President Dr Irfaan Ali has announced transformational projects for the community of Kato in Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni).
The Head of State visited the mountainous community on Tuesday to assess the needs of its residents and after consultation, it was announced that several life-changing projects have been earmarked.
The Head of State, who had asked the community members to highlight their needs, also distributed 100 hampers and toys to them and their children.
The feedback from the residents, included: a need for improved education, infrastructural works, an upgraded water system, aid in agricultural development, and enhanced recreational and sport activities.
The President’s visit follows a commitment he made to the community some eight months ago while on the campaign trail, when he assured them that he would return.
“It gives me great honour and privilege and I am happy to be back here in this community with you. A few months ago, I was here seeking your trust and seeking your confidence in electing myself as President and chief servant of you and in electing the PPP/C to office. I must thank you sincerely for the tremendous trust and confidence you placed in us when you gave us that sacred vote of yours.”
COMMUNITY ENHANCEMENT SUPPORT
In the first of several announcements, the President disclosed the formation of a special team to oversee the implementation of the priority projects identified by the residents.
The team he said will be comprised of Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Chief of Staff, Brigadier Godfrey Bess, National Security Advisor Captain Gerry Gouveia and other members of the GDF.
“I am going to form a special team for us moving forward because we are building community by community with the resources available to us. And we have our Army with brilliant engineers, great leaders, great planners. So, we are bringing them together to better serve you, to work with you to listen to your priorities…So it is for this reason that they are here, so they can listen more importantly to you. Listen to the development needs and aspirations of the people of Kato.”
The President emphasised that the development should reflect the residents’ priorities, not what people tell them their priorities are.
“It must reflect your priorities, what you see as important and how you see these things impacting your family life, your children, the young people and the community.”
The Head of State reminded the residents of the many Government interventions in spite of COVID-19; these include investments in the various regions through the regional budgets as well as having systems in place to strengthen the education and health systems within communities.
“One of the big effects of COVID that everybody is worried about is the number of children we have lost in the education system…That is why we have embarked on a multi-faceted approach in addressing the issue of education during this COVID period.”
On this note the President lauded the parents and teachers for their efforts in keeping the children of the hinterland community engaged despite the challenges.
He reminded them of the priority areas raised during his last visit to Kato including the expansion of the dormitory at the secondary school, among other issues. He also assured the residents that their children will soon have improved access to education at every level.
The President added that the community will benefit from its own ICT hub, so that residents will have access to “good internet facilities” which will allow them to pursue many opportunities.
He also announced the re-introduction of the One Laptop Per Family initiative next year, which will help the youngsters access information that is readily available to children on the coast.
In addition, several other initiatives which will directly benefit young people in the community were announced. These included improved recreational facilities to help develop skills in the area of sport and the access to scholarships through the 20,000 scholarship programme scheduled to start in 2021.
“Every single community will have the opportunity to get your best applied into this programme so they can pursue higher education.”
ACCESS TO ENERGY
Kato, like all other communities, will also benefit from access to stable electricity.
“Part of our energy plan for Guyana is to ensure every community has access to energy. Whether it is mini hydros, whether it is solar on the coastland… This is important for the children. It is important in the development of the communities themselves. These are things that are critical to the advancement of life in the community.”
DIRECT INVESTMENTS IN COMMUNITIES
The Head of State explained that Government has been working on reprioritising its resources to meet families directly thought the COVID-19 cash grants, cash grants for children and the uniform allowance for school children.
“As we speak, we are distributing the uniform allowance for school children…and that will be increased next year to $15,000 per child. So, with the cash grant and the uniform allowance, every child will be receiving $30,000. Every single child in this country will be receiving $30,000. These are the direct investments we are making.”
In addition, the president announced a comprehensive plan to address the welfare of all residents including youths, teachers, health care workers among others.
SHORTAGE OF MEDICAL SUPPLIES
The President also pointed to the shortage of medical supplies in many communities over the last five years. To combat this, he said that there will be logistical support in ensuring that communities and health centres are fully equipped, not only with human resources but also with essential medical supplies to support their health needs.
He added that the Government will be working with the community to integrate agriculture with the food needs of the region, not only in the dorms and the school but in regional hospitals and other government facilities in an effort to create work and opportunities for local farmers.
President Ali said that he intends to work with the various subject ministers, the regional authority, and other agencies including the army to see the realisation of the priority projects.
Following the meeting, the Head of State and members of his delegation, including Gouveia, Brigadier Bess and other officials interacted with residents who expressed their appreciation for the timely intervention.