By Vahnu Manikchand,
At a time when it is difficult to mobilise international funding due to COVID-19 pandemic, the Guyana Government has received a whopping $19.8 billion in payments from the European Union, which will go towards supporting climate change-related projects in the country.
These funds are part of a European Union four-year budget support programme to the tune of $74.5 billion. The programme started in 2017 and is aimed at promoting climate change adaptation through a sustainable Integrated Coastal Zone Management.
During a joint press conference on Thursday, President Dr Irfaan Ali lauded the EU for upholding its commitment at a time when funds are being redirected and commitments reprioritised around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is important that we recognise that this budget support is coming at a time when mobilising resources is extremely difficult globally, especially resources that help developing countries. The pandemic has indeed caused tremendous socio and economic hardship, but also tremendous financial constraints upon countries… Notwithstanding this, we’ve been able to mobilise this essential resource to Guyana,” the President posited.
According to the Head of State, his government is committed to ensuring the success of the programmes and projects for which the money is intended.
EU Ambassador to Guyana, Fernando Ponz Canto, explained that Guyana can use the funds in projects the Government sees fit, but noted it must be in the interest of all Guyanese.
“This particular payment can be used by the Government, by the responsible authorities – they can decide what part of the Budget they are going to cover with it…I trust and I know that Guyana will use this money so that it contributes to the progress and the well-being of its people in the spirit of reconciliation, inclusiveness, and in improving daily lives for all,” the Ambassador noted.
The EU Ambassador pointed out that reconciliation and inclusiveness are necessary.
“It’s time to look towards the future. As friends of Guyana, we would like to see Guyanese come together and fully reconcile…and inclusiveness is also related to that, and of course participation…We want an inclusive political participation, but also we want inclusive and sustainable development,” Canto stated.
In response, President Ali assured that governance will be delivered in a structure that ensures democracy and constitutional adherence, in order to deal with issues such as electoral and constitutional reforms.
“I recognize, as President, how important and fragile our Government and democracy can be, and what we stand to lose when you let that democracy slip away from us. Since 2018, it is the people of the country who suffered, because the support was not there,” the President stated.
Meanwhile, Senior Minister with responsibility for Finance, Dr Ashni Singh, spoke of the efforts by the last PPP/C Administration to qualify for the EU’s Budget Support. Guyana had to fulfil a comprehensive and demanding set of requirements.
The programme is slated to last from 2017 to 2021, but according to the Finance Minister, this $19.8 billion tranche Guyana is receiving has been held up due to the lack of parliamentary oversight in the last two years following the passage of the No-Confidence Motion against the previous APNU/AFC administration.
“It’s extremely unfortunate that our country was found in a situation where we were unable to secure this disbursement because of the absence of parliamentary oversight since December 2018…I’m especially pleased that with the resumption of democracy and the restoration of Parliament, that Guyana is now once again eligible for this disbursement… We intend to work very hard to qualify for every single Euro budgeted here, because it goes a long way in helping us to finance the important budgetary initiatives that we’ve included in our budget,” Dr Singh noted.
Nevertheless, Guyana is expected to receive this tranche of payment before the end of the year, according to Ambassador Canto.
The money would be deposited into the Consolidated Fund and then be disbursed to various projects under Sectoral Budget Support.
The overall objective of the programme is to support climate change adaptation through an integrated coastal zone management approach, and thereby protect the population in vulnerable, flood-prone areas under sea level.
The activities of the project are to develop, reinforce and improve: An integrated coastal zone management legal framework; the implementation of disaster risk management and resilience policy at regional and community levels; preventative maintenance and risk management of the sea defence; the urban storm water drainage management, the consolidation of mangrove defences, and monitoring of protected areas.
Additionally, the programme is also contributing to progress in gender equality as a targeted cross-cutting issue. Women’s increased participation in decision-making processes on climate and environmental issues has been achieved through enlarged representation on the sea and river defence boards. Additionally, measures to promote girls and women in science, technology and engineering have been undertaken.
In fact, since 2017, women’s representation in the sea and river defence board has been increased to at least 33 per cent; 8.3 km of sea defence has been constructed, 10.30 km of sea defence has been rehabilitated, and 59 km of sea defence has been maintained; Six new mangrove sites have been constructed; 33 per cent of the selected industrial attachment internships have been women; increase in drainage pumping capacity in coastal locations and Georgetown, with total new installed capacity of 4m3/s, and upgrading of outfall channels; and a comprehensive awareness campaign for girls and women to study science, engineering and technology has been implemented, among other things.
Main Photo: President Irfaan Ali with EU Ambassador Fernando Ponz Canto at the joint presser on Thursday