May 13, 2004
WE WELCOME the news that the European Commission (EC) and the Guyana Government have signed a five-year poverty eradication agreement.
Under the terms of the agreement, the European Union will fund the establishment of a micro-projects programme to assist in the eradication of poverty in Guyana.
The European Commission will finance this programme with the sum of G$840 million as part of its larger commitment to help eradicate poverty in Guyana, and this is expected to begin in August.
The project aims to improve the socioeconomic conditions of those most vulnerable through the development of sustainable self-help schemes.
The programme will reach those in the urban areas, the coastal villages and the Amerindian communities in the hinterland.
The allocation of funds will be as follows: employment/income generation - 50 percent, training/education, communication and good governance - 25 percent, and other socioeconomic sections - 25 percent.
In 1992, when the PPP/Civic won office in the first free, fair and transparent elections in 28 years, about 76 percent of the country's population lived below the poverty line. Now the level of poverty is below 35 percent.
This outstanding achievement was made through a positive programme of improved health, water and education, plus a housing policy that provided house lots to thousands of low-income Guyanese.
These, plus extensive road building and rehabilitation, sea defense improvements and other works provided more jobs and improved living conditions.
During this period, more people were able to remove from crowded slum conditions to better housing and more conducive living environments. Health improved with lower infant and maternal mortality (deaths).
More students were enrolled in high school, university and technical institutions, thus improving job skills.
More teachers and nurses were trained, more free scholarships abroad were awarded, new industrial sites were established and because of consistent foreign debt reduction, more funds were made available to the social sector.
These changes/improvements were part of the reasons for the remarkable drop in the rate of poverty, as well as the drop in inflation.
However, we still have a long way to go. Thus, the latest help from the European Union will go a long way to provide job skills by training and education, as well as the funding of micro-projects that will help self-employed persons to produce and thus enhance their living standards.