Gov’t working to meet requirements to access US$80M Norway forest payments

-Harmon

Government is working to meet the specific requirements of the Norwegian government so that it can access US$80 million in payments for forest services being held by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Minister of State Joseph Harmon says.

“They requested some documents which we have submitted, there were some precise requirements to be met and we submitted those,” Harmon told Stabroek News on the sidelines of the recent launch of the PNCR’s 60th anniversary celebrations.

The Minister of State explained that while in the interim he can say that government is working assiduously to meet Oslo’s requirements, so that it can access the funds, there were documents to be shown and explained. He said that he could not “speak at the top of my head” when this newspaper caught up with him, but he promised that he will, in detail, very soon.

“I will give you a full sit down and give you a detailed explanation, showing what projects we have and where the blockages have occurred and so on, as far as those funds are concerned and the projects we have submitted to the agencies… I will have to sit down because I have all the documents now. We are in communication with Norway on all of these issues. In spite of what seems to be a popular view out there, we are in contact with the Norwegians as it relates to all of these funds. We have been submitting documents and so on and I think, only recently, we submitted some other documents to them,” Harmon said.

Per Fredrik Pharo

“They have not given us the monies that are actually available. Part of the US$80 million is available to us, we have earned it. This is the point I am making to you; it is our money. But if you put your money in a bank and you say, ‘Ok I will go and collect it,’ then  you go there to collect it now and the bank says ‘You gonna have to bring your sister, you have to bring your aunty and all these different people.’ It is still your money. But you have to reach certain requirements. The point is we understand that, and we are working through to get it,” he added.

Special Envoy and Director of the Norwegian International Climate and Forest Initiative Per Fredrik Pharo has made clear that the release of US$80 million was hinged on Georgetown showing a clear plan towards clean renewable energy. “This is not about any particular project, but about a realistic and politically anchored plan to deliver on the government’s own stated ambition,” Pharo had written in April this year, in an Op-Ed published in the state-owned Guyana Chronicle newspaper, where he assured that Norway is committed to supporting Guyana’s transition to clean and renewable energy sources.

Joseph Harmon

Pharo pointed out that shortly after the APNU+AFC won government office in May, 2015, several public statements created doubts about whether the goals of the former administration’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), especially regarding Guyana’s transition to near 100 percent clean and renewable energy sources within reasonable time, would be upheld by the David Granger-led administration. Funding from Norway was to be used to implement the LCDS.

Pharo noted that the Granger administration has now embarked on work to take the LCDS one step further by developing the new “Green State Development Strategy,” which is a process that his country embraces because of its ambition as well as Norway’s strong support for a democratically-elected government’s right to continuously ponder the future development path of its country.

“We strongly defend the right of a government to set the development path of its country. But if that development path were to deviate from that which was the basis for our partnership, then it is not the right of a government to retain the benefits of a partnership based on commitments it no longer intends to fulfil. For this reason, while waiting for the Granger administration to clarify its position, Norway has not been in a position to make any new financial transfers or commitments to the partnership,” he explained. “The crucial point, however, is that neither have we taken any steps to terminate the partnership. On the contrary, we are working actively with the Government of Guyana to identify an agreed path forward,” he added.

But Harmon says that the Granger administration is committed to its agreement with Norway and has demonstrated this in many ways.

“Quite to the contrary, where people believe that nothing has happened since we came into office, a lot has happened since then. We have actually recommitted to the agreement with ourselves and Norway. We have actually signed those documents. I signed as the minister responsible and signed for the extension the last time it came to an end. It is not something that I can just stand up and talk off the top of my head. There are some very precise measures which have to be  dealt with and what I have to show you is what we have done in keeping with those measures,” he asserted.

“We never broke off with Norway. His Excellency the President, when he went to Marrakesh, met with the Minister of the Environment [of Norway] and gave them the firm commitment that we were prepared to proceed with the agreement and with the terms and conditions of it. However, we wanted to have a fresh look at it, in view of what we consider to be the green pathway or green strategy, which we are developing. In the interim I am saying that our relationship with the Kingdom of Norway is still very strong and we are still in contact with them, not just about the $80 million but about other projects which we want to deal with them on,” he added.

Harmon said that in addition to Norway, other countries have approached the administration to assist its plans for a ‘Green State.’  “The world is recognizing that President David Granger’s thrust for a green state and a green economy is the way the world will be going. In spite of what you see happening in the United States, with Mr. [Donald] Trump’s administration, the rest of the world have actually embraced a green state strategy and the question of dealing with our environment in a sustainable way. I think this is what has actually caught on,” he said.

“Apart from the relationship with Norway, other states have been in touch with us and have been finding out how best they can help in dealing with us achieving our green plan. I am actually surprised at the number of people that have come to us and said that ‘We can now make available to Guyana monies under this strategy, once we get this and that and that done.’ We are working, very much working, to get that and that done,” he added.

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