As the first day of the 2021 budget debates continued on Monday, two indigenous Members of Parliament (MPs) clashed over hinterland development, defending their party’s investment in Guyana’s first people.
Lee Williams of Paruima boasted that the development of hinterland communities is more evident than ever before since the PPP took office in August of last year.
In the area of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Williams said that the continued investment by the government is a demonstration of its commitment to improving communication in hinterland communities.
In relation to land titling, the PPP MP said that when his party demitted office in 2015, it had the intention of issuing new land titles to Amerindian villages, but that the APNU+AFC coalition dismissed these attempts.
“Between 2015 and 2020… the coalition reluctantly issued only 2 certificates [of titles]. Only two. This was admitted by then Minister of Indigenous Affairs Sydney Allicock,” Williams told members of the House.
He said that after the PPP resumed office last year, it has worked tirelessly to re-energize the land titling programs.
In the 2021 budget, the government has allocated $630M to expedite the granting of land titles in indigenous villages.
“The villages are waiting with confidence for their titles to be granted. Budget 2021 is a fulfillment of the PPP’s manifesto and the PPP will deliver to the people of Guyana. Amerindian development is on the Government’s agenda,” the MP said, adding the government continues to develop access roads, even while they recently benefitted from over $200M in grants.
Additionally, he noted that health and agriculture will be significantly improved in all Amerindian communities, as the government seeks to correct the shortcomings of its predecessor.
However, opposition MP Ronald Cox was of the belief that the axing of projects initiated by the APNU+AFC was illogical and not in the best interest of the indigenous people.
“The people of the Barima-Waini region wish for the projects which were initiated by the APNU+AFC to continue,” he said.
Cox, who is also a first-time MP, described budget 2021 as being dressed with “make-up and flamboyant glares,” and added that it presents to the National Assembly what needs to be done but not how it is to be done.
The indigenous leader, who is from the Barima-Waini region also expressed concern about the $19M which was budgeted this year for Agriculture in the region.
He argued that this provision does not take into consideration farmers in far-flung communities that are constantly flooding.
“What is going to happen to them?” he questioned while adding that there is also a need to ensure that hinterland roads are climate-resilient to improve transport conditions which will boost the local agricultural industry and reveal new economic opportunities for persons living in rural areas.
“That is what the communities in our hinterland need,” he stressed.