Targets will help gauge poverty reduction
- consultation on PRS told
Stabroek News
April 4, 2004

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Time-bound targets are needed to ascertain how the Poverty Reduction Strategy programme (PRS) is progressing, one participant said yesterday in a review of work in Regions Three and Four.

The PRS was enacted in Guyana in 2001 and receives its funding from diversion of debt relief money, taxes and from bilateral assistance, all with the aim to decrease poverty. Jocelyn Dow, one of the speakers and a member of the private sector, told the attendees at the Ocean View Convention Centre yesterday that what is lacking in the PRS is the setting up of time-bound targets.

Progress report consultations were also held in Region Ten yesterday and in Berbice on Friday.

Dow explained that with these targets, the problems to be resolved would be prioritised and the strategies could be properly defined. In this way, she said everyone would know if they were getting results from the capital resources going into PRS projects.

Dow added that training for community groups and facilitators is vital if the goals are to be achieved.

Pat Dial, who represented the Consumers Association, said the PRS needs to address the culture and physiological issues of poverty and to motivate citizens. The consumer activist encouraged the attendees to explore economic ventures which do not require much input from government.

Juanita Ramdial, of the Sunshine Women and Youth Group, a non-governmental agency in Region Three, said she has found that poverty was at the heart of absenteeism in some schools.

Ramdial said there has also been an increase in school attendance by children who participate in their weekly feeding programme. Some 900 children from Meten-Meer-Zorg to Hague are fed through the feeding programme which is funded by Guyanese living in the US.

The group recommended that community groups monitor the distribution of uniforms and ensure that relief reaches the poorer classes.

In the open forum Wayne Jones, who suffers from a disability, said the PRS does not seem to be doing anything for the disabled since there is no mention of programmes or allocation of house lots for the disabled.

Jones said the disabled need job training so that they can contribute to society.

Another participant asked for a clear demarcation of the PRS programmes being done by the government itself through funds directly for PRS and those being done through other funding sources. If this is done, the participant believes that a clearer pattern would be established to show what PRS funds are being used for. The participant also asked that Parliament have more input into the PRS and monitor its operations.

A member from a human rights organisation was very displeased about the one-day notice given by the PRS committee announcing the consultation. The participant argued that he was unable to fully study the progress report because of this.

He claimed the monitoring unit of the PRS has little respect for civil society, since the notices sent by the co-ordinators have little or no explanations for what the PRS meetings would discuss.

He asked that statements claiming that the opposition and the media support the violence on the East Coast should be stricken from the report since these were out of place.

This group also felt that the PRS should not be located at the Office of the President nor be chaired by Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr roger Luncheon.

The Regional Executive Officers of Region Three and Four also presented to the audience reports of what the PRS had accomplished.

Region Three reported that they were able to establish clinics, give counselling and treatment for HIV/AIDS and repair parts of the regional hospital. In the education sector they were able to provide 2000 school uniforms and rehabilitate some schools. And in the area of housing, some pipelines were laid and 1,013 titles distributed.

Regional Executive Officer of Region Four, Mohammed Deen said that as a result of the limited funding they received from the central government they were not able to do as much as they would have liked.

Deen said the region was able to rehabilitate some health centres and also build two new ones. Daily clinics are being held in 24 health centres.

In the education area, Soesdyke Nursery School was built and several others rehabilitated. Two kokers were constructed in Alliance to control the flow of water from the Demerara River.

Deen explained that due to heavy migration to the region, many schools were overcrowded, especially on the East Coast and in the Kuru Kuru area. This also leads to lack of staffing, he said.

The Region Four official called for a craft centre in the Timehri area and for schools and health centres to be built in the new housing schemes.

Some of the planned action for 2004/2005 by the PRS includes:

- to complete over 300 road structures, including bridges and farm-to-market roads

- to begin construction of the Mahaica-Rosignol Road

- to complete a four-lane highway between the Harbour Bridge and Ruimveldt

- to complete a feasibility study of the Berbice River Crossing, New Amsterdam-Moleson Creek Road and Southern Entrance to Georgetown and rehabilitation of stellings and vessels

- to complete the rehabilitation of seven hinterland airstrips and rehabilitate arrivals, terminal and sewerage system at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport

- to modernise nine drainage and irrigation projects - opening up over 120,000 acres of land for agricultural production

- to complete infrastructure for 6,500 lots in squatter settlements

- to complete infrastructure for 14,500 lots in housing schemes

- to allocate 4,000 low incomes lots

- to process 16,000 titles.

- to rehabilitate treatment systems and install water meters

- to recruit specialists under various bilateral an multilateral programmes