Be vigilant with poverty reduction projects
-Berbice forum urged
Stabroek News
April 6, 2004

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Consultations on Guyana's Poverty Reduction Strategy Programme (PRSP) were held in Berbice last week with participants urged to be vigilant on monitoring projects.

At the Tain Campus of the University of Guyana, Samuel Braithwaite of the Policy Coordination and Programme Management Unit spoke about the strategy's achievements and plans.

He explained that monitoring and evaluation are crucial for the sustainability of the PRS with goals to improve policy analysis in ministries and agencies to ensure effective implementation. He told the packed auditorium that future goals include the establishment of regional information centres and greater involvement of the steering committee and regional committees in the monitoring and evaluation of the PRS. He called on those present to "be vigilant and take care of the PRS projects such as school buildings, bridges and kokers."

During an open forum, a number of individuals complained about inadequate potable water supply and irrigation, unemployment among young people, poor drains, poor health service and inadequate farm-to-market roads. But others were loud in their praise for what the government had done. One said that without a stable political climate there would be no progress while criticising the way some NDCs are managed. Another, noting the importance of creating self-employment, suggested that the human resources should be harnessed and supported by the government.

The progress report which was the focus of the public consolation, records the actions taken under the PRS with a view to determining progress to date, lessons learned and the feedback of stakeholders as well as setting out plans for the next two years.

President of the Berbice Chamber of Commerce and Development Association [BCC&DA], Rohan Marray told the forum that "to reduce poverty, rural farmers need access to more markets, improved extension services of various ministries and mobile market centres to purchase and export farmers' produce." He also called for more incentives for teachers, computers and laboratories for schools across the region as well as urgent rehabilitation work on the two ferries plying the Berbice river. "To create more jobs," he suggested, the government, "should establish more industrial sites and develop the areas along the Berbice, Canje and Corentyne rivers."

Cabinet Secretary, Dr Roger Luncheon who heads the PRS steering committee, said "We can do three times more than we are now doing with the money we are spending with proper monitoring and evaluation. Minister within the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, Clinton Collymore disclosed that the Draft Local Government Reform Bill would be presented on April 15.

A representative from Region Five spoke about the need for jobs to be created in the region and the development of an industrial site at Bath/Woodley Park. He suggested that the New Guyana Marketing Corporation should purchase and export the produce of small farmers since they have been experiencing problems in marketing their crops.

Leeka Rambrich, speaking on behalf of farmers, told the forum that the rice sector was in a critical state and "if something is not done immediately farmers would not survive. The commercial banks have levied on a number of farmers and seized their properties because they were unable to repay loans. With the low prices being offered by millers and the high cost of production, a number of farmers are hesitant to embark on the second crop this year."

He noted that in 2002 Region Six cultivated approximately 44,000 acres of paddy while this crop only 32,000 acres have been planted. "Farmers," he said, "are being forced to live below the poverty line while their families are disintegrating, with some committing suicide. Drainage and irrigation is still a major problem despite the millions that have been spent over the years. The money has not been properly spent or managed."

Presentations were made by representatives of NGOs, social organisations, women and youth groups, the legal fraternity, NDCs and the regional democratic councils of Regions Five and Six.