Finance Ministry partners with international stakeholders to boost development locally

GINA, GUYANA, Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Finance Ministry engaged with several international agencies as part of efforts to finance a number of developmental projects and interventions during the year.

Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, during his year – end press conference on Monday, listed two significant engagements with the Caribbean Development Fund (CDF). These are an adjustment being made for the loan covering the completed Parika to Ruby Farm to Market Road Project, and the signing of a US$10.67M loan for roads in the communities of Buxton, BV/Triumph, Mocha Arcadia and Ithaca.

Minister of Finance Winston Felix addressing the media at his year end press conference

The Ministry also engaged with the United Kingdom Caribbean Infrastructure Partnership Fund (UKCIF). The Finance Minister anticipates that £53.2M will be utilised for “critical interventions on the Linden to Mabura Road, the bridge at Kurupukari and the Stabroek Water Front Development Project.”

The Minister said that he met with the agency’s UK representative and Caribbean Development Bank’s (CDB) representatives who are overseeing the projects, “to convince them of the efficacy and the validity of the projects and what they mean for Guyana.” He added that technical assistance to design the projects will also be provided for what he described as “very exciting” projects.

“Fiscal space” is being created, Minister Jordan assured to utilise the funds being made available in the most efficient possible manner. Mention was also made of four IDB loans which Minister Jordan said will be used for “enhancing quality infrastructure.”

These agreements will be signed in February. The first loan will be for US$9M for diversification and trade promotion, and will support facilities for Metrology testing equipment for the Guyana National Bureau of Standards and the Ministries of Public Health and Agriculture. Part will also be used to prepare a “National promotion and Investment Strategy”, Minister Jordan added.

The IDB will also provide US$8M to support Guyana’s Maternal Child Health Strategy. This sum, the Minister said, will be used to improve facilities, at the C.C. Nicholson Hospital and Waiting Home, and the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation’s Maternity Waiting Home. Institutional Strengthening will also be addressed.

The sum of US$15M will also be used to provide for the construction and rehabilitation of the Region Nine and Ten centres in the Sustainable Agriculture Development Project, for a pilot project in meat processing.

The fourth loan, by the IDB will provide support for the Criminal Justice System. This US$8M loan will cover alternative sentencing interventions, strengthening of probation services, training of magistrates, judges and Justices and designs of Restorative Justice.

Two technical assistance loans were also acquired, the Minister said. The first was in March, when US$442,000 was obtained for institutionalised strengthening at the Statistical Bureau. This will assist the Bureau in two critical projects, Minister Jordan explained, one of which is the Consumer Price Index. This will help businesses, and assist Government in shaping policies in all Regions instead of just using Georgetown-based information as obtained prior, Minister Jordan said.

The second project will be a countrywide Unemployment Survey, the Minister added. He noted that in previous cases, proxies from Georgetown were used to arrive at figures. “Georgetown’s unemployment is not Region Ten’s unemployment …again it will help shape planning,” he posited.

The IDB’s second technical assistance package was for US$745,000. This sum was used to enhance the capacity and capability of the Valuation Department especially in terms of property tax management which was described by Minister Jordan as outdated. He explained, “Our Valuation Division is extremely challenged staffing wise, equipment wise, system wise and so forth.”

The Minster spoke of the interventions by the CDB. He said that they will soon make available to Guyana US$194M from 2017 to 2021. Part of this sum will be used with the previously mentioned UKCIF programme. Some of these funds will used for a Market Demand study to assess whether it is feasible to re-establish a development bank locally. The CDB will also boost efforts to have technical assistance for institutional strengthening and capacity for development planning. The latter has proven somewhat difficult; Minister Jordan said since the entire Caribbean ha a dearth of skilled persons available to do these tasks, efforts are also underway to reach out to the diaspora for those with the requisite skills.

The engagement with the Islamic Bank is facing several challenges since the headquarters are in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. This new engagement, Minister Jordan said is compounded by the time differences and the intricacies of Islamic Banking, a relatively new concept. “We are going to have a learning curve here before we get any financing out of this bank, but at least we’re making the first steps.”

The Finance Minister explained that despite Guyana being upgraded to the status of an Upper Middle Income Country, the World Bank has increased its proposed funding for the next five years. Part of the funding will see an agreement being signed for the upgrading of a National Payment System, the Minister said. “This will seek to de-emphasise cash in the economy.” The World Bank is currently completing a project at the University of Guyana (UG) and will start another aimed at financing the construction of secondary schools.

The World Bank will also be funding a Hinterland Environmentally Sustainable Development Project, targeting areas in Regions One and Nine. This initiative is aimed at establishing value chains, investment funding, and the execution of a state of agriculture study, the Minister explained.

The European Union Investment Bank, which is now operating locally after departing some 20 years ago, Minister Jordan said, has received three project proposals. These are for private sector development, infrastructural development and the generation of clean, renewable energy. The first will involve clearing and dredging ports and is especially important for commerce, the Finance Minister stated.

The Minister also spoke of the European Development Fund with which he signed a loan agreement for €24.4M. Due to be implemented since 2014, the Minister said that certain prevailing conditions resulted in the process being delayed. New developments in transparency and accountability resulted in the financing being made available to Government, the Finance Minister noted. Financing for sea and river defence was also forthcoming, the Minister added. This financing amounted to €9.7M and an additional €37M is expected to further boost local seas and river defence programmes.

The Indian loan for the Ogle by-pass road was also signed in March and despite challenges such as the need to have an Indian contractor, Minister Jordan is optimistic that there will be progress at a faster rate in the new year. The Indian Government has also assisted with a financial package of a US$8M loan and a US$10M grant to purchase a new ferry to ply the Georgetown to North West route. A US$1M grant for the Information Technology (IT) Center of Excellence is on stream and the facility at the University of Guyana should be completed next year.

From the Chinese Government, a framework agreement was signed on November 23 for US$47M. The loan will be formalised early in the 2017 the latest, and be used to complete the road between Plaisance and Belfield, East Coast Demerara.

Additionally a Japanese aid package has been reprogrammed to purchase street lamps at a cost of US$1.3M.

Meanwhile, Guyana has also signalled its support for Dr. Sherwin Williams as a candidate for Board Chairman of the CDF, who until recently, served as Executive Director for the Caribbean on the Board of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Minister Jordan described Dr. Williams as having extensive experience with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), “having more than 30 years’ experience.”

 

By: Paul McAdam

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