Speeding up the aid flow
Guyana Chronicle
October 19, 2001

THOUGH brief, the visit here this week by European Union (EU) Commissioner for Development, Mr. Poul Nielson had special significance for Guyana's efforts at development.

This was the first visit here in some 25 years by an EU Commissioner for Development (and Humanitarian Aid) and Guyana officials who had high hopes of making concerns known were not disappointed.

Mr. Vincent De Visscher, the EU Delegate to Guyana and Suriname, last week told reporters the objective of the commissioner's visit was "to see the field, see the reality, meet the political leaders...to have a good feeling not only of the coastal area but also the interior areas..."

As Mr. Visscher noted, the EU is one of the important donors for this country and finances several projects here.

The commissioner clearly got a good feel of the situation as he indicated at the Tuesday night formal opening of the new EU offices in Georgetown.

Mr. Nielson said he and President Bharrat Jagdeo agreed that they cannot continue having long delays before assistance reaches the beneficiaries of cooperation between Guyana and the EU.

He announced that the European Commission was actively taking the necessary measures to strengthen the regional delegation based here and to decentralise next year the decision making process for decisions which could be better taken in Georgetown than the EU headquarters in Brussels.

At the same time, the Government here has agreed to create at the level of the Ministry of Finance, a special unit which will be responsible for the EU programme with the necessary power and human resources, he said.

These are important steps in trying to address concerns Guyana Government officials have long had about delays in approved aid from donors getting to those targetted for help.

Sometimes the delays have been inordinate and extremely frustrating for those charged with getting off the ground developmental projects vital for communities.

The Guyana Government would therefore not be alone in welcoming Mr. Nielson's commitment to "let us bring our new partnership to life and let us accelerate what we are doing together".

It is to be expected that other donors would not be long in giving and following through on similar commitments.

Given its importance as an aid donor, the EU is also understandably concerned that there is progress in resolving political differences which can hamper developmental efforts.

In this regard, the visiting commissioner had what he said were very important discussions with President Jagdeo and Opposition Leader, Mr. Desmond Hoyte.

He said he was told that "major progress" was being made in the inter-party dialogue on a number of important subjects.

He, however, found it necessary to stress that the dialogue should be further promoted and continued at the level of the National Assembly "where it democratically belongs."

Development has little meaning without a resolution of political differences which can cripple progress, and a little plain talking by people with clout can often help prod parties along.

We hope Mr. Nielson's brief visit here would help to speed up more than the aid flow.