Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Guyana: Jagdeo upset about non-release of Norway Climate funds

President Bharrat Jagdeo continues to fret about the non-release of the Norway climate funds, and has decided to push ahead with the project to give Amerindians electricity using funds from the treasury.

The solar panel project, which President Jagdeo yesterday said would cost US$2.5 million, was expected to be financed through the five-year forest-saving deal with Norway.

Under the agreement with Norway, the funds are channeled through a World Bank account, with the Inter-American Development Bank being a partner entity. So far, US$70M has been deposited into the account, but not a cent has reached Guyana.

The head of state said that it has been a “nightmare” to unlock the funds from the World Bank. The “tools” being used by the banks do not allow for easy disbursement, he added.

According to Jagdeo, a committee has been set up to see how the World Bank is managing the so-called Guyana REDD Investment Fund.

The World Bank and the IDB are treating the money as grant financing, and “grants come in dribbles” and a lot of the money goes back to pay consultants, etc, President Jagdeo said.

“This is our money that we earned,” he declared. “It’s not the World Bank’s money; it is not the IDB’s money,” he added.

Jagdeo jumped ahead of suggestions that trying to change the way the World Bank has decided to manage the Norway funds is intended to compromise on accountability or environmental and social safeguards.

He said that the Guyana Government wants the highest standards of accountability.
But while that is so, he said that the money is still Guyana’s money at the end of the day.

“They (the World Bank and the IDB) want to treat it as though it is their money; this is our money.”

Last weekend, the government announced that Cabinet – the council of ministers chaired by the President – had approved the procurement of up to 11,000 Solar Home Systems under the under the Hinterland Electrification Programme. These are to be 65W systems.
The project falls under the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), which formed the basis of the five-year agreement between Guyana and Norway.

Jagdeo first announced the solar panel project at the launch of Amerindian Heritage Month celebrations last September.

He said the first tranche of the Norway funds – US$30 million – will go towards demarcating Amerindian lands and fitting every Amerindian home with solar panels over a two-year period.

While Government has announced the procurement of the solar panels, it did not say how it was being funded, given that the Norway funds are yet to trickle down to Guyana.

The confirmation came from Jagdeo that funds from the treasury will be used to finance the project and when the Norway funds come, it would be treated in a “retroactive” way.
An estimated 135 Amerindian communities that remain without electricity are expected to benefit from the project.

The programme, it was previously announced, would cover installation costs, transportation, wiring, light fittings, maintenance and management training. The households who would benefit from the project would have to pay a monthly maintenance fee.

Under a previous Unserved Areas Electrification Project (UAEP), selected villages with less than 1,000 residents were fitted with solar panels.

The government said that at present the majority of hinterland households, including some 80 percent of Guyana’s Amerindian population, are without electricity.

“The programme will rectify this long-pervading inequity by providing access to clean and renewable energy throughout hinterland communities and significantly contribute to Guyana’s overall Low Carbon Development Strategy,” the government stated.

According to the government, the solar home systems will provide each home with power for lighting, small household appliances – such as a sewing machine to generate income – and radios, enhancing the communication capacity of these communities.

The programme is being executed by the Hinterland Electrification Unit within the Office of the Prime Minister, serving as overall project Coordinator in collaboration with the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs.

The Cabinet decision to approve the procurement of the panels followed the conclusion of an international bidding process that resulted in over 40 expressions of interest. The bids were closed on May 31, last.

The government accepted the bid of a Danish company to supply the solar panels.


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