Guyana and the United States this morning announced that they have agreed to “immediately” put the controversial $300M Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) Project on hold to facilitate talks between the two sides.
Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr. Roger Luncheon and United States Ambassador Brendt Hardt this morning at a press conference at the Office of the President, made the joint announcement.
“The governments of Guyana and the United States of America have agreed that the implementation of the activities of the USAID LEAD project would be put on hold temporarily during the re-engagement on the design of that project…the two sides have agreed would commence immediately,” the announcement stated.
The US envoy said “It is our sincere hope that the re-engagement we begin today can address all outstanding concerns related to the LEAD programme and allow us to chart a way forward in the spirit of the partnership that has traditionally characterized our bilateral relationship”.
The US Ambassador said that he remains optimistic that the talks will be completed by the end of his tenure here in July this year.
Luncheon told Stabroek News that while critics may claim that the government wants the project to be stalled indefinitely this was highly unlikely. “I would say this to you it is not impossible but highly unlikely to happen,” he repeated three times, stressing on “not impossible”.
The announcement today followed months of bruising exchanges between the two sides. The government was adamant that the project not go ahead while the US was equally insistent that it would proceed notwithstanding the government’s objections. Aspects of the project continued here despite the government’s objections. Matters came to a head last week when the government revoked the work permit of the head of the project, Glen Bradbury.
Last week in an interview with GINA, President Donald Ramotar said that the LEAD project was not needed here. Ramotar and other government officials have alleged that Guyana was not consulted on it. The US has strongly denied this. Government officials had also complained that the project was making money available to political parties. The US had also strenuously denied this.