by Gary Eleazar
Guyana has lost more than US$18 million dollars under its Forest Protection Agreement with Norway inked in 2009.
Marlon Bristol, Head of the Project Management Unit of the Office of Climate Change (OCC), made the charge on Wednesday when he testified before the Standing Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Natural Resources. He was among the many department heads to appear before the Committee with Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, and were grilled on the state of the GRIF-Funds.
Guyana was promised US$250M under the multi-year Forest Protection Agreement with Norway. A Counry Update on the Guyana REDD Investment Fund explains that financial losses from the Agreement are expected to amount to approximately US$ 18 million, unless special circumstances apply. The losses are of two sources: (1) penalties under Tranches 3 and 4 from not meeting indicators in the Joint Concept Note and additionally from losses due to adjustments in the exchange rate between the Norwegian Kroner and the United States Dollar. As a result, there is only a potential US$ 25 million to be earned from the final payment under the Guyana-‐Norway partnership. The consequence of this is that the possible total under the partnership will effectively be US$ 215 million instead of the initial US$ 250 million.
Bristol was at the time providing a breakdown of monies currently available to Guyana under the Agreement, in response to a request by Committee Chairman, Odinga Lumumba.
He said too, another US$80M has been deposited with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)–that money, he reminded, was earmarked as part of the financing of the Amaila Falls Hydro Electric Project.
Bristol disclosed that there are currently a number of on going projects being financed from the GRIF Fund to the tune of about US$41M and cited, sustainable land development efforts, the Government’s ICT/E-Governance Project, Institutional Strengthening Projects through the Ministry of the Presidency, as well as Tourism and Hydromet related projects, among others.
Responding to queries on whether any changes have been made to the agreement, the Committee Chairman was told while the coalition A Partnership for National Unity, Alliance For Change (AFC) Government is interested in preserving the arrangement, it is also looking to amend the agreement with the Norwegians.
Minister of State Harmon, told the Committee, “when we came into Office, we immediately got in touch with the Minister of Environment in Norway and we made a commitment to the Norway Fund and the Agreement.”
According to Minister Harmon, this assertion was again repeated on the margins of the recently signed ‘Paris Climate Change Agreement,’ when Head of State, David Granger met with a Norwegian delegation and, “gave clear undertakings that we are prepared to continue with this agreement….we said we would like to look to make some amendments…we had asked for an opportunity to make some adjustment.”
Minister Harmon was unable to provide the Committee with an update on the proposed changes, since according to him, “we are still talking.”
He was adamant however that government did not consider itself the source of all knowledge and would in fact appreciate the involvement of all stakeholders through some from of consultative process.
“Where the expertise in Guyana reside, we are prepared to reach out,” he said.