Using the death of university graduate Elton Wray as an example, Finance Minister Winston Jordan on Thursday urged the graduating class of the Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF) Skills Training Programme to diligently comb through their individual circumstances in order to move up the ladder of success.The 156 participants from three cohorts across Regions Three and Four attendedParticipants of the training programmea graduation ceremony at the Umana Yana on Thursday, after completing training sessions funded by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).Delivering the feature address, Minister Jordan told the graduands that the event was a “bittersweet” one, as it was happening at a time when another young graduate had met his demise while attempting to rob a bank.The 24-year-old Elton Wray, who graduated with a degree in Agronomy at a Chinese university, died after he was shot by Police on Tuesday during his attempt to rob the Republic Bank’s Water Street branch. His two accomplices are currently in the custody of the police.According to Jordan, youths need to take stock of every opportunity afforded them to better their lives and that of their families.“Some of us spend most of our time watching someone else’s grass, and not enough time pruning our own. Some party all through the sunny season, but when it rains, supplies for our sustenance become scarce or even absent. What do we do then? Who do we blame? Often, we blame the Government, or our parents or circumstances. We look for everyone and everything else to blame, except ourselves. It is time to wake up!” Jordan warned.He told the graduates that persons have to “stop fostering the belief that the world owes us a living, and that the Government owes us something. We have to begin to accept that we are the ones responsible for our own lives. Parents and Government may help, but ultimately you have to take full responsibility for the state of your lives.”At the core of the operations of Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF) is the drive to address the incidence of poverty in low-income vulnerable communities. Training focusing on skills in areas such as information technology, woodworking, micro-electronics, cosmetology, garment construction, and catering makes this initiative impacting, empowering and valuable, the minister said.BNTF has also worked with small-scale entrepreneurs in the Georgetown area through the Training to Help Realize Innovative Venture and Entrepreneurship (THRIVE) initiative, to strengthen skills in manufacturing and marketing food products, inclusive of costing, packaging, pricing and distribution.These interventions, Jordan said, create employment and bolster economic activity by promoting the establishment of micro and small enterprises countrywide.“This is aligned to the wider plans of the administration to put youth empowerment at the heart of our nation’s development,” he explained.He said Government will, next year, re-establish the Guyana Youth Corps as another measure to arrest the nation’s youth unemployment problem.According to him, Government, having realised the direct impact of livelihood and entrepreneurship initiatives, has, in the 8th cycle of BNTF, moved away from bricks and mortar projects.In the ninth (9th) cycle, recently signed for US$6.145 million, emphasis will be continuously placed on improving the livelihoods of youth, with focus on renewable energy, entrepreneurship, and micro-enterprise development, he noted.Unlike the other cycles, cycle nine provides seed capital in the form of tools, small machinery and startup financing.“The intention is to empower youth, like you, not only with the requisite knowledge for business development, but take you one step closer to opening the doors of your own businesses,” he explained.According to Jordan, there are opportunities for each participant to earn a living. He noted that the skills training from which the graduands have benefited is a first step.Participants of the training program benefitted from programs such as Basic Electrical installation, cosmetology, catering and cake decoration, and garment construction. Others received training in information technology, introduction to entrepreneurship, financial management, and marketing distribution among other areas.
