No word yet on extension of LEAP

With less than two weeks to fund certain projects under the Linden Economic Advancement Programme (LEAP) neither the government nor the European Commission (EC) has publicly stated whether an extension will be granted to the multi-billion dollar scheme scheduled to end in June.

The administration is seeking from the EC an extension to 2010 of the government and European Union-funded LEAP to allow for the implementation of a post-LEAP programme and to cater for a defects liability period for projects completed or to be completed.

Although LEAP is slated to end on June 30, without an extension LEAP components like the Linden Economic Advancement Fund (LEAF), which gives micro, medium and small business loans to residents of Region Ten, will not be able to give loans beyond March 31. In addition, when LEAP ends in June, there is a proposal before Cabinet to have a smaller post-LEAP programme take its place.

During an interview on Wednesday with Javin Singh, public relations officer at the European Delegation, Sendall Place, he was asked about the LEAP extension and the outstanding monies still to be released to LEAF. Singh after discussing the matter with the relevant authorities told this newspaper that the local office was not commenting on the issues at this time. He also could not say when or if a statement will be issued. This newspaper understands that due to the higher exchange rate for the euro a little over $70M is still to be released to the 1.9 million euros LEAF.

LEAP International Project Manager Kathleen Whalen told this newspaper also that they are “hoping and remain hopeful” that an extension will be given and was again expecting news this week. Whalen said that they are “putting things in place” with the hope that an extension will be given. She also noted that Cabinet is still to communicate with her about the status of the post-LEAP programme proposal. This proposal was submitted since September 2007 for consideration, but was steadily revised since that time.

Whalen had said in an interview in January that a response was expected by last month, and she confirmed this week that the last communication on the proposal was received three weeks ago from Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon.

Until the EC approves the extension, all of LEAP’s books will have to be closed and readied for the auditors by June 30.

LEAP’s policy is to pay only for finished work so projects which are not completed before June 30 will pose a problem without an extension. The policy also calls for a portion of monies to be withheld until the defects liability period is completed and will then be paid if there is no work to be re-done.

LEAP was seen as a major dynamo for the mining town but there are mixed reviews on its accomplishments.

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