Parliament approves Budgetary allocation for the Ministries of Agriculture, Tourism
-as Government aggressively moves ahead with economic diversification initiatives
The Budgetary allocations for the Ministries of Agriculture and Tourism received Parliament’s approval following meticulous examination of the Estimates of Expenditure during the 60th Sitting of the Twelfth Parliament on Tuesday. Opposition Members made several queries about the provisions made under the various line items in the Agriculture Ministry’s Budget including the amounts for the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO), Brackish Water Shrimp and Drainage and Irrigation works while they also queried provisions under the Tourism Ministry including those for Small Business Grants. Responses to all queries were provided by Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha and Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce Oneidge Walrond.
During his Budget Presentation to the National Assembly on Monday, January 16 last, Senior Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh had reiterated Government’s commitment to diversification of Guyana’s economy especially with focus on these two major non-oil sectors through increased production and productivity, expansion in acreages and use of technology to diversify into new crops and varieties; promoting high-value and value added, including through agro-processing; and easing the access, for farmers and consumers, to markets.
“In the interest of advancing the food security and agri-business agenda, we will, in partnership with the private sector, establish a regional food hub incorporating critical elements of the production and supply-chain such as cold storage, manufacturing and processing capabilities, in order to promote improved access to markets, both export and domestic, Establish the capability to harness greater use of science, technology and research and development to promote innovation and product development, promote hinterland agriculture for food security and self-sufficiency, as well as to meet the needs of markets beyond the local community,” Dr. Singh had said indicating that $2 billion was allocated in Budget 2023 for these initiatives.
Government had reminded that when it assumed office in August, 2020, it was greeted with a sugar industry that was neglected and decimated with fields and factories abandoned and billions of dollars in machinery and equipment left to the elements, and over $2.5 billion in valuable standing canes were left to rot in the fields of the estates in Skeldon, Rose Hall, Enmore and Wales. Additionally, during the period of the former Administration, 7,000 workers were severed, and their extended families left without a livelihood. Government has since committed to the revitalisation and restructuring of the sugar industry to support a diversified and modernised sector, ensuring its sustainability and economic viability.
Additionally, Government has launched the Agriculture and Innovation Entrepreneurship Programme (AIEP) to incentivize young people to pursue careers in agriculture. The programme has seen over 100 students engaged in shade house farming, growing crops such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and romaine and iceberg lettuce with over 16 metric tonnes of vegetables produced.
As regards to the Tourism industry, another sector on which Government has placed major focus for diversification purposes, increasing hotel room capacity has been ongoing with the new Marriott under construction at Ogle and Four Points Sheraton in Houston which will each offer 150 rooms upon their completion while an additional 140 rooms are expected to be available from the construction of the Marriott Courtyard at Timehri and 350-500 rooms at the Pasha Global at Liliendaal. Further, the Aiden by Best Western hotel at Robb Street is advanced in its construction, and once completed will add some 101 rooms to current capacity.
In relation to training and specialised skills to boost the capacity of the country’s human resources, Government, over the last two years, executed various hospitality and tourism related training programmes to over 3,500 persons. Capacity will also be boosted with the completion of the Tourism and Hospitality Institute, which will cater for the training of 2,500 persons annually. Additionally, successful engagements were done with British Airways to commence operations in Guyana in March this year. Meanwhile, another flight service is expected to be introduced on the Guyana-Canada leg.