Kaieteur News news item, Thursday 21 May 2009
Guyana disregarded EU criteria for funds disbursement - Ambassador Heikens
If criteria are not met under the European Development Fund, then finances will not be disbursed, European Commission Ambassador Geert Heikens, said yesterday.
The Ambassador was at the time responding to Minister Robert Persaud, who called for more flexibility from Brussels in the allocation of grants.
This call came in light of Guyana losing $6M Euros in budgetary support, during 2007/2008, because of late submission of the sugar action plan and an expenditure framework for sugar for the period 2009-2011.
However, Ambassador Heikens set the record straight yesterday by disclosing that Guyana was aware that both the sugar action plan and the expenditure framework for sugar for the period 2009-2011 were due by January 2008.
According to Heikens, he took the courtesy of extending that deadline until the end of March 2008, but the Guyana Sugar Corporation did not submit the plan.
It was not until July 2008, Ambassador Heikens said, that the plan was finally submitted, but by that time it was too late.
“I took the liberty of extending it until March 31and had promised to defend it as a criteria being met, but the programme was never approved until July and that was too far behind the agreed criteria.”
Yesterday, he told the media that that money will not be recovered, adding that no one provided the commission with an explanation of the reasons for the late submission.
Often, he said, the EU is criticized for the ending of the protocol, but what is hardly told of, Ambassador Heikens said, is the funding that is being provided to sugar producing countries to assist in the diversification or improvement of the sector.
Guyana, he added, has been given $90M Euros in a 2007-2010 timeframe to support the sector.
The EC formulated its overall response strategy following the submission of the Guyana National Action Plan on sugar in March 2006.
The response strategy embraces all the three main components of the Guyana National Action Plan, namely enhancing the competitiveness and productivity of the sugar sector, as well as encouraging the agricultural diversification and measures to support the implementation of the components of the plan.
Ambassador Heikens said that another criterion that has caused the withholding of funds is the approval of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper by cabinet.
The General Budget support for Guyana was $40M Euros, however according to Heikens, $12M has not been disbursed as yet because the Commission is awaiting the approval by Cabinet for the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper.