Budget Speech Mrs Marcello - 20123072 11 Apr, 2012
April 11, 2012
Mrs. Marcello: Thank you Mdm. Deputy Speaker. I rise to lend my support to the AFC (Alliance For Change) members, who have spoken before for the very first time in this Hon. House. It is indeed an honour for me to stand in this National Assembly of the People and I am cognisant that with that honour, comes awesome responsibilities.
The AFC members who spoke before and those who will come after me have made and will make critical analytical presentations, but allow me to address some matters close to my home and my people which I am sure are common all across Guyana.
The Hon. Member, Dr. Singh, painted an entrancing picture of Guyana present and in the future. However, it was like déjà vu as I listened to the Hon. Member present the 2012 budget. I was transported back in time as I am sure that I have heard many of those statements sometimes in the past. Millions for regional development, billions in health care, billions for education, millions for Amerindian development, it all sounds so familiar. But, I must ask, where did the money go? Not in Region 8, I tell you. All those millions and billions, I do not know, maybe it was spent on the coastland, because in Region 8 the people are still suffering.
Take for example the roads in Region 8 and I use the word “road” quite loosely, more relevantly, trails since they are not properly established. The so called roads in Region 8 are not in a good condition, as Paul Keens Douglas would say, “Is papa potholes, mama potholes and all them pickney potholes. It is a whole family of potholes.” There can be no comfortable safe travelling along these roads.
The road from Mango Landing to Mahdia itself is in a terrible condition. Moreover, buses using Mango Landing must not pay toll, because I strongly believe the companies are exploiting people who are looking for a living, for example, Demerara Timbers Limited, they are extracting the resources, yet still exploiting the people. It is like making rich people richer and poor people poorer.
The water situation in Region 8 continues to be a major problem. To some extent pipelines have been fixed at Mahdia, but there are more repairs to be done. In Campbeltown, almost 70% of the people are still without water. This presently applies to Amerindians at Campbeltown and not Mahdia.
The water situation at Paramakatoi is also in disaster. Persons at Paramakatoi use small creeks for bathing and washing purposes. This water is stagnant due to dry the weather and this has lead to the spread of scabies among the population. There is a typical example of this, a week ago, a team of Regional Officials visited the area and spent a couple of days there. On their return they had to seek media attention at the Mahdia District Hospital to treat scabies. Maybe word has gotten around so we do not see Government Officials visiting Paramakatoi. We need potable water at Paramakatoi at Mahdia to better serve the people.
Additional wells for Paramakatoi - since the Paramakatoi population is increasing rapidly and Paramakatoi serves not only the people or the residents at Paramakatoi, but persons children from 21 different locations come in to attend Paramakatoi Secondary School.
The region is looking at the infrastructural development of health centres, health posts and the upgrading of hospitals in Region 8. We welcome this. Anyway the moneys allocated in the area of health for the region, is very limited and we are asking for the figure to be increased to cater for the works to be done. For example, if we have to build a new health centre at Princeville, with living quarters, we will be left with no finance to work with on the expansion of Kuru Kaburu Health Centre, which needs urgent attention.
Nurses and other workers at the Mahdia District Hospital - I can give you a typical example of myself. I am a non-resident of Mahdia, but residing at Mahdia right now providing services at the Mahdia District Hospital. It has been my bad experience working overtime, whereas the Ministry says that the working hours should be from 8 o’clock to 4.30 in the afternoon, I go beyond that and I have written a letter to the Hon. Minister, Dr. Ramsarran, I believe is that is the correct name and no response has been given up to now. I was asking him if ... not for plenty money, but if at least $10 000.00 can be given to pharmacy assistants who will be working overtime and who will be called upon at any hour in the night to come out and to treat Malaria patients upon diagnoses. Up to now, no positive response has been given.
The Mahdia District Hospital needs 24 hours guard services with attractive salaries. If you look at the salaries being paid to security guard at the Mahdia District Hospital or in Mahdia generally, it is $20 000 per month and this is being payable within two months. There is only one security guard and I strongly believe that if one nurse has to be on a shift, it is insecure. For me as a person providing services at the Mahdia District Hospital, to come out to the hospital at wee hours, like 9.15 p.m. to treat Malaria patients, is not safe; and for a woman too. Most of the times I am being left alone because of the little salary that I normally work for cannot be afforded by my husband who has to venture into mining areas looking for extra dollars. I am a woman of four children. Most of the times when I open the door, I leave it opened and venture to look after the health of persons at Mahdia. Nurses’ salaries as well should be increased, because there are some nurses who can work day after day because of the shortage of staff. Most of the nurses providing services at the Mahdia District Hospital are not the residents of Mahdia, there are some persons from Region 9, Region 3 and from all over.
I therefore, strongly suggest that the security be tighten at the Mahdia District Hospital since there has been an influx of criminals getting away from the Coast to those mining areas and hiding. It is not safe for these workers to be working late hours without security.
Another important thing that has to be addressed at the Mahdia District Hospital is communication methods; I should say telephones. The Mahdia District Hospital does not have, not even, one telephone. Persons, like me, use personal telephones to make contact with the Minister of Health and different persons for information or whatsoever. It is very dangerous and I am unhappy about these things happening. I am willing and happy to serve the people at Mahdia that is in Region 8, but under these situations I do not want to do it. Taking me from my comfortable home to work there insecurely is not good. So I want the present Government to tighten security at the Mahdia District Hospital.
