Guyana and China yesterday signed a framework agreement under which Beijing will fund the extension of the Guyana National Broadband Project on a RMB 250 million (US$36.46 million) concessionary loan, and an economic and technical cooperation pact for RMB 100 million (US$14.58 million) grant aid.
The economic and technical cooperation agreement will cover several projects, including the public service college.
The Chinese Government also handed over a US$1.1 million grant to the Guyana Government for Guyana’s hosting of the Seventeenth Session of the Committee for the Review and Implementation of the Convention (CRIC 17) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in January of 2019.
“I believe that it is the first occasion on which the Government of China has contributed cash to this very important undertaking (CRIC 17),” Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge said.
Greenidge and China’s State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi signed the agreements at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre, at Liliendaal. The handing over of the grant fund for the hosting of the CRIC 17 took place at the same time.
The three-year broadband expansion project, Greenidge said, will see the upgrading of the network to enable equitable delivery of service in education through e-classrooms, health, security through the provision of CCTV cameras, business and other sectors.
The project will also see the construction of another data centre as a backup to the primary data centre and improvements in the capacity of government’s network. No information was immediately available from the Foreign Ministry here on the terms of the concessional loan. Concerns have been raised about Guyana taking on additional debt.
In the meeting prior to the signing, Greenidge said, the two delegations discussed a range of issues related to their bilateral agenda.
Two months ago, he said, Guyana and China signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on cooperation within the framework of Beijing’s global “Belt and Road Initiative,” which represents yet another milestone in Guyana-China relations and which will add impetus to the efforts to promote deeper cooperation and collaboration in critical areas.
At the meeting, he said, they discussed how the two countries will move forward with the cooperation areas identified under the MOU to extract practical benefits for both countries.
“While the MOU outlines broad areas of collaboration, such as policy coordination, enhancing connectivity, promoting trade and increased people-to-people exchanges among others,” he said, “the two countries must now identify specific proposals and develop a mechanism by which projects and programmes in these areas, may be proposed and evaluated at the technical level.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he said, has begun discussions with other agencies to secure their inputs, to assess their needs and to identify priority areas.
The agencies that were represented at the meeting, he said, are committed to using the Initiative and existing bilateral mechanisms to channel support to critical sectors, such as infrastructure, agriculture, renewable energy, health, and information communication technology to bring direct benefits to Guyanese.
Expressing appreciation to “the invaluable support” received from bilateral partners, including the Government and People of China, he said, “China’s support over the years towards the upgrading of these and other sectors is testimony to the strong fraternity and partnership between our countries and peoples.”
In brief comments, Wang endorsed Greenidge’s remarks, while noting that Guyana has been a traditional friend to China.
Guyana was the first English-speaking Caribbean country to enter into diplomatic ties with China, he said recalling that Guyana spoke up in support of the restoration of the People’s Republic of China’s seat on the United Nations Security Council. China also appreciates Guyana’s longstanding support “of China’s core interests on the question of Taiwan,” he said, while noting that Beijing will also continue to speak up for Guyana’s rights and interests on the international stage.
Like Greenidge, Wang said they covered much ground on the bilateral agenda and identified future priority areas of cooperation, which included fisheries, energy – particularly new sources – education, sports and public health.
China will continue to do what it could to support Guyana’s development, he added.
Apart from reaffirming their commitment to working as partners on the “Belt and Road Initiative” for mutual benefits, Wang said they also spoke about China and CARICOM relations.