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…accuse each other of stymying the development of indigenous Guyanese by switching one for the other
Government Member of Parliament (MP), Alister Charlie and Opposition MP, Dawn Hastings-Williams starkly differ on whether indigenous Guyanese and the hinterland region will benefit more under Budget 2021 than in recent years under the APNU+AFC.
In their presentations to the House on the budget on Wednesday, the two MPs turned their focus to programmes that were designed by their political parties to benefit indigenous Guyanese and those in the hinterland regions.
Charlie told the House that he is pleased that the PPP/C’s Community Support Officers (CSOs) Programme — which it reinstated in August 2020 — is “well and alive” in indigenous communities. He said it is a breath of fresh air from the APNU+AFC’s Hinterland Employment and Youth Services (HEYS), which he said was a “blatant failure” with millions unaccounted for.
Charlie told the House: “The HEYS programme was a dismal failure beginning with the Head. Although $1B was budgeted annually for that programme, yet it [was] limp…when we visited the Amerindian villages it was far from what the HEYS programme was intended to be.”
When the APNU+AFC took office, Charlie said that it fired 172 Amerindian youths who were benefiting under the programme.
Added to this, the Government MP criticized the scrapping of the ‘Because we care’ $15,000 cash grant but pointed out that this will be reinstated even as Amerindians and hinterland residents have already and additionally received their COVID-19 cash grants from the PPP/C.
On the other hand, he claimed that when the APNU+AFC visited these communities donation distributions were only made to their supporters.
“You were dividing the people when you were preaching social cohesion,” he said, adding:
“Mr. Speaker, Budget 2021 is the answer for Guyana. The Amerindian people, Mr. Speaker, will benefit from Budget 2021 in many ways.”
Meanwhile, pursuing Budget 2021, Hastings-Williams said that she noticed little has been set aside for hinterland development. The Opposition MP said that programmes such as the HEYS, which catered to almost 2,000 youths across Guyana — 63 percent of which were women — the PPP/C discontinued without good reason.
Under HEYS, Hastings-Williams noted that each participant would receive $30,000; six months of training and skills development; and an additional $50,000 for business start-up should their business proposal meet the necessary standards.
Hastings-Williams asked: “Mr. Speaker, and what were the results? I proudly stand to say to this House we empowered the young people, we educated the young people and we created employment for the young people.”
The Opposition MP also spoke to the PPP/C’s CSOs Programme. She said that when the APNU+AFC took office in 2015, it did not fire these individuals as claimed but they were granted similar opportunities under the HEYS programme.
She put forward: “Mr. Speaker, I will be very, very happy if the Ministry of Amerindian Peoples Affairs can at least take the proposal that the APNU+AFC had in place for the HEYS programme. You can change it to [being named] CSO programme, I don’t mind, but go forward using that [HEYS] project because the young people in the hinterland will be very, very happy.”
In other areas of indigenous peoples development, Hastings-Williams said that the APNU+AFC had greater plans for further advancement but these were cut short by the no-confidence motion brought against the then Government by the PPP/C in 2018.