Water supply, hinterland airstrips being considered for UK grant aid

Two projects on improving the water supply and hinterland airstrips here are under active consideration by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) as Guyana looks to benefit from £53.2 million in grant resources from the United Kingdom.

“It will take some time for the CDB and us…to assess the project bids so we’re talking about probably months before a final decision is taken to allow things to start,” British High Commissioner to Guyana Greg Quinn told reporters on Tuesday during a briefing at his residence. Guyana has been allocated £53.2 million (around $16 billion) by the UK under its £300 million United Kingdom Caribbean Infrastructure Fund (UKCIF).

Previously, the Ministry of Finance had announced that the funds will be applied to six major infrastructure programmes including waterfront development, water supply improvement and solid waste management. “The identified interventions will see improved road networks, bridges, stellings and waterfronts, rehabilitation of airstrips, reliable access to potable water and reduced energy costs as well as tackle the environmental and health risks associated with the improper disposal of waste,” it had said.

Quinn said proposals which have been put to the CDB, which is responsible for administering the Fund, include improving the water supply network, hinterland airstrip development, road development, port and harbour development including potentially work on improving the infrastructure and dredging of the Demerara River. He said the projects on water and hinterland airstrip development are now under active consideration by the CDB but it could be a while yet before the projects take off.

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office James Duddridge hailed the UKCIF and said the programme would positively impact the UK-Caribbean relationship. UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced the launch of the £300 million fund during his trip to Jamaica in September last year.

Meantime, as it relates to the upcoming June 23 vote on whether the UK should remain a member of the European Union (EU) and any likely impact on countries like Guyana as it relates to aid, Duddridge said he would argue that there is more to gain for Guyana if Britain leaves the EU. He pointed out that there is uncertainty on which way the vote will go.

“But the closeness to our relationship to Guyana will remain unchanged and I would argue, maybe even reinforced,” he said.

The official pointed out that the British government’s position is that Britain is better off in the EU but officials within the government can take different views and unlike Prime Minister David Cameron and the British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, he believes that the UK would be better off outside the EU.

“In reality this is not going to change things overnight, we will still be a member of the European Union on the 24th of June, there’ll need to be a re-negotiation of trading relationships and the United Kingdom will need to refocus where it needs to project its international diplomacy and one of the options is to reassert ourselves within the Commonwealth, within the Anglosphere and within the large growth economies around the world so I don’t think that the relationship with Guyana will change, in all candor, that dramatically. Guyana would still be a friend of the United Kingdom, still receive funding from the United Kingdom and actually, any funding that Guyana may get through the European Development Fund (EDF) is because it is a developing nation state not because of any special relationship with the UK,” he said.

As it relates to the UK’s contribution to the EDF, Duddridge said the UK contributes roughly around 12% of funding to the EU so it will keep that and be able to dispense that as it sees fit but the EDF will still have partners around the world so money will still be there.

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