Region One leaders welcome $542M COVID-19 relief funds

-say sums would be used for ICT, sustainable projects

Leaders of communities within Region One have lauded the Government’s COVID-19 relief fund, which has seen the Region receive some $542 million to resuscitate hinterland village economies through community projects.

Minister of Housing and Water, Hon. Collin Croal

Minister of Housing and Water, Hon. Collin Croal this week led a team to the Barima-Waini Region where he distributed the funds to 77 villages in the Moruca ($222 million), Matarkai ($99 million) and Mabaruma ($221 million) sub-districts.

Toshao of Yarakita, Ms. Nalini Rose, said she received $10 million which would be used to build an ICT Hub for students to do their virtual learning.  A minibus would also be purchased to transport residents to and from the Mabaruma township to conduct business. She said the projects would benefit close to 1,000 residents.

Toshao of Yarakita Village, Ms. Nalini Rose

Ms. Rose expressed gratitude to President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali and the Government for initiating such a significant programme, even as her village continues to grapple with the effects of the pandemic.

The newly-established Wanakai village in the Mabaruma sub-district, was not excluded from the programme. This village, which has a population of just over 80 persons and is led by a Community Development Council (CDC) received $3 million for a ginger production project.

Chairman of the Wanakai Community Development Council (CDC), Mr. Simon Roberts

Chairman of the CDC, Mr. Simon Roberts said the lands were already identified and cleared. All of the residents would be involved in the production of ginger, which will be sold at the Kumaka market in Mabaruma.

Over in the Matarkai sub-district, Baramita, which has a population of close to 4,000 Caribs, received $15 million, some of which will be used to rehabilitate the village guesthouse, which will be a source of income for the community and create employment opportunities.

Toshao, Ms. Sharmain Rambaju told the Department of Public Information, that the remaining funds would be used to purchase an all-terrain vehicle and a minibus to be used for hire, and for emergency purposes. Chainsaws would also be bought to help farmers clear their farmlands and open new ones.

Toshao of Baramita, Ms. Sharmain Rambaju

“These are some of the things we plan on doing because of the COVID-19. It has been a strain on people. It’s very difficult for them and we want to look at areas where we can provide people with jobs so that they can provide for themselves and families. We want to thank the Government of Guyana for this great initiative. We are very grateful,” Ms. Rambaju said.

Speaking at the distribution exercise at the Mabaruma Primary School, Minister Croal said the initiative is part of the Government’s plan to buttress communities affected by Covid.

One of the major components of the programme is the ICT infrastructure and internet connectivity. The administration’s objective is to remedy the communication divide in the hinterland, and to provide a space where students could adapt to online learning.

“Outside of that small portion, the majority of the resources are intended to go towards economic projects, infrastructure development projects. But in all of that there is one common theme of what they are asking for when coming up with your projects, that is to ensure that you have economic viability and job creations in your communities,” Minister Croal told the village leaders.

Meanwhile, Regional Chairman, Mr. Brentnol Ashley emphasised the need for stringent management and accountability for village assets and resources, noting there must be a consultative process as part of the execution of the projects.

A total of $1.73 billion in COVID-19 relief funds would be distributed to the hinterland and Amerindian villages and communities across the country.