– as gov’t prepares to roll out cash grants to fisherfolk
Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha today met with groups of fisherfolk from villages along the East Coast of Demerara to discuss the $150,000 one-off relief grant which was recently announced by His Excellency, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali.
The meetings were held with fisherfolk from Annandale, Mon Repos and Montrose.
Minister Mustapha said since assuming office, government has been working to improve the lives of citizens and help them deal with the rising cost of living. He noted the many initiatives and direct cash transfers that have been implemented by the administration over the last two years.
“You know with the Covid-19 pandemic, the cost of many items increased significantly, especially basic food items. We started with the covid grant, then we restarted the school grant for children, and last year that was extended to private school children. We also restored the water subsidy for pensioners and increased old-age pension and public assistance. I am mentioning these things so that you can see all the things we have been doing; all the efforts we’ve been making to put monies back into the pockets of the citizens,” the minister said.
He said government was aware of the hardships in the sector due to the decline in catches over the last three years and the rising cost of living caused by the pandemic. He said although reports suggest that the catches have been improving, fisherfolk were still finding it difficult to afford basic household items for their families and that the grant will be able to assist with those needs.
The minister, however, cautioned persons not to try to defraud the system given the fact that there were issues with persons receiving monies who were not entitled to during the distribution of the flood relief grants following the 2021 floods.
“When we looked at the fishing sector; and many times, the fisherfolks would ask what relief was available for you. The president and the government have decided that we will give every person working in the industry will receive a $150,000 grant. Let us ensure that this process is done well. Let’s not try to smart the system. We had issues with the flood relief with farmers. I don’t want this thing to happen in the fishing sector. When we have the list, we will return and let you, the fishermen verify the list before we distribute the grants. We have to have a list that is transparent; a list with people who are working in the sector and need the benefit,” the minister noted.
He told those present that the government will be making the funds available after a verification process which is expected to commence by the end of the week.
Minister Mustapha also said the process of having boats licensed would also assist with the verification process but some persons do not license their boats.
“When we ask that the boats be licensed some of you do not want to do that even though we would’ve reduced the licensing fees. When your boats are licensed, we’ll have that database and that would make this process easier,”
Minister Mustapha said that the government was making funds available to assist farmers with developing the industry.
“This year we are looking to increase production and because of the high cost of fertilizer, farmers are finding it very difficult to go back to the land. The government will be making $1 billion available to purchase fertilizers that will be given to farmers and this is for both cash crop and rice farmers. We’ve also removed the taxes that were imposed on certain sectors like the fishing industry. All the VAT that was placed on fishing materials and agriculture machinery,” he noted.