The Forestry Commission has been by far, one of the most progressive State agencies, and one that has attracted continuous donor support over the last two decades. This has made the Commission emerge as one of the best run, well managed natural resources agencies in Guyana. Undoubtedly, one of the biggest contributors has been the British Government which stemmed from a cooperation agreement that was executed by the Forestry Commission and the Land and Surveys Commission during the 1996 – 2001 period. This was followed up with another huge British programme in recent years to support work on forest monitoring and trade.
The main output of this large financing project by the UK Department for International Development (DfID) was the restructuring of the GFC to consolidate its technical resources in a manner that would separate out land monitoring and land allocation, that has separated out marketing and training into separate, independent arms of the Commission, and that has created a balanced network of environmental, technical and economic pillars for the execution of the Commission’s work.
A truly sustainable programme is measured by the impact of valuable donor financing over time and the continuous improvement and development of these programmes.
What has been announced to take place at the Forestry Commission is the exact opposite. The restructuring was initiated by a preconceived new structure informed by one political operative, incidentally the polling agent for the internal AFC elections, Mr. Clayton Hall, that shows what the new structure of the GFC should look like. I refer to this as Hall’s Restructuring Programme (HRP). Firstly, the cart has been placed before the horse with the new structure being placed at the first item under the restructuring rather than the last item – and what really should be the product of a well-executed process. The committee which is in place to oversee the restructuring is just a charade since the structure is already drafted by the Convener Clayton Hall and there is no doubt that the structure which emerges in July following the Restructuring Committee’s work will look the same.
All of this though, is overshadowed by the real travesty of this situation – that is, the exact structure which the British sought to change and succeeded in doing back in 2001, is now being reversed to the state of affairs in the mid-1990s when Clayton Hall was the head of the Commission. He is effectively undoing all that the DfID project did through that multimillion dollar support and reverting to the structure when he was the head of the GFC. Hall’s structure includes the merging of the land allocation and monitoring divisions, to create a super division that will be headed by Mr. Hall’s choice – the Deputy Commissioner of the Forest Monitoring Division.
A well-run and managed Forestry Commission for close to two decades thanks to the help of the British, officially comes to an end with the HRP. This is a slap in the face to the British. This is a clear indication to the British and the EU, the Norwegians, and all the other generous development partners that you can invest your development aid in Guyana but your efforts will not be lasting, it will not be sustained, it will be retrogressed by political motives and efforts.
I ask of the British High Commission in Guyana, to ask the persons leading the restructuring about the impact on the UK-funded restructuring in 2001. If the Convener Hall is forthcoming he will admit to the British that every intervention made under that project will be undone by his work.
It would not be long, but persons are looking on and they see that the move to restructure under the guise of embracing the new climate programmes of Guyana and new policies, is totally false. Mr Hall is consolidating authority and influence, and he is having his way to lead to a GFC structure reminiscent of his time as Commissioner – the exact thing the British changed under the 1998 – 2001 GFC restructuring.
The takeaway message for donors, as I see it, is that you are wasting your tax payers money in development aid on Guyana. The DfID funded GFC institutional strengthening project of 2001 is a good case model to check and the conclusion will be clearly seen that the multi-million dollar project with British money will be undone by the Hall Restructuring Programme.
M. Fraser PhD
Forest Sector Stakeholder/Specialist