Guyana’s hinterland regions possess immense potential. There are untold mineral wealth to be exploited, a young and trainable population, and vast expanses of savannah lands. Yet, the people living in these regions are ranked as among the poorest.
The development of Guyana’s hinterland is however, being given renewed focus by the Coalition Government, as efforts are being made continually to provide equal access to services and resources, and opportunities that the Government is offering. Central to Government’s main consideration in addressing the needs of hinterland communities are improving the availability of adequate housing and complementing this need with the provision of certain basic amenities, such as safe water and reliable power.
The Coalition Government has committed to renewing and making the housing dream for all Indigenous citizens a reality and in this regard, it has been successful in getting the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to commit to investing US$3M for the implementation of a low income settlement programme (LIS), solely targeting the housing needs of the hinterland. This third LIS programme, as requested by the Government of Guyana, follows up on a second for which a US$27.9 loan was made available by the IDB. That phase benefitted 19,000. The hinterland component saw the construction of 122 core houses and the repair of 86 roofs in the hinterland in Regions 1 and 9.
The Coalition Government’s focus on housing is specifically on making it as affordable as possible, and also in providing improved access to housing for poor families in these regions. Improved housing for many Indigenous people would be a fundamental step towards affording them one of life’s necessities, that of of acquiring shelter; and this is why the Government has proposed building houses for Indigenous Guyanese in need, as one of its priorities.
But focus is not only on building homes, but also on developing communities in tandem with individual dwellings. To this end, the Administration has undertaken the huge initiative of transforming the hinterland communities of Mabaruma, Lethem, Mahdia and Bartica into towns, with better roads, adequate water supply and improved power supply among other services. Further, the residents of these areas are being urged to be part of the greater initiative of realising a green economy.
Part of developing these communities is also to focus on defining the boundaries of communities and awarding them land titles. In addition to the defining of the boundaries of the new towns, the Administration has since earmarked 113 Amerindian communities for demarcation and subsequently the granting of titles.
Ensuring basic amenities
Attention is also being paid to the many critical issues affecting the communities, such as the provision of electricity and safe water supply. Water is life and the new Government is working to ensure that all Guyanese have access to reliable, safe and quality potable water in every tap, town and community. In support of this objective, $252 million was provided in Budget 2015 to ensure that Hinterland residents can access safe drinking water and a reliable service. A sum of $130 million brings improvement to the water supply systems in areas such as Koko, Mabaruma, and Port Kaituma in Region 1, and Mahdia, Monkey Mountain, Princeville and Campbelltown in Region 8.
Meanwhile, to provide for the energy needs of the Hinterland, the Administration is examining renewable sources of energy. To achieve this vision, a feasibility study for a large hydropower development in the Mazaruni region has started, even as the Government explores the construction of small hydro systems in areas such as Moco Moco, Kato and Tumatumari.
Support to Local Gov’t Organs
In order to strengthen communities, the government plans to train and equip local leaders to run the affairs of their community. This also supports the government’s plan of a decentralised system of government and of placing more autonomy in the hands of local government authorities.
Currently, Regional Democratic Councils and Neighbourhood Democratic Councils are receiving support that would guide the development and implementation of action plans for their regions and communities. Meanwhile at the level of the Village Councils, councillors are receiving training in transparency and accountability. (GINA)