Guyana gets funds to help reduce prison overcrowding, boost agriculture, improve business environment, improve health

Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 February 2017, 11:02 by Denis Chabrol

Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan and President of the Inter-American Development Bank, Luis Alberto Moreno signing one of the agreements at the hemispheric bank’s Washington DC headquarters.

Guyana has tapped into a US$8 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to help reduce prison overcrowding and speed up the delivery of justice, the Finance Ministry said in a statement.

“It is anticipated that through this project, there will be a significant reduction of high concentrations of prison population in Guyana,” the Finance Ministry said in referring to several loan agreements, totaling US$40 million, inked by  Finance Minister Winston Jordan and IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno in Washington DC.

That project is to be implemented by the Ministry of Legal Affairs.

The aim, the Finance Ministry said,  is to reduce the use of pre-trial detention of persons accused of minor, non-violent offences by aggressively promoting the use of alternative sentencing options such as probation, community service, restitution and fines.

“This intervention will also seek to ensure that our public institutions responsible for the administration of justice are effective, transparent and accountable,” the Finance Ministry following the signing of the agreements on February 21.

Guyana’s total prison population is more than 2,000 persons, with the Georgetown Prison being the most overcrowded with  more than 700 taking into consideration that sections of that jail are currently not being used for various reasons.

The worst prison unrest in Guyana claimed the lives of 17 inmates last year. Earlier this month, police intercepted communication that involved a plan to smuggle a teargas canister into the Georgetown Prison.

Touching on the other agreements, the Finance Ministry said the US$15m Sustainable Agricultural Development Program will aid in the country’s focus on diversifying the agricultural sector and improving its competitiveness and viability. The loan seeks to increase productivity of the agricultural sector while maintaining sustainable and climate resilient use of natural resources in Guyana. Specifically, this program is aimed at  , producing high quality data for the agricultural sector;  increasing productivity, especially for medium and small farmers; and increasing sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) standards and access to meat processing facilities. It is expected that higher productivity will also contribute to reduced pressure on forest and fragile ecosystems, and at the same time, increase incomes for small and medium-sized farmers.

To augment  Guyana’s diversification and enhanced competitiveness thrust, the US$9m loan is programmed for the Ministry of Business to support economic diversification and exports through the enhancement of the National Quality Infrastructure (NQI) and through a National Export and Investment Promotion Strategy. Government explained that the project will seek to enhance the capacity of the NQI, improve facilities for the NQI and enhance the capability of GOINVEST for export and investment promotion. Importantly, this project will seek to enhance the ability of Guyana to connect with regional and global value chains through the promotion of exports and foreign direct investment, particularly agri-business.

The Ministry of Health, government says, will benefit from the US$8m loan, which will provide support to improve maternal and child health. Specifically, this project will contribute to the reduction of maternal, perinatal and neonatal deaths in Guyana. “This project will not only seek to increase access to and use of reproductive, maternal and neonatal health services, but, importantly, it will seek to improve the quality of those services,” said the Finance Ministry.

The Finance Ministry added  that, “these loan resources will support Government’s developmental agenda of promoting investment; improving connectivity throughout Guyana; diversifying the economy; and providing citizens with quality healthcare and social services.”

The IDB, Guyana’s main development and multilateral partner, plays a critical role in helping Guyana to access a wide range of concessional resources from other donor countries and agencies. In addition to its own lending window, the IDB is currently involved in an innovative blending of grant and loans with the European Union in two projects, valued over US$96 million. Additionally, the Bank is working with Guyana as the Implementing Partner in some of our programmes under the Guyana- Norway GRIF Scheme.

The IDB Country Strategy with Guyana for the period 2017 – 2021 is currently under preparation, which will see further collaborations between Guyana and the Bank, as the country   seeks to promote the use of alternative / renewable energy sources.