Toshaos to prioritize needs with billions in next year’s budget for Amerindians

President Dr Irfaan Ali on Friday said that billions of dollars will be catered for in the 2024-2025 budget to address the ‘priorities’ of hinterland communities.

In a historic move, President Ali announced that for the first time, the Chairman of the National Toshaos Council (NTC) Derrick John will be invited to sit with the Minister of Finance during the budget consultation process.

This will directly inform the government about the important needs of hinterland communities.

“As you are aware, we operate in budget cycles and we have to plan carefully within those cycles to understand and to reflect your priorities and your needs.

“… but there are a few things that we must commit to fix and fix rapidly,” President Ali told the Indigenous leaders as he addressed the closing of the National Toshaos Conference at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre, Liliendaal.

President Dr Irfaan Ali addresses Amerindian leaders at the NTC (Photo: DPI/September 1, 2023)

The investments will include monies to improve infrastructure, expand health care and education, train young people to serve in the various sectors and improve the basic needs of persons living in hinterland and riverine communities.

The slew of measures announced by the Head of State on Friday are aimed at improving the livelihood of the country’s Indigenous people.

In terms of infrastructure, President Ali said a further $16 billion will be invested this year to support the sector in hinterland communities.  Out of that sum, $6 billion is specifically for the development of hinterland roads.

Another critical area of focus is education. To this end, President Ali said the government is embarking on an “aggressive” programme for the improvement of teachers’ quarters, hostels and the construction of new schools, where necessary.

“… (For the) remainder of this year, we have a number of facilities under education, number of hostels, schools, teachers quarters that will be constructed and completed,” Dr Ali noted.

The Head of State observed that there is “slothfulness” with the government’s WiFi programme, and assured Amerindians that work in this area will be accelerated to bridge the gap.

Chairman of the NTC, Derrick John (Photo: DPI/September 1, 2023)

“We will look at newer technology, faster technology because by the time we get to the last quarter of 2024, we must have built out a complete platform through which our teachers will sit in their villages and be able to become trained teachers from right where they are,” he explained.

The President further outlined that with massive development ongoing in the country, the desire is to not only have expanded products but also large-scale facilities available for tourism development.

“One of the things we also want to do is to give your people a chance to work also in the new hotels that are coming.

“So, a special initiative will be launched to train and certify your young people in hospitality management, and then in every single region, they will take the new hotels that are coming on stream to do a recruitment drive so that they can recruit from your communities,” Dr Ali revealed.

There will also be “intense” investment in healthcare over the next three years which will include the construction of new health centers and hospitals, the expansion of telemedicine and the training of community health workers as well as an expanded housing programme.

A section of the gathering at the NTC (Photo: DPI/September 1, 2023)

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security will roll out a new initiative in the next budget to support women, children and youths.

“Every single young person from your community or not so young with the basic qualification to enter the nursing programme, once you have the basic qualification to enter the nursing programme, send us the names, the qualification and we are going to enroll you and pay for your training and development into become nurses,” President Ali pledged.

In terms of basic needs, the Head of State noted that the government is acquiring 30,000 solar household solar units to be disturbed in every household in the hinterland and riverine communities under the hinterland electrification programme.

While, over the next 12 to 18 months, families will be supported with a further 2,000 black tanks to ensure clean water supply.