No green-light yet for Norway fund projects

The Steering Committee of the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF) met Thursday but gave no final approval for projects to access funds from Guyana’s forests’ agreement with Norway as work remains to be done on the one submitted.

Government officials were tight-lipped on the outcome of the deliberations when contacted after the meeting, but Stabroek News learnt that discussions centered on the project involving institutional strengthening of the agencies involved in the implementation of the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) because the proposals for the others are not at a stage where they are ready for submission for approval. A source told Stabroek News that Norway asked that its comments on the project be addressed.

The GRIF is the financial mechanism for the ongoing cooperation on climate change between Guyana and Norway, in which Oslo will pay up to US$250 million for Guyana’s performance on limiting greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and for progress made against governance-related indicators. Guyana will invest the payments it receives, and any income earned on them, in its LCDS.

Projects have to be approved by the Steering Committee of the GRIF before any money is disbursed. Several projects were identified and have been anticipated for some time now but there has been little movement. It was expected that Thursday’s meeting would have seen the first projects being approved. Guyana chairs the GRIF.

The source said that the project on institutional strengthening came up but based on the comments, amendments will have to be made. This project will involve strengthening the key institutions involved in the implementation of the LCDS, namely the Project Management Office (PMO), the Office of Climate Change (OCC), and the Guyana Forestry Commission. According to the Concept Notes, Guyana will spend US$7M in the next two years to strengthen these crucial institutions to coordinate and execute key components of the LCDS. Guyana will be working with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) on this project. The project will see the training of staff and the recruitment of qualified local and international personnel and consultants in the drive to build a “low carbon economy.”

Stabroek News was told that the IDB representative gave an update on this project but based on the comments, amendments will have to be made before the go-ahead is given for funds to be released. It was noted that barring any obstacles, funding will not be seen until August or September since the IDB Board also has to grant its approval.

Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon had earlier this year identified three projects which were to be the first submitted for approval. These were the Amerindian Land Titling and Demarcation project, Institutional Strengthening of the institutions involved in the implementation of the LCDS and the Amaila Falls Hydro Power project. The land titling project involves the transfer of communal land tenure rights to Amerindian communities. It will include the titling and demarcation of communities that have already submitted requests, identifying and providing support to communities that have not yet submitted request for title but may wish to, and developing a mechanism to deal with land disputes. According to the draft project document, it is envisioned that over four years—from 2011 to 2014—US$12M will be spent on the process and a budget of US$3.6M has been outlined for 2011.

The Amaila Falls Hydro-power project is a private sector hydropower project involving a development partnership with the Ministry of Finance and PMO. It will involve constructing a hydropower plant with 165MW peak capacity, clearing an area of 27km2, as well as a 278km transmission line linking the plant to hubs in Linden and Georgetown. Government is contributing equity to the project.

The source said that these latter two projects are not yet ready to be submitted for approval and remain a long way off from the stage of submission. The UNDP is working on the land titling project and according to the source, “in terms of a project proposal, it has not even gone that far yet.” The UNDP updated the Committee on the project and said that over 100 comments were received on the draft project document.

Norway noted that it had sent some comments with regards to the Institutional Strengthening project and the Operations Manual which they would like to see addressed, the source said. The Norwegians participated via teleconference but a face-to-face meeting of the Steering Committee is planned, Stabroek News was told. Meanwhile, government officials were tight-lipped on what happened. “Releases will be made at the appropriate time in the interest of the public,” Agriculture Minister, Robert Persaud said when contacted on Thursday. He said that information would come from the OCC but could not say when any information will be made available.

Press Officer in the Office of the President Kwame McCoy, when contacted, referred Stabroek News to OCC Head, Shyam Notka.

“I suggest that you make contact with the Secretariat of the GRIF on this,” Notka said when contacted yesterday. He said that he would not say anything at this point in time. At the GRIF Secretariat, Head of the PMO Steven Grin said that a statement was being drafted and this would be released next week. Hopefully, by the middle of next week, the full minutes of the minutes will also be released, he added. He said that he could not say anything on the outcome of the meeting until then.

Meantime, the World Bank has reported that the Norway has not yet deposited the US$40M payment for this year into the GRIF. In March, Norway’s Minister of the Environment and International Development, Erik Solheim had said that based on Guyana’s performance for the past year, Oslo would deposit the second payment of US$40M into the GRIF immediately. It had deposited US$30M last year.

The World Bank is the trustee for the GRIF and in its latest report on the financial status of the GRIF, dated May 9, it said that as at April 30, deposits into the GRIF was US$30.4M. It noted that investment income earned to date amounts to US$55,147.

“The investment income earned reflects the fact that the Trustee has maintained the fund balance in a liquid portfolio comprised almost exclusively of cash, reflecting the stated preferences of Norway and Guyana for funds transfers at the earliest possible opportunity,” the report says. “The Trustee is therefore holding these funds in a liquid portfolio in anticipation of imminent Steering Committee funding decisions and anticipated requests to the Trustee for funds transfers to Partner Entities.”

The Bank has deducted some money to cover its expenses in overseeing the GRIF as provided for in the agreement. “Accordingly… the net funding available in the GRIF Trust Fund as of April 30, 2011 to support new project funding decisions by the Steering Committee amounts to USD 29.7 million,” the report says.

The report noted that Transfer Agreements have been finalised with the UN, the IDB and the World Bank as Partner Entities, enabling the transfer of funds to these entities, upon approval of projects by the Steering Committee.

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