… Essequibians urged to conceptualise self-help programmes
Guyana Chronicle
April 4, 2004

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(GINA) - RESIDENTS of the county of Essequibo, Region Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam) Friday engaged Government Ministers and officials of the Poverty Reduction Unit of the Office of the President, as the planned Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) country consultations swung into high gear.

The Essequibo Region is one of four areas chosen by the administration to hold country consultations in order to garner feedback on the 2002-2003 implementation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy.

Presenting an overview of the PRS, Minister of Education, Dr. Henry Jeffrey pointed out that Government is doing its utmost with the available resources, adding that political stability is central to growth and development within the country.

Dr. Jeffrey told the Essequibians that ultimately they are responsible for steering their own course in terms of self-help initiatives that will directly address their poverty situation.

The Education Minister stressed that everyone should have a vision for development, and that Guyana has to move forward with one vision.

He noted too that while the government has paid much attention to improving the education sector, including infrastructure and curriculum, education will not improve economic circumstances unless jobs are available.

To this end, he urged the Region Two residents to see themselves as part of the bigger picture in their Region’s development and that of the country in general.

Consultant within the PRSP Unit at the Office of the President, Marcia Sylvester, outlined the achievements and plans of the Poverty Reduction Programme, which she said stands on seven major pillars, including economic growth, environmental protection, improved governance, human capital investment, physical investment, and improved social services.

Pointing put that the PRS implementation has so far seen tangible improvements in essential social services and other areas that are critical to human and economic development, the PRSP consultant said that treatment for HIV/AIDS patients has been a major accomplishment.

The government, through its collaboration with a local pharmaceutical company, now provides free anti-retroviral drugs to persons living with HIV/AIDS. In addition, Guyana was one of the few countries to have secured funding to tackle the spread of the HIV/AIDS virus from mother to child.

Sylvester explained that the PRSP should not be viewed as a “government handout”, but a programme aimed at facilitating the enhancement of the lives of citizens, through their active participation.

Government’s intervention in addressing poverty in the Essequibo Region includes free legal counselling, once weekly, small grants for individuals to pursue business ventures, and public assistance under the schools uniform programme.

Regional Executive Officer, Region Two, Mr. Nandkishore Persaud, told the forum that under the PRSP, the region plans to go after several projects.

These include the establishment of an Information Technology Centre, a cultural centre, water treatment plants at Anna Regina, Suddie and Charity, and the establishment of small cottage industries involving fruit, food processing and craft.

In this light, Tourism Minister, Mr.Mansoor Nadir, gave a commitment to ensuring the cottage industry initiative receives adequate and necessary assistance to come to fruition.

During an open forum after the formal presentations, residents expressed keen interest in seeing new ventures in their region, including cattle farming and diversification in agriculture production.

Essequibo residents are also desirous of having a cottage hospital erected in Anna Regina, rehabilitation of all water pumps in Amerindian communities, and improved communication and riverain transportation from farm to market.

Historically dubbed the Cinderella County, the Essequibo region is well endowed with fertile agriculture soil and thrives mainly on rice production. In brief remarks, official of the Essequibo Chamber of Commerce, Michael Etwaru said the Chamber embraces the PRSP, and views it both important and necessary.

“Growth and the private sector are important to economic development and poverty reduction,” stated Etwaru.

He noted that the Essequibo Chamber is advocating and promoting educational programmes to sensitise residents to new economic initiatives, and is working closely with the government and non-governmental organisations.

Government’s PRS has its genesis in the formulation of a PRSP paper that was completed in 2001, with specific emphasis on improved social services, enhanced economic activity and job creation.

To this end, an anticipated US$30M was budgeted for programmes geared to reduce poverty, with funding assistance from international financers. However, Guyana’s internal political and social instability dogged donor assistance and not an estimated US$15M is forthcoming for PRS projects.

This year’s budget will see some 16 per cent of the GDP channelled towards PRS programmes in the social sector, to include improved access to health care and education, potable water supply, and infrastructure development in the form of road construction and rehabilitation.

Ministers within the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security, Dr. Dale Bisnauth and Bibi Shadick were also at the Essequibo forum.