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IDB’s approval, disbursements before elections above board

Guyana’s Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh and IDB President Albert Moreno.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) on Tuesday said it was sticking to its rules in approving and disbursing loans for Guyana on the eve of the country’s general elections and sees nothing wrong with doing so.

The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) expressed concern about the recently approved US$17.6 million loan for Strengthening of the Environment Sector and a US$17.16 million loan for  a Citizen Security Strengthening Programme, saying that the bank appeared to be favouring the incumbent People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) administration.

In response to several questions to an IDB spokesman in Washington, the hemispheric bank defended its decision to approve two loans for environmental protection and citizens’ security by assuring that its work is insulated from elections in borrowing countries.

“The IDB adheres closely to its publicly available policies and procedures that ensure the operations that the IDB finances are independent of the political cycle in any borrowing member country,” said the bank. The IDB was asked to what extent it is worried that its image may be tarnished by perceptions of bias in favour of the incumbent administration by approving these loans just about three months before Guyana’s general elections are held.

However, the bank did not give a specific answer to the question on why it was approving loans to Guyana in the absence of parliamentary oversight/ parliamentary accountability due to the prorogation of Guyana’s Parliament on November 10, 2014 and the dissolution on February 28, 2015 to make way for the elections. It was also pointed out that Guyana’s National Assembly last met on July 10, 2014 – more than seven months ago.

Instead, the Washington DC-based bank opted to state that “questions regarding the ability of the Government of Guyana to enter into international agreements with multilateral institutions such as the IDB should be directed to the Government of Guyana.”

The IDB says it has already disbursed the monies for the Strengthening of the Environment Sector II programme because the Guyana government has complied with all prior conditions of the loan. However,  funds for the Citizen Security Strengthening and Consolidation project have not been disbursed because the Guyana government was “still in the process of meeting prior conditions to initiate disbursements.”

The “Citizen Security Strengthening and Consolidation” project was approved by the IDB Board of Executive Directors on December 3, 2014. The “Strengthening of the Environment Sector II” Program was approved on February 11, 2015. “In both cases, these projects build upon work that had been in execution since 2013 or earlier, with scheduled IDB Board consideration during December 2014 and February 2015 respectively,” in response to why the bank was approving loans close to the country’s elections.

More than 567,000 Guyanese are eligible to vote on May 11, 2015.

The IDB said the loans could be reviewed or amended by a new administration. “Standard IDB procedure allows for the Borrower to request the reformulation of ongoing projects to ensure that the project design is up-to-date and effective in delivering the development objectives,” stated the financial institution.