Finance Minister says unaware how ads for CDB-funded projects placed

Outgoing Chairman of the Board of Governors of Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh says that he is unaware of how advertisements for CDB-funded programmes are placed in the media and would raise the issue with the relevant department.

Singh was responding to questions at Thursday’s closing pressing conference for the annual meeting of the CDB Board of Governors, where he was asked about discrimination in the placement of advertisements for CDB projects. These ads have been placed only in the Guyana Chronicle and the Guyana Times and this was pointed out in a public statement issued on Wednesday by Guyana Publications Inc (GPI), publishers of the Stabroek News and the Sunday Stabroek.

When asked by Stabroek News how the CDB will be addressing the government’s withholding of taxpayer-funded state advertising, Singh said that he was not involved in the process and was not versed on the current situation. He also said at the press conference that “rules” governing how taxpayer-funded state advertisements are placed in the local media are being followed.

Sharing the press conference with Singh, the President of the CDB Dr Warren Smith, stated that he was not aware of the issue and did not feel it was appropriate to comment.

In a comment on Singh’s statement, Stabroek News Editor-in-Chief (EiC) Anand Persaud said he was surprised that the Finance Minister would say that rules were being followed in the placement of state advertisements. Persaud said that the only rule that was being followed by the government was blatant discrimination in favour of the Guyana Chronicle, the Guyana Times and the Mirror newspaper. He noted that the government’s policy of discrimination was instituted by the Jagdeo administration in 2006.

Persaud added that it was clear that the government unit handling the CDB-funded Basic Needs Trust Fund advertisements was continuing this policy. Persaud added that it was disappointing that Singh was not aware of the discrimination in the placement of advertisements by this unit which comes under his ministry’s jurisdiction.

The GPI statement had said:

“The Government of Guyana over the past seven years has discriminated against sections of the private media by withholding taxpayer-funded state advertising from them. This behaviour is discriminatory, constitutes an attack on press freedom and violates the Declaration of Chapultepec on press freedom to which Guyana is a signatory.

“Discrimination in the placement of advertisements has also extended to projects in Guyana funded by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) particularly those that come under the Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF). Advertisements for the Sixth Cycle of the BNTF are only placed in two newspapers: the state-owned newspaper and a government-friendly newspaper. Other private media are being discriminated against. With the imminent start of the Seventh Cycle of the BNTF, the discrimination will continue as the local office handling the BNTF project has not responded to queries by Stabroek News on the placement of advertisements.

“It is ironic that the opening of the Forty-Fourth Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of CDB in Georgetown was preceded by a procurement seminar for CDB-funded projects when the Government of Guyana is violating best practice in the procurement of advertising financed by the CDB from funding which has been secured on behalf of all of the people of Guyana. Advertisements should be placed in a manner that allow them to be read by all sectors of society while at the same time providing value for money.

“When the Seventh Cycle of the BNTF was launched in Georgetown on June 27, 2013 it was stated that these projects would be community-informed and proposals would be accepted from citizens in the areas where the projects are to be carried out. This cannot be successfully done if the Government of Guyana continues to discriminate in its placement of advertising.”

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