Amerindian Act 2006– wants initiatives under LCDS to be addressedAs Amerindian leaders from across Guyana gather for the annual National Toshao Council (NTC) conference which kicks off today (Monday), the Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) said it hopes that the conference will ensure that there is clarity and will not harm Amerindian rights and ensures that there is the widest possible consultation in the communities across the country.Flashback: A section of National Toshaos Conference during one of the sessions last yearCiting recent developments, the Opposition said there have been trends under the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition Government which is aimed at threatening Amerindian rights. The first concern relates to consistent statements made by top Government leaders to have the 2006 Amerindian Act revised.This objective, according to the Opposition, has been further re-enforced by President David Granger in a statement on June 14, 2017, that was published by the Government Information Agency (GINA) with regards to the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Lands. However, there has been no indication of what sections need to be amended, the Opposition noted in a statement on Sunday.“The PPP/C wishes to inform the NTC participants that it will support any amendments which will enhance Amerindian rights. However, it will strongly oppose any amendments that will dilute the rights of our Indigenous Amerindian peoples,” the statement added.The Opposition has expressed worry about the purpose of this push by the Government to revise the 2006 Amerindian Act in the absence of any wide-spread call by the Amerindian peoples and communities to revise this Act. Furthermore, it said any revisions must be subject to consultations with all the Amerindian communities under the principle of “free prior and informed consent” as was done during the process to create and draft the Amerindian Bill.“We have a similar worry with regard to the Government’s sloth in the implementation of the opt-in mechanism for the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS). This is critical to maintain the principle of “free prior and informed consent” with Amerindian communities. This fundamental issue requires that the Government commits at this conference to expedite the opt-in mechanism,” it added.The party said participants of the NTC should be well aware that the LCDS was one of the most innovative initiatives by the PPP/C Administration which also received international recognition. It initiated the largest pioneer carbon trading scheme for forest carbons which earned US$250 million revenue and contributed in a significant way to the further development of the country.Unfortunately, the present Government’s repudiation of the LCDS and the initiatives designed to enhance national, and in particular, Amerindian development, according to the PPP/C, has destroyed long years of work at all levels to find a modern inclusive national developmental strategy for the future.It said the Government’s often mooted alternative of a Green Growth Strategy remains a mystery with no specific initiatives to address development. Further to that, the party said by the Government’s refusal to implement the LCDS and its inability to create a viable alternative has, in fact, created an enormous vacuum. As a consequence, the Government has given scant attention to the LCDS’s identified programmes which include multi-year projects, the Amerindian Titling Project and the Amerindian Development Fund (ADF), which are fully funded under the REDD+/GRIF and the Government of Guyana/ Norway Partnership.“These have yielded no results since the change of Government. The end result is that applications for titles and extension of lands to Amerindian peoples and the demarcation of titled lands are now virtually at a stand-still. Whilst the ADF seems to have become susceptible to “cherry-picking” by the Government as to which villages will receive their project funds,” it stated.It also pointed out that the slowing down of all the initiatives of the LCDS, and, in particular the ALT and ADF projects, is a major cause of concern and should be addressed at the conference. The PPP/C said it is critical that the Government provide clarity to the NTC on the future of these projects and how soon they will be addressed.Land CoIAddressing the issue of the controversial Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into land titling, the PPP/C said while it is understood that the CoI work has put on hold the examination of issues relating to Amerindian lands, the NTC should note that there has been no amendment of the gazetted terms of reference of this CoI.Therefore, the Government has not moved from its original objective to examine and scrutinise all Amerindian communal lands titling. The Opposition has therefore encouraged the NTC conference to ensure that the Government is called on to commit to exclude Amerindian land titling from the CoI’s mandate and to revise its TORS accordingly.The PPP noted that there is a growing concern by a number of communities which are already in possession of communal titled land that these could come under threat with regard to the Government’s announcement to establish new NDCs adjacent to, encircling and/or within titled communities in interior regions.In addition to these fears with regard to land rights, there is growing concerns of ethnic and political discrimination. The first such act was the dismissal of 1972 young Amerindian Community Service Officers by the Indigenous Affairs Ministry in July 2015.“This was the single largest ethnic group to have been dismissed from the public service by the new Government. The loss to Amerindian communities across the country by the termination of this large number of young people is enormous; it is estimated that $800 million has been withdrawn from the village economies, and, 10,000 people directly dependent on these persons for their livelihood have been impoverished,” the party stated.After vigorous protests in the media, in the National Assembly and with the international community by the PPP, the Indigenous People’s Affairs Minister promised in August 2015 that the Government would replace the PPP’s CSO Programme with another such employment programme. However, this is yet to be delivered.Furthermore, there have been more casualties along the way – the delivery of health services in the hinterland regions has been plagued with constant shortages of critical and basic medical drugs and supplies, poor management, and bad decisions made at the central Ministry affecting access to these services; and, the maintenance of critical coast to interior and internal road networks has been sadly neglected.The PPP/C said, “We anticipate that many of these issues, including many other concerns, will be deliberated on by and among the NTC participants as well as in the presence of the Government. As the week of discussions unfold it is critical for the Toshaos, Councillors and other representatives to recognise that you have two powerful instruments at your disposal – the Guyana Constitution and the 2006 Amerindian Act.”