–EU pledges closer ties with Guyana; gives $2.2B towards river, sea defences
By Svetlana Marshall
‘STRONG and mutually beneficial’ is how the European Union regards its relationship with Guyana, and by extension the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).Evidence of this is its helping to finance improvement of Guyana’s sea and river defences to the tune of G$2.2B, a cheque for which sum was handed over yesterday to the Guyana Government.
The gesture is in sharp contrast with how it perceives its relationship with Britain, now that the latter has indicated that it wants to part company with the 28-member trading bloc.
Head of the EU Delegation here, Ambassador Jernej Videtic, said yesterday, “The EU stands ready to launch negotiations swiftly with the United Kingdom regarding the terms and conditions of its withdrawal from the European Union. In the meantime, the EU’s relationship with Guyana and the Caribbean Community shall remain a strong and mutually beneficial one.”
He was at the time addressing Ministers of the Government, members of the diplomatic corps and State officials at a function at the Marriott Hotel to officially hand over the cheque to Government.
The EU has been offering Guyana tremendous financial and technical support in the areas of sea and river defences, agriculture, economic development, energy, and human rights; but sea and river defences have been the most important feature throughout the cooperation.
“Given that Guyana is a low-lying coastal area, it is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels and coastal erosion of natural estuarine and sea defences,” Ambassador Videtic, also head-of-mission to Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, explained while noting that this country’s capacity to adapt to these vulnerabilities needs to be developed.
Injection of the of G$2.2B into the national treasury comes at a time when the country is showing remarkable progress in its attempt to combat rising sea levels; a progress which started some two years ago. Guyana, through its Ministry of Public Infrastructure, has formulated an Integrated Coastal Zone Management Programme, in addition to the implementation of a new Sector Policy and Strategy.
Ambassador Videtic said it was based on the EU’s positive assessment of Guyana that the money was released from the 10th European Development Fund (EDF).
This support is expected to more than triple: “We are currently developing, in partnership with the Government, our follow-on Sea and River Defence Programme under the 11th European Development Fund. Under the 11th EDF, we will more than double our assistance to the sector to approximately $7B,” Ambassador Videtic explained.
The programme at reference will focus on future policy development, including legislative measures, strengthening defences and increasing drainage capacity in Georgetown.
Finance Minister Winston Jordan, who received the cheque on behalf of the Government, said the budgetary support comes at a time when there is a high level of uncertainty, fear and distress about future relations between the EU and the Caribbean on the one hand, and between Britain and the Caribbean on the other.
“Guyana has always valued its relationship with the European Union, one of the largest donors to the country. From the Lomé and Cotonou Agreement to the present Economic Partnership Agreement, our country has received significant support under the various financial facilities, not least among them the National Indicative Programme and the Regional Indicative Programme,” Minister Jordan pointed out.
In addition to handing over the cheque to Minister Jordan, Ambassador Videtic presented Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson with a copy of the newly developed Coastal Engineering Design Manual, which he believes will set the standards for designing sea and river defences specific to Guyana’s conditions.
Presentation of the manual comes almost seven months after the Ministry and the EU partnered to host a two-day workshop to finalise the document.
The Public Infrastructure Ministry’s Sea and River Defence Department had, last December, gathered to offer input on the manual, with the goal of improving Guyana’s sea defence system.
The manual aims to provide appropriate and practical guidance for application of methods and techniques in regard to the design and implementation of coastal engineering projects in Guyana. These projects concern new constructions or repair and rehabilitation of existing ones; the prevention of the erosion of oceanic, estuarine, and recessed coasts; coastal flooding; and the heavy damage from wave attacks to valuable coastal commercial, urban, and tourist communities of Guyana.
The manual was put together by a team of consultants, who would have spent time in Guyana interacting with a number of agencies, including the Ministry of Agriculture; the Environmental Protection Agency; the Transport and Harbours Department; and the Central Housing and Planning Authority.
Since the cooperation commenced in 1975, the EU’s combined commitment of funds to Guyana has mounted to well over 500 million euros.