Gov’t using strategic approach to address informal settlement issue

The government is working on a strategic approach to address informal settlements or squatting areas across the country.

Housing and Water Minister, Collin Croal said informal settlements remain a challenge for the government. He said the issue must be addressed frontally, especially since Guyana is seeing rapid infrastructural development.

Squatter settlement in Sophia

Addressing the launch of the Global Action Plan Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme, Monday, the housing and water minister said infrastructural development which includes roads and highways has brought new demands for an urgent studied, sustainable solution.

To this end, the government has undertaken a study which disclosed that citizens must be made aware of the plans and programmes regarding informal settlements.

We are now in possession of a rich base of information which will inform decisions and the committal actions and importantly, we were able to rally support for the strategy.  By now it must be clear that the transformation we seek will be expensive and therefore any plan, programme or strategy must have adequate financing to achieve its goals,” the minister noted.

To successfully manage the issue, Minister Croal said there must be political will for continuous investment. While there are budgetary constraints, the informal settlement transformational programme is funded through a combination of loan financing, and grants from various bodies.

“Lessons from Sophia, one of Guyana’s largest informal settlements, which has been undergoing regularisation for over 20 years, has demonstrated the capacity for residents of informal settlements to invest in housing once the security of tenure has been established.  It is testimony to the socio-economic diversity of households living in informal settlements as well as the capacity for residents to leverage local resources, whether, through savings or overseas remittances, these are tools that can be encouraged and harnessed,” the housing minister said.

The elimination of informal settlements is part government’s ambitious housing targets for Guyana.

“To achieve this, we have introduced incentives and interventions ranging from subsidies to the provision of cement and steel to any citizen constructing a house but there is much more to be done, we must bring greater awareness of the issues involved in informal settlements, build stronger partnerships, develop long term solutions and ensure that there is always political will to confront this challenge,” Minister Croal said.

He noted that the launch of the global action plan framework is a timely and critical global response to the challenges informal settlements and slums pose to countries.