Minister Hughes whips opposition for providing ‘fake news’
…Reminds that PPP shut down sugar estates, increased old age pension by $92
Minister of Public Telecommunications, Cathy Hughes, has highlighted significant improvements within the ministry while blasting the opposition, People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), for providing ‘fake news’ on Government developments, closure of sugar estates and annual increases for pensioners.
In her contribution to the 2018 budget debate in the National Assembly yesterday, Hughes said that the strides made towards Information Communication Technology (ICT) innovation in Guyana are producing a new industry that is setting up young citizens to play active roles in their own lives, and in the development of traditional and emerging industries.
“Despite all the hot air emanating from the opposition side of the House, and their continuous attempts to deceive our people, even they cannot argue convincingly that our country’s infrastructural developments are not taking place and producing a better nation,” Hughes pointed out.
She said that the Coalition government would have been further ahead if the PPP/C administration had not thrown $2 billion down the drain behind a failed fiber optic cable project.
Hughes comes from a communication background. She told the National Assembly that there is a lot of misinformation. She stressed that the importance of accuracy is critical, especially when the media is transmitting information about the debate.
She said Members have a responsibility to inform Guyanese acutely. She said during Monday’s debate when the PPP/C Members of Parliament made huge shouts, laughed and scuffed at the Government’s 2018 budgetary plan to increase old age pension by $500.
“I do want to mention that in 2003, the former [PPP/C] Government increased pension by $92; by $90 in 2004; by $95 in 2005; and thank goodness to the main opposition the pension was increased by $1,495, but guess what? In 2010, the increase went back down to $300. I want the people of Guyana to know that in just two and half years this Government has increased pensions 49 percent,” Hughes stated.
According to the Minister, the plight of the sugar workers is of concern to Government, but she reminded that while the coalition government is being criticized for closing estates, the PPP/C also closed estates.
“So easily we forget that the problems that this sugar industry started 20 to 30 years ago. It is sad that the last government did little or nothing to solve it. We forget, too, that the former Government shut down LBI, shut down Diamond, closed Enmore to set up an $18 million packaging factory that I think still hasn’t worked…
“Given our commitment, in 33 months we have given contributions to the tune of $32 billion, which is a billion dollar per month,” Hughes stated.
The Minister noted that contrary to the ‘fake news’ disseminated by PPP/C MP Pauline Sukhai, hinterland communities like Masakanari have never had internet connectivity before.
The Minister also took on PPP/C MP Gillian Burton-Persaud, who she said dared to criticize the pace of ICT development to the hinterland a travesty.
“Today we pay a premium price to connect these regions…that is our commitment. The PPP’s commitment was to build a fiber instead of connecting our indigenous residents.
“All of us saw over one billion dollars go down the drain. Nothing, but damaged cable to show…Where did the over one billion dollars go? And you talk about corruption,” Minister Hughes noted.
Also referring to Burton-Persaud as a disseminator of ‘fake news’, Hughes stated that in 2012 the government fiber optic network intended to provide internet connectivity was completed, but lay dormant for three years.
She said that it was the coalition government that came along and orperationalised the network in 2015.
Government, Hughes noted, is going across the country and various sectors picking up the pieces left by the former PPP/C administration and fixing them.
“It is taking longer than we thought, but we will fix it,” Hughes noted.
The Minister reassured ‘indigenous brothers and sisters’ that Government is committed to them. It is providing several villages with sustainable internet access that will allow them to sell their products.
She noted that the 2018 budget provides $50 million for improved solar solutions for the ICT hubs in the hinterland communities which includes $15 million to procure more fibre optic cable, $16 million for more internet access points and $20 million for power redundancy at the state’s data centre.
Hughes boasted about providing internet to students at the Bena Hill Institute and to St. Ignatius High School who are now running six radio stations that inform, educate and entertain their communities.
Speaking about other ICT developments, Hughes spoke of an expanded eGovernment network to include 42 agencies with Integrated Financial Management Information Systems (IFMIS), thus improving the operations of the Ministry of Finance and its branches and agencies.
“We are now hosting government websites and secure email accounts,” Hughes stated.
Hughes stated the establishment of community ICT hubs, provides an invaluable opportunity for the poorest and the most vulnerable in any community to visit a centre, access the internet free, and to receive training and support.
This single development, Hughes stated, has started the important process of transformation to a smarter digital Guyana and in 2018 will be bringing tremendous benefits to education in the area of online learning.
There will be better health services with internet connected smart health centres, smart classrooms in the hinterland and facilities which for decades have been absent in hinterland and interior communities.
She said Government has completed the restructuring of the National Data Management Authority (NDMA) and has merged it with the eGovernment Unit, the executing arm of the Ministry.
According to Hughes, in 2017 Government provided free internet access to 53 Government ministries and agencies; to more than 95 secondary schools; the two campuses of the University of Guyana and the Cyril Potter College of Education; to over 37 technical/vocational institutions, including the Carnegie School of Home Economics; and to the offices of Regional Education Officers, and to several Non-Government Organizations.
She said Government has also connected Regional offices, public hospitals and airports. The Guyana Police Force, the GRA, GPL, GDF and other service organisations are now connected to the Internet and to inter-connect via 23 virtual private networks.
The NDMA, according to Hughes, has completed the rehabilitation of the Center for Excellence in Information Technology with support from the Government of India to the tune of $70 Million.
“Located on the UG campus we are preparing to commission it by March of 2018.”