites and literature one would see the CDC (Council for Disease Centre), PAHO (Pan American Health Organization), WHO (World Health Organization) and Medscape – these are authoritative organisations – listing the benefits of the HPV vaccine and the one that we are using, Gardasil which covers for four strains of the HPV. Cervical cancer is the second most common cause of death for women in the world and in Guyana it is one of the leading causes of death, so I hope that Dr. Norton, the Hon. Member…
Mdm. Deputy Speaker: Hon. Attorney General, please, you are on her side.
Dr. Persaud: Thank you Mdm. Deputy Speaker. I would hope that when you speak in the future that you are fully equipped with information to present to the people of this country with responsible dissemination of that information. I would also like to advise the Hon. Member Ms. Kissoon on that side of the House that when she speaks about Linden not to, as we say in Guyanese terms, “dis” those people who work at the hospital, they are proud. Do you know what they said to me this morning? “We provide as many services in that hospital as the Georgetown Hospital.” – all of the services.
Because I am out of time, Mdm. Deputy Speaker, I will give those messages and that information to the Hon. Member but I would like to close by quoting from the Hon. Member Mr. Moses Nagamootoo who spoke in 1995 in this House, on this side of the House; he said:
“I get the distinct impression that because we are so obsessed by our own importance and our own role in the past we become blind to the innovations which are taking place in the present.”
Hon. Members I beg of you, let your words not be empty, let your heart be filled with compassion for the people of Guyana and work together to make this debate not one of empty rejoinders and repartees, but meaningful debates that will work for the welfare of the people and keep us united for the prosperity of the people of Guyana. I thank you. [Applause]
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