Guyana on top of malaria - Ramsarran
Stabroek News
February 20, 2007

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On Wednesday evening the 2007 Budget Debate continued with the government and opposition battling over health and local government strategy and Minister in the Ministry of Health Dr Bheri Ramsarran said that the country is on top of malaria.

Minister of Local Government and Regional Development and People's Progres-sive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Parliamentarian Kellawan Lall said that for Guyana to be part of the global environment it must keep its economy open even though the external environment is not always accommodating. He told the opposition that to understand the budget one will have to understand how an open economy works. The minister posited that creating a strong class of entrepreneurs and attracting foreign investment is part of the budget and this "is a clear vision". He said, too, that the opposition has not offered a viable alternative because they do no have a viable alternative.

The local government ministry is slated for some $14.6B this year, of which $3.497B is for the capital budget. Works have been planned for roads and markets and institutional strengthening for places such as Linden, Georgetown, Rose Hall, Anna Regina and Bush Lot.

Lall said a solid waste disposal management programme funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) will soon begin. A new solid waste site is also earmarked for the East Bank Demerara while plans are in train to close the Georgetown waste disposal site. In the coming days, Lall said the private sector will be signing on to a programme that will result in making a difference in waste disposal in Georgetown and its environs.

This year Region Four is expected to receive about $133M more than last year, Lall said. Region Six is slated to get $184M and Region Ten $82M. In giving these figures Lall said that there was no basis for the charge of discrimination; that the government is giving more funding to regions where it received the most support.

Co-operation Pacts

Dr Ramsarran said there is a solid team of public health workers and the budget has adequate resources to support their sector, in his opening remarks. "Despite of what is coming from the opposition, Guyana for now is on top of malaria," Ramsarran said. He singled out the distribution of mosquito nets as the basis for the reduction, by 50%, of malaria cases. Ramsarran lauded India and China for their support in this sector as well as Nigeria, which was touted as a newcomer, for providing technical support.

The minister also praised the Chinese doctors for providing very good service at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).

The Nigerian and Cuban practitioners were deployed to Region Five to fill vacancies there and at other locations, he said. Ramsarran also said that the Surgical Postgraduate Diploma Programme between the hospital and the University of Guyana will be delivered at the GPHC in collaboration with the Canadian Association of General Surgeons. This initiative is supported by the Canadian International Development Agency through the Canadian Cooperation Fund. Ramsarran said the objectives are to develop physicians with the ability to diagnose and manage the variety of problems relevant to the specialty, is often found in a community hospital setting.

Senior Citizens and Children

People's National Congress Reform-1G Parliamentarian Mervyn Williams representing Region Three (Essequibo Islands/West Demerara) decried the poor conditions under which senior citizens must wait for their pensions. "The system of issuing social assistance simply put, is not working in Region Three", he said. Williams said a recent visit to the pension payout office revealed that pensioners had inadequate seating accommodation and insufficient standing room. He also spoke of the transportation costs they incur to collect their meagre pensions.

On the topic of youth, Williams said International Labour Organisation research conducted by its Caribbean Office in 2002 found that more that 15%-20% of children are child labourers. "There are children in Region Three who are employed by road building and other contractors who are beneficiaries of huge contracts," he said. These children are as young as 12-years-old and work for $1000 per day to provide for their mothers and younger siblings. "Government must ensure that provision is made in contracts prohibiting the hiring of children," Williams said, calling for harsh penalties to be applied should a contravention occur. He also deplored shoddy work and corruption in the region pointing out that contractors are yet to be paid for schools already built and furniture already paid for still to be delivered while salaries are being paid into the accounts of employees that have resigned.

Judicial reform

On Tuesday evening, PPP/C Parliamenta-rian Mohabir Anil Nandlall, in his debate presentation, posited that the budget will create, "a society and country where all of our people can have an equal place irrespective of class, creed or race, where our dreams and the dreams of our children can become a reality‚€¦ This budget represents the first year of a five-year plan that can take our people to the promised land," he said.

On judicial reform, Nandlall said that the justice system reform strategy for which budgetary allocations are made is intended as its principal objectives to assist the government to strengthen the accountability and administration efficiency of service delivery in the justice sector and enhancing justice and improving access to justice. At the end of this process, he said, the justice system in Guyana will be completely transformed into a modern and efficient system that delivers.