Gov’t starts distribution of one-off $1.73B COVID-19 relief fund

-Amerindian villages in Regions Three, Four, Five, Six among first to benefit

The Government has started disbursing sums from its one-0ff $1.73 billion COVID-19 relief fund initiative geared at creating job opportunities, income-generating and infrastructural development projects in hinterland and Amerindian communities.

Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Hon. Pauline Sukhai hands over a cheque to Toshao of Siparuta, Mr. Carl Peneux

On Friday, toshaos from Region Three, Four, Five and Six were among the first recipients of the fund, receiving approximately $115 million in total, during a presentation ceremony held in the Amerindian Village in the Sophia Exhibition Centre.

The beneficiaries are Santa Aratak ($10 million), Caria Caria ($7 million), Lower Bonasika ($3 million), Saxacalli ($3 million), St. Cuthbert’s Mission ($15 million), Tigerbone Banakari (Long Creek) ($5 million), Swann ($10 million), Waiakabra ($7 million), Laluni ($10 million), Moraikobai (15 million), Orealla ($10 million), Siparuta and Cashew Island (New River Triangle) ($10 million).

Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Hon. Pauline Sukhai told the gathering that this initiative aims to foster investment and development in each hinterland and Amerindian village, particularly those which were neglected by the previous administration both before and during Covid.

Minister within Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, Hon. Anand Persaud presents a cheque to Toshao of Santa Aratak, Mr. Hilton Williams and team

She said it would both supplement and complement her Ministry’s Presidential Grant Fund, which focuses on boosting the economic and social development for Amerindians.

“The Government is making another huge, significant, support initiative, which will allow our Amerindian communities to create a strong foundation… Amerindian leaders, council and villagers take and make use of this financial support to put themselves in full preparation mode to ensure that we have not only a Covid-free population, but many of the connections and linkages that will ensure our sustainability.”

Minister Sukhai advised the Toshaos to use the remaining sums from their respective funds to establish sustainable projects to mitigate the hardships due to Covid. 

We expect, as a Government, it will be utilised in a very sustainable manner, transparent, and with full accountability…Our Ministry will collaborate with the village councils to ensure that the proposals for the infrastructure development and income-generating projects will be a collaborative effort between villagers and councillors,” she said.

The beneficiaries are required to provide the proposal, scope of works, design and other aspects to gain full support from the Government.

Additionally, Minister Sukhai said the Ministry has already started the initiative to create information and communications technology hubs in ten villages in Region Nine. There are plans to implement this initiative in 200 villages within two years, she added.

Toshao of St. Cuthbert’s Mission, Ms. Beverly Clenkian

The Ministry has also procured 112 tractors to be used in the agricultural, forestry and transport sector, which will foster, and advance, the development of these sectors in the various Amerindian communities.

Meanwhile, Minister within Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, Hon. Anand Persaud called on villagers to capitalise on the opportunities that would unfold from the realisation of projects under the Covid grant.   

“This investment is to boost each communities’ ability to cope with COVID-19 in its long-term. Therefore, we expect the injection of funds into the villages’ economy will be a welcomed addition that each member of the community will support,” he said.

Minister Persaud also discouraged residents from disrupting this process which he said would affect their respective communities.

Speaking with DPI, Toshao of St. Cuthbert’s Mission, Ms. Beverly Clenkian said while she was previously unaware of the fund, she is grateful as it speaks to the Government’s commitment to providing a good life for citizens, despite the pandemic.

“This means a great lot for my community, especially [since] we were on a lockdown for a month which caused huge job unemployment in our village. This is also coupled with the shortage of food supplies among others so getting this grant will play a big role in my community,” she said.

Toshao of Moraikobai, Mr. Colin Adrian said the grant will allow him to boost the community’s infrastructure, particularly its agriculture sector. He explained that an access road is crucial for Moraikobai’s farmers to take their goods to market. He is also examining the possibilities of establishing a packaging facility.

“I must say a great thank you to the Government for this initiative as we see as something moving forward which more or less develop our community to a better place where we can have the youths get some programmes initiated for their benefit. So, in the next two weeks, I will sit down with the council and public to discuss our plans,” he said.

Meanwhile, Senior Councillor of Siparuta, Mr. Kingsley Hudson said, “this is a reality that we received this grant to develop our community amid COVID-19. Now I can say that the Government is serious about what they were saying about helping the people.”

Toshao of Moraikobai, Mr. Colin Adrian

The $1.73 billion fund will be distributed as follows:

Region One ($542 million), Region Two ($105 million), Region Three ($23 million), Region Four ($47 million), Region Five ($15 million) Region Six ($30 million), Region Seven ($216 million), Region Eight ($208 million), Region Nine ($454 million) and Region Ten ($92 million).