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CDB funds projects to improve public services’ access

Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh delivering remarks at the launch of the Basic Needs Trust Fund’s seventh cycle (GINA photoi)

The seventh cycle of the Guyana leg of the Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF) was launched today to enable projects in vulnerable communities geared towards improving access to basic public services, the Government Information Agency (GINA) reported.

The BNTF programme is a direct targeted poverty reduction programme of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) with Guyana and nine other Caricom countries. With US$6.1M funding from the bank and the Guyana Government’s US$1M contribution, the total programme size of the project is US$7.1M.

President of the CDB Dr. William Warren Smith, speaking at the launch at Duke Lodge, Kingston, said from 1970 to 2012, Guyana has been the largest beneficiary accessing US$165M in SDF loans at 2% interest. Dr Smith said Guyana has received 12% of the total BNTF seventh cycle funding, the highest amount any country is receiving, a reflection of the CDB’s interest in Guyana.bntf2

Speaking of unemployment, which is a problem in other member countries, as it is in Guyana, Dr. Smith said that human resource development is the most efficient way to generate opportunities, to increase employment and curb inter-generational poverty.

The current BNTF cycle will have more focus on dealing with paucity of qualifications and skills, hence, “We will build on the work carried out in the previous cycles of BNTF to reduce the skills gap, empowering people not only to seek employment but to develop their own businesses,” he said.

The CDB head cited the example of Guyana undertaking the Information Communication Technology (ICT) programme that has enabled communities to be equipped with computer labs and staffed with instructors.

Speaking about the many positive stories of how people’s lives have changed under the BNTF, he indicated that the bank is making a difference.

Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh, who is also Chairman of the CDB, in a brief review of the programmes completed under this programme pointed to the development of roads on the coastland that have been of significant benefit for students, pedestrians, vehicles owners, farmers and citizens at large. In December 2012, an agreement was signed with the bank for a US$34 million project to rehabilitate the West Coast Demerara Road. This is an important road artery which supports the social and economic services within Region Three and the country as a whole.

Prior to that, a US$16 million project was sealed to upgrade hundreds of community roads under the Community Road Improvement Programme (CRIP). Twelve NDCs in Regions Three, Four, Five and Six are the beneficiaries of the CRIP project.

Minister Singh said that the CDB has made a significant contribution to the training of young Guyanese through the BNTF programmes.  A US$7 million project catered for the construction of two new Technical and Vocational Training Centres, one at Leonora, Region Three and another at Mahaicony, Region Five and the provision of grant resources to fund the flagship the BNTF poverty programme. Dr. Singh said the CDB has occupied a special place in the Caribbean region’s landscape, since it has made its mark in delivering an extremely valuable contribution, which is very evident in Guyana, and that it has established its worth as a reliable development partner.

He said hundreds of students attend classes at the technical institutes, where they are acquiring skills in preparation for the world of work while thousands of other Guyanese also supply skills to the business sector.

Promotion of ICT has also been greatly aided under the BNTF through the construction of computer labs in schools. Minister Singh pointed out that 3,000 jobs would not have been created if it wasn’t for this sector.  Jobs in the training and technical aspects have enabled increased access to Information Technology.

He also mentioned the soon to be completed fibre optic cable being laid from Lethem to Georgetown which is to be the backbone of IT in Guyana.

Areas to be targeted in the seventh cycle of the programme include skills training with a view towards the reduction of unemployment. The development of ICT in Guyana will also be targeted.

BNTF supports sustainable asset building and livelihood strategies of communities. Its method of implementation is participatory, allowing for a more socially inclusive development process. Interventions include infrastructure and services, training for income earning and institutional development for social re-adjustment and community organisation and management. Regional Programme activities focus on ensuring compliance with regional and international standards for environmental sustainability, disaster risk reduction, gender equality and project management.

To date, there have been six replenishments of the BNTF. The seventh BNTF cycle started in 2012 and has three key development priorities:  Education and Human Resources Development; Water and Sanitation and Community Access Roads and Drainage