$90M for Berbice youth projects
Jagdeo urges 'responsible' opposition behaviour

By Daniel DaCosta
Stabroek News
August 14, 2000

President Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday announced that his youth initiative project will allocate some G$90 million to projects and activities in Region Six spread across three municipalities and sixteen Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs).

President Jagdeo made the announcement while addressing more than 400 young people and a significant number of adults at the Bush Lot Secondary School on the Corentyne as his initiative moved to the sixth region in Guyana.

His announcement was met with loud applause from the gathering packed into the bottom flat of the two-storey building a stone's throw from the Atlantic Ocean. Some of the projects presented for funding included: a multi-purpose centre for New Amsterdam; upgrading the area "H" ground at Rose Hall; a skills training centre for Baracara and the development of a playground. The students of Bush Lot Secondary suggested upgrading the school's playground. A skills training centre topped the list of priorities for the youths of Corriverton and the Nos. 52-74 Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC). Other proposals included: a community centre for Crabwood Creek, playgrounds and multi-purpose courts for the Bush Lot-Adventure NDC, while skills training centres also featured in the proposals submitted by the Whim-Bloomfield, Black Bush Polder and Kilcoy-Chesney Neighbourhood Democratic Councils.

The Head of State described the conference as "a day of exploration and discussion" aimed at creating a sense among young people that they can become leaders. "We have to prepare young people for their future role by exposure and to provide the opportunity for them to interact, to work together and to formulate programmes. The way we treat our young people" he added, "we will determine whether we develop or not". Describing his job as one of creating opportunities, the Head of State called on the youths gathered to help him in the task of nation building.

Earlier co-ordinator of the programme Odinga Lumumba had pointed out that the conference had provided the opportunity for youths from across the racial divide to work together. "We do not have a problem gambling with young people because you have gambled your lives with adults, and have gotten foreign debts and bad governance."

President Jagdeo disclosed that each of the sixteen NDCs is likely to receive approximately G$4-5 million and the municipalities approximately G$15 million each for projects submitted. The total number of projects expected to be approved according to Jagdeo will be approximately fifty. The start-up time for the projects should be within the next two to three months with the implementation period being within one year. Most of the presentations at the after-lunch plenary session highlighted the need for sports facilities, skills training centres, computer training and Internet services, upgrading of playgrounds and sports equipment.

The Head of State contended that education in this century is the most important thing and opined that the legacy parents should leave their children is a sound education "not money, a house, land or a car". He disclosed that he will be making a public announcement today on contingency fees in schools. "Contingency fees are voluntary" he declared and no child should be denied access to education because of non-payment of such fees. In the past many parents have complained that these fees are being made mandatory by some schools. The President also noted that his government is in the process of securing the John's Ville Senior Citizens' Home by compulsory acquisition for use as a part of the Berbice campus of the University of Guyana.

Referring to the fact that some US$70 million now goes towards debt payments annually, Jagdeo said "this generation of young people has to pay for the excesses of the past." The gathering was also reminded that unless Guyanese keep abreast of advances in the field of technology, "we will be left behind."

In a wide-ranging address he referred to the "hostile environment facing Guyana" and pointed to the difficulties confronting the rice industry. "The European rice market has been destroyed and the price paid halved. The sugar industry is under threat and we are also faced with a difficult political situation which is holding back our country. Apart from this we have been confronted with the unfavourable weather conditions and recent border wranglings. This", he noted, "is compounded by the fact that every issue is being made a political one".

He called on the opposition to be more responsible and not to scare investors away. According to the President his government intends to use the tax system to decentralise investments and to create employment by offering incentives. "We have to encourage investments into other parts of the country and not only for Georgetown".

Touching on the problem of electricity in 17 Corentyne villages, the Head of State disclosed that "to bring electricity to the seventeen villages on the Corentyne that are now without will cost approximately half of a billion dollars and hopefully we can acquire the funds within another year".

Following the submission of the projects, the various co-ordinators will meet shortly to discuss them. This will be followed by the necessary surveys and studies by the engineers. "The expenditure on these projects", Jagdeo emphasised, "must at all times be transparent". The President added, "I am excited about my task of nation building."

Follow the goings-on in Guyana
in Guyana Today