NORAD report on Guyana-Norway forest pact a ‘telling blow’ to the government, says Ramjattan

Leader of the AFC Khemraj Ramjattan says that the Norwegian Agency for Development Coopera-tion’s (NORAD) recent report on the Guyana-Norway forest protection pact is a “telling blow” to the government and exposes what many have been saying all along.

Ramjattan told Stabroek News that he has been in contact with Norwegian officials who are “very disappointed” with Guyana’s efforts in protecting the forest. Ramjattan said that the report does not come as a surprise and pointed out that he has said before that the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) was built on a platform of “intellectual dishonesty” and it was a “scramble” by former president Bharrat Jagdeo “to get money out of Norway more than anything else.”

NORAD, which is the Norwegian government agency through which funds are channelled to Guyana for protecting its forests, in its report on the partnership between Guyana and Norway released last week, described the LCDS as being a “stand-alone more-or-less ad hoc collection of projects.” NORAD has also pointed out that despite the LCDS, the Government of Guyana is still maintaining a high carbon development path.

The agency said too that insufficient action has been taken to reduce the mining operations that are the main cause of deforestation here and confirmed that Guyana will lose US$20 million as a result of increased deforestation in Year 3 (2012) of the Guyana-Norway forest protection partnership.

NORAD is a directorate under the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and since 2010, it has been monitoring Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI), the programme under which Guyana is paid to protect its forest. Guyana and Norway in 2009 inked a REDD+ partnership under which Oslo will pay for Guyana’s performance on limiting greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and for progress made against governance-related indicators. REDD+ is a global initiative that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Norway’s payments to Guyana may amount to approximately US$250 million over the period to 2015, depending on Guyana’s performance.

“There was no genuine intentions to cut emissions,” Ramjattan told Stabroek News saying that Jagdeo had engineered the scheme “just to get money” from Norway. “They were never genuinely about low carbon… hardly anything in Guyana is low carbon,” he said.

The AFC leader stated that the NORAD report is very useful and he is happy that the agency has published it. Ramjattan said that the opposition political parties have been speaking on these issues but would have been accused of politicising the matter.

Guyana has established the necessary systems for measuring forest protection but insufficient action has been taken to reduce the mining operations that are the main cause of deforestation in the country, NORAD had noted. In this regard, Ramjattan said that government needs to do more and should ensure that there is a reafforestation policy.

He said that while he understands that with the high price of gold it would have been extremely difficult for the miners to keep within the regulations, the mining community needs to be much more disciplined.

NORAD had reported too that concerns had been expressed about the use of funds to ensure political support for the ruling PPP. “Concerns have also been raised about the way in which the Amerindian Development Fund has been used to create an obligation on Amerindian communities, in order to encourage future political support, and also the way Community Support Officers (CSOs), who report to the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, are being posted/imposed upon participating Amer-indian communities,” NORAD said, while noting that the funds for the CSOs may have a Norwegian source.

Ramjattan said that they have been pointing this out before: that funds are being used to foster political support for the ruling party. “We have seen that…it is directly political,” the AFC leader said describing it as an attempt to buy votes.

NORAD had also warned of the risk to Norway’s reputation if the controversial Amaila Falls Hydropower Project (AFHP) is funded by the Chinese and has urged Oslo to send a high-level team here to discuss these and other issues. Ramjattan said that he is very supportive of hydroelectricity, but the question has been about the feasibility of the AFHP and whether Guyanese are going to pay more rather than less for electricity under the project. He noted that they had been awaiting analyses on the project from the Inter-American Development Bank and said that the Norwegians should also investigate the feasibility of the AFHP. “That [feasibility] is the important part, not the fact that it is Chinese money,” Ramjattan declared.

The AFC leader said that money from anywhere including China, once it is legal funds, is money that could be acquired for such a project. “I have nothing negative to say about Chinese government funding” or from the development bank, Ramjattan asserted.

NORAD had urged that a high level “at minimum ministerial- level” visit be undertaken by the Norwegian government to explore and discuss the AFHP and other issues. This would be helpful in preparing Norway/NICFI for negotiating a second Memorandum of Under-standing, and also to impress on the Govern-ment of Guyana that Norway, whilst fully respecting national sovereignty, is keen to see that all uses of Norwegian funds are unlikely to damage Norway’s and NICFI’s international reputations, NORAD declared.

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