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Indigenous communities draw down GY$4.7 billion from Hess carbon credit payment

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 February 2023, 15:51 by Denis Chabrol

Indigenous communities totalling 241 were Wednesday informed that they would each receive millions of dollars now that Guyana has received the first installment of US$75 million from American oil company, Hess Corporation, for the sale of forest carbon credits, but they first have to craft approved development plans.

Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo, addressing Toshaos (Amerindian village chiefs) at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre, said based on the formula that includes population and size of each village, they would draw down between GY$10 million and GY$35 million.

He said each village was required to open a special bank account for the carbon credit monies, totalling GY$4.7 billion (US$22 million), to be deposited and which would be subject to accountability checks. “At the end of the day, we want these resources to be audited. They would have to go through a special process,” he said.

The Vice President said villages would not be allowed to use the monies from their carbon credit bank accounts unless they submit development plans that must be approved by the communities under the leadership of the Toshaos.  Mr Jagdeo said the National Toshaos Council (NTC) has already developed the guidelines and templates for the development plans.

“You can’t draw down this money until your name your finance committee and complete a village development plan,” said Mr Jagdeo who is the architect of the first Low Carbon Development Strategy during his presidency. He said the Village Council would also have to share the minutes if that meeting to  to show “if the village endorses the development plan.”

He explained that out of the total sale of 30 percent of Guyana’s carbon credits to Hess Corporation for US$750 million up to 2030, the Indigenous Indian communities would receive directly GY$23.6 billion (US$112.5 million) and some from the remaining 85 percent would go towards education development.

Toshao for Kamarang, Lionel Thomas, praised government for the LCDS initiative but queried how government arrived at 15 percent of the US$750 million carbon credit sale. “Who decided on the 15 percent? How do we arrive at that ? Were the 240 communities involved in this decision? I feel because they preserve, they care for it, it should have been far more than 15 percent and I don’t know if any of the other brothers and sisters think this way. We were here before anybody else and we deserve more than 15 percent,” he said.

Mr Thomas said “we will bargain, we will lobby for more than 15 percent” because the District Councils, Village Councils and the NTC.  He said he understood that the budget for the NTC was also continue.

However, Mr Jagdeo defended government’s decision, saying that if the administration followed the APA no one would receive anything. He suggested that the Toshaos should take into consideration that the remaining 85 percent would still be spent on national projects that would also benefit Indigenous communities and other Guyanese.

He said a number of organisations like the Amerindian People’s Association (APA) actually benefit from international donor funds by portraying the government as bad. “They go and they lie about the nature of the PPP government that we don’t respect Amerindians, we don’t respect FPIC (Free Prior and Informed Consent),” Mr Jagdeo said. He said it is not accurate that the NTC budget was cut but rather it was increased.

The Vice President used the opportunity to criticise the opposition A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) for doing nothing for the Indigenous community when that coalition was in government from 2015 to 2020. Similarly, he criticised the APA for objecting to the LCDS by citing the need for Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). “Already, we are getting push-back from the the APA. They do nothing to get money to people,” he said.

Mr Jagdeo said a number of persons has submitted projects worth GY$3 billion.

The carbon credit cash, he said, would be separate from the GY$8 billion that government would be investing in hinterland roads and GY$12 billion in high-tech diagnostic centres in Region 1 (Barima-Waini), Region  7 (Cuyuni-Mazaruni), Region 8 (Potaro-Siparuni) and Region 9 (Upper Takatu-Upper Essequibo).

The Vice President also announced that government would soon distribute solar panels that would be supplied by India.