Education in Region 8 is fast going downhill, especially since the introduction of volunteer teachers, rather than qualified teachers. There have been complains by parents that these teachers do not use curriculum guides and syllabuses provided by the Ministry of Education for education delivery. Instead, they focus more on textbooks when planning lessons and since most of the textbooks are outdated it is placing the students at a disadvantage. I was also made to understand that these teachers do not have adequate educational skills to deliver education. Some of them have poor grades and do not have the potential to deliver quality education to students, which will enable them to cope with the educational challenges of the outside world. Thus, performances are declining instead of increasing.
Raise in salaries of teachers – teachers, some of them work overtime, voluntarily. As one of my colleagues I believe on the other side was saying, they have been performing, but we have not been compensating the teachers who are making emphasis on the performances of the people... [Interruption]. [Ms. Manickchand: Yes, but they do not perform good.] Yes Minister.
Scholarship for Region 8 – students who have excel at CXC - there are two students who I know of who excelled at CXC at Paramakatoi Secondary School, but have not been given any scholarship to further their studies. One was forced to do teaching, which is not of his personal interest. Therefore, I strongly suggest that the Government look very strongly to the interest of young people, when it comes to human resource development.
Hon. Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh, mentioned in his budget presentation that companies are coming into Guyana and jobs will be created. I would like to ask the Minister if Guyanese are equipped with the knowledge and skills to acquire those jobs. Let me say, in relation to Region 8 when it comes to operating heavy duty machinery our young people are not equipped to capture these jobs. There is a need to train young people in trade, since for example, if we entertain outsiders to get the contracts in the region, or employment in the region, we will remain unemployed and moreover the infrastructural work they do is not of good quality as they are always in a hurry to get the work done, even if it means the quality has to be sacrificed. If we employ the citizens of the region to carry out infrastructural works, I strongly believe that they would do a better job.
Therefore, the Government should provide scholarships to young people in Region 8 and let them enter institutions such as GITC (Guyana Industrial Training Centre), GTI (Government Technical Institute), GSA (Guyana School of Agriculture), Teachers’ Training College, UG (University of Guyana) and other institutions to enhance skills in trade.
We need to produce tradesmen on the ground so that when buildings become dilapidated, pipes are being broken, we do not have to depend on “coast landers” to fly all the way from Georgetown to fix them. We will be able to do it ourselves. Therefore, I am kindly asking the Government to make human resource development a priority number one in this country, and as such development must be based on the needs and the opportunities in the community.
For too long Amerindians have been viewed as basket weavers; we are more than that. Stop the platitudes and hollow sentiments about Amerindian development. It is time to show real respect for Guyana’s first people.
Mdm. Deputy Speaker, the level of unemployment is high among the residents of Region 8, young people and adults all alike. Most of the economic activities that they are involved in are farming and mining. I can clearly remember when Minister Robert Persaud was the Minister of Agriculture he had to encourage the Grow More Campaign. People in Region 8 are farmers. If I can plant, she can plant, he can plant who is going to buy? Transportation has been a problem in this area, so even though we were encouraged to plant there was no transportation and there was no market; therefore, young people, upon leaving school, will go straight to mining areas to do mining or other things which I will address in a moment. [Dr. Westford: Mining is a job.]
There are no jobs and that is why they are looking for jobs in the mining sector, which is good but very risky. How many of you in this House would want your children to go to do mining and would want to find out that within a couple of weeks the person is dead or contracted malaria? Since we have a high level of crime in mining areas we do not see it safe for our young people, in large numbers, to be involved in mining.
What about the young men who do not want to go into mining? What are they supposed to do, steal, to earn a living, get involved in crime? Definitely they will think of abusing drugs or planting illegal stuff to sell to whomever and that is illegal and prohibited by the laws of Guyana.
Why should Amerindians not have the opportunity to become agronomists, environmentalists, accountants, lawyers, and certified electricians just like any other Guyanese.
Are these professions exclusively for “coastlanders”?
Prostitution has become a problem. Prostitution has been and still is a major issue among people in Region 8 and is left neglected. Human trafficking will reach a pandemic stage because of unemployment. Young people who left school recently have indicated to me that they feel hopeless since their performance in mathematics and English are poor and these are the requirements for higher education – they remain hopeless. I can give a typical example: I was approached by three beautiful women who are very young. One of the persons said that she had to sell her body for 3 pennyweights of gold and the other two for 1 pennyweight of gold. How much money is that? That is very little money. Therefore, they go to prostitution to earn a living since their parents cannot afford to keep them anymore because they are unemployed. This is really sad because these young people also end up as victims of HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) since they are not very knowledgeable about the activities they are involved in.
Sometimes I wonder what value the Hon. Minister of Education places on Amerindian youths. During campaigns for the 2011 Elections we were promised by President Donald Ramotar that the Government is concerned about the affairs of Amerindians. Now he is President Donald Ramotar and we need for him to manifest himself as one who keeps his promises.
I looked at the 2012 Budget specifically for two things: job creation and women empowerment in Region 8. Mdm. Deputy Speaker, I am still looking; I have even looked between the lines. We some paltry allocations for health, education, administration, but nothing concrete for job creation and nothing for women’s development.
I know that the Government will stand and recite litany of Low Carbon Development and GFIF (Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund) but we rue the days that Amerindian development must rest on the whims and the fancy of foreign countries and governments. Amerindians are Guyana’s first people; a significant percent of foreign exchange earned by the country comes from gold, diamond and forestry; this is the wealth of Amerindian lands and our heritage, yet we are being told that our development must come from handouts from foreign governments. It angers me! As a proud Amerindian woman I say that Amerindians must not support this Budget unless and until the allocations for Amerindian development are guaranteed from revenue earned through economic activities on Amerindian lands. Thank you. [Applause]
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