President commissions multi-million dollar youth projects
By Nivedta Kowlessar
Guyana Chronicle
June 22, 2003

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SIX multi-million dollar youth projects were yesterday commissioned in Region Five (Mahaica/Berbice) by President Bharrat Jagdeo, who recommended the facilities be used not just for recreation, but training in business, and counselling on HIV/AIDS and suicide.

The projects - a $2.4M spectator stand at D’Edward Village; a $3.6M pavilion and community centre at Rosignol; a $4.5M pavilion and community centre at Blairmont; a $7.1M training and computer centre at Hopetown; a $3.3M spectator stand and playground at Calcutta and a $3.3M training and computer centre at Fairfield - were developed under the President’s Youth Choice Initiative.

President Jagdeo, who envisioned the Initiative three years ago as an anchor for community development, said it has progressed despite difficulties with contractors and consultants and amid criticism that it was “just an election gimmick”.

The new spectator stand at D’Edward Village.
“…I’m very pleased about the use of the money…and for those people who are always critical, they should come out and have a look at these communities and talk to the young people here, then they’ll get a better feel of what these projects mean for their lives,” he said after a hectic day with the beneficiaries in the six villages.

Critics have accused the Government of electioneering with the Initiative because it was announced at a meeting at Bush Lot Secondary School when the country was preparing for its last general elections in 2001.

However, President Jagdeo said the projects have a “wonderful role to play” in not just kick-starting sport development, but serving as a nucleus for stimulating more HIV/AIDS awareness and beating its stigma, and providing counselling and guidance services in a region faced with a high rate of suicide.

A section of the gathering witnessing the launching of a Pavilion and Community Centre at Blairmont.
The Government is funding 400 projects under the Initiative countrywide, some of which are providing information and technology training to youths, whom the President noted, are growing up in a world that is increasingly rewarding knowledge.

The facilities can also incubate a spirit of entrepreneurship with the teaching of business management and risk-taking, which fits in with the changing global pattern of less government and more private sector control, he said.

The Initiative would help with the all-around development of youths by building multi-ethnic tolerance, which the President noted is in keeping with its original goal to build more cohesive communities to help solve national problems.

This kind of unity, he said, is necessary for small, poor countries like Guyana to not only develop, but deal with global threats.

Despite political differences, Guyanese have learned to live and work well together and the President said he is hoping the recently launched ‘constructive engagement’ with the opposition can bring an economic turn-a-round and attract investment.

THE President, with garland, interacts with youths at the new Rosignol Pavilion and Community Centre
He pointed to other problems, such as the rise in violent crimes linked to a steady influx of deportees from the United States, and noted that even though security forces have had a recent a breakthrough with the slaying of several notorious criminals, Guyana still has a “long way to go”.

However, the Government is trying to make improvements that will benefit youths, the future of the country, he said, referring to several major projects in the pipeline.

These include the rebuilding of the New Amsterdam Hospital with a more than $2 Bln Japanese grant; the bridging of the Berbice River, likely in the vicinity of Everton; a $4Bln contract to repave and widen the Rosignol to Mahaica public road and a $700M project to rebuild bridges across the Mahaica and Mahaicony rivers.

More than US$100M is also being invested in a modern sugar factory at Skeldon to help the country gear for the loss of preferential markets in Europe.

Representatives of communities where the six projects were commissioned yesterday promised to maintain the facilities, with one describing the launching as a “dream come true”. A Hopetown young lady aptly expressed her community’s mood over their newly launched training and computer centre with soulful moves to Celine Dion’s ‘A New Day”.

President Jagdeo promised help with better telephone and electricity supply and said he wants to “clean the slate on the first round” of the Initiative with a review of all the projects before moving to a second phase.

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