Region l0 is neglected in the national budget
Stabroek News
March 28, 2002

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Dear Editor,

Guyana's National Budget for 2002 has been touted as a package to benefit all Guyanese, but has missed its target in Region 10 by miles. This Region , often described as an economically depressed area, has received only 8.84% of the figure budgeted for its capital developmental needs for this year.

Our budgetary proposals to central government were done through direct consultation with the people within our region, even to the extent of inviting direct submissions of project proposals from individuals and organisations. The Regional Democratic Council of Region 10 has identified with the needs of the people within these various communities, since its policy of consultation with its constituents allowed access to first hand information on these issues. Taking this information into consideration formed the basis on which these approaches were made to Central Government in the form of budgetary proposals.

Consultation on the provisions in the budgeted estimates for Region 10 is definitely lacking, as is illustrated by the government withholding 91% of the sum requested by Region 10. A close look at the budget for 2002 has shown that in at least one instance there has been an allocation of finances from central government which does not take into account what the Regional Democratic Council has projected for the development of the agricultural sector in the lower Berbice area.

An example of this exists where central government has allocated the sum of $4 million to build a storage bond on the banks of the Berbice River at Takama. The request for the bond was in lockstep with the proposed construction of a fair weather road from Milly's Hideout on the Linden Soesdyke Highway to Sand Hills/Takama on the Berbice River.

The absence of the Berbice River Steamer service over the past 10 years or so, which the residents of the Berbice River from DeVeldt to Hururu had depended on solely to take their farming produce to market in New Amsterdam., has resulted in a very serious decline in agricultural activities in the communities along the Berbice River. This also resulted in the residents experiencing severe economic hardship.

The Regional Democratic Council of Region 10, in an effort to stimulate and encourage the residents along the Berbice River to return to their farms and large scale cultivation, had proposed to central government the development of an already existing trail from Milly's Hideout on the Linden Soesdyke Highway to Sand Hills/Takama on the Berbice River, upgrading it to a fair weather road.

The upgrading of this trail to a fair weather road would have provided improved access to lower Berbice and provided a farm to market road for farmers in that area. Constructing a storage bond at Takama was conceptualised around the foreseen increase in agricultural activity in the area as a result of the provision of this road, with the increased production necessitating a storage facility.

While the Government did not allocate the money for the construction of the road, money was allocated for the construction of a storage bond. Had the government consulted with the R.D.C., they would have realised that the bond at Takama and the farm to market access road are interlinked, therefore the funds should have been allocated for the building of this road, if only for its foreseen positive impact on such a large section of the population in Region 10. This bond would essentially be another white elephant if the relevant support for the farmers in the area through the provision of a farm to market road is not provided.

The fifth Democratic Council of Region 10 has pursued a mandate of active consultation with our constituents with regard to developmental efforts. We would have envisaged that this would have translated to consultation at higher levels, including central government, with the direct beneficiaries of developmental efforts being able to determine the project to be undertaken in their interest.

While there has been some allocation for the upkeep of the roads in Region 10, it is woefully inadequate to deal with the miles of roads in dire need of maintenance. Vital links within the Region such as the Linden to Ituni and Kwakwani road, the road to Rockstone and Anarika and other community roads make up more than 200 miles of roads to be maintained by the Regional Democratic Council of Region 10. With only $10 million allocated by the government to do this task, links between several communities in Region 10 will be cut off.

This figure allocated must be viewed against the cost of upkeep of one mile of fair weather road, estimated at $2 million as well as against the allocations for roads to Region 6 ($37 million), Region 3 ($32 million) and other Regions.

A close look at the budget would reveal areas of concern, including the disparity in the allocation of resources between Regions. Of immediate concern to the Regional Democratic Council of Region 0 is the continued lack of direct allocation of financial resources to agriculture in our Region. With the decline of large industries of Region 10, diversification of our economic endeavours is of paramount importance and a transition to various alternative industries, including large scale agriculture, is desirable.

Region 10 has also received minimum consideration in the areas of resources to allow our elected officials to effectively execute their mandate. The Regional Democratic Council continues to execute its functions without a vehicle being made available to allow it to cover the 3,655 square miles which fall under its purview. Region 10 has not received an allocation of a vehicle from central government since 1993. This situation continues even after the death of the Regional Vice Chairman, the late Bernell 'Acku' Thomas, in the line of duty in a vehicular accident where blame could be apportioned to the defective state of the R.D.C.'s vehicle.

The 2002 budget has allowed for Region 10 to secure one 4x4 double cab pickup to be used by the Works Department, leaving the other sections of the R.D.C. effectively without transportation. The neglect of the people of Region 10 evidenced by these refusals to allocate resources where they are sorely needed and to consult with the beneficiaries on their priorities is indeed troubling. One is left to wonder whether this indicates an oversight or an orchestrated effort to marginalise and impoverish the people of this Region.

Yours faithfully,

Mortimer Mingo

Regional Chairman Region 10