Gov’t seeks over $2.5B in extra budgetary funds for legal fees for border case, drainage

Minister of Finance Winston Jordan has applied to the National Assembly for the approval of more than $2.52 billion in additional spending for the 2018 fiscal year, including $788 million to meet estimated legal fees for the preparation of Guyana’s case in the border controversy with Venezuela for the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Although $300 million was allocated in the 2018 budget for this line item, Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge said on Thursday that the extra $788,049,000 “is to cover the cost of retaining lawyers to do what needs to be done in 2018. We don’t know exactly how much it will cost because we don’t know how the court process will unfold, it depends in part on what the court requires… Venezuela may choose to appear or not appear and if they appear they may ask the court to do a set of things. It is difficult to say what is required, that is why it is an estimate. We may find at the end of the year that the amount is less. You pay the lawyers by time.”

Guyana last month filed an application with the ICJ to confirm the validity and binding effect of the Arbitral Award of 1899 on boundary between the two countries, following the decision by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to choose the ICJ as the next means of resolving the controversy, which stems from Venezuela’s contention that the award was null and void

Meanwhile, government is also seeking an additional $600 million under current estimates to offset the increased expenditure for the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) arising from the transfer of drainage and irrigation responsibilities previously undertaken by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo). This transfer is proving to be costly to the national purse as this is the second time in four months an additional sum has been requested for this line item.

After an original budget of $10.71 billion proved inadequate, the Ministry of Agriculture applied for and was granted an additional sum of $1.93 billion in January. With this additional request, the total expenditure by NDIA in this area is set to be in excess of $13.24 billion on the current estimates.

Under capital estimates, the ministry is seeking an additional $226 million for the NDIA for the purchase of six long boom excavators and four mini excavators along with spare parts emanating from a legal matter between Guyana Tractor and Equipment and the NDIA. This area had already been allocated $1.4 billion.

Other requests under the capital estimates included $346.5 million to facilitate the purchase and installation of two additional boarding bridges for the Cheddi Jagan International Airport Expansion Project, $81.6 million for the construction of a concrete perimeter fence at the New Opportunity Corps and $484.2 million to facilitate the acquisition of four aircrafts by the Guyana Defence Force (GDF).

On the latter, State Minister Joseph Harmon yesterday told a post-Cabinet press briefing that the allocation would cover the purchase of two skyvans and two Britten-Norman Islanders. “These aircrafts actually serve Guyana, serve the conditions under which you have to fly in Guyana. They have served us extremely well,” he said, while noting that the GDF has the competency to manage the aircraft as they operated these machines for many years. “In fact we still have one of the skyvans flying….we want to ensure that we can provide safe aircraft for our soldiers and in some cases when we have to take in civilians as well into our hinterland locations, when we have to do search and rescue, when we have to deliver items to our border troops, that we are in a position to do so and do so efficiently,” he added, while noting that he believed that both skyvans are reconditioned.

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