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Finance Minister, Mr. Saisnarine Kowlessar and Head of the European Commission Delegation to Guyana, Ambassador Vincent De Visscher appended their signatures to the Guyana Country Support Strategy (CSS) for the 9th European Development Fund (EDF) under the Cotonou Agreement.
The signing ceremony took place in the boardroom of the Finance Ministry, Main Street, Georgetown and was witnessed by senior officials from the Finance Ministry and members of the Media.
The Country Support Strategy document and the funding it represents will cover aid to Guyana from the European Commission over the next five years. It is understood that the main purpose of the CSS programme is to support the Government's efforts to reduce poverty through sustainable economic and social development and funds will be targeting specific areas such as infrastructure and macro-economic support.
The CSS which builds on Guyana's Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) and the National Development Strategy (NDS) papers will see a concentration of resources in areas such as sea defence under the infrastructural component and a focus on health and housing under the macro-economic support component.
Head of the European Commission Delegation to Guyana, Ambassador Vincent De Visscher and Finance Minister, Mr. Saisnarine Kowlessar as they append their signatures yesterday to formalise the Country Support Strategy for the 9th EDF under the Cotonou Agreement.
In the area of infrastructure, the rehabilitation and maintenance of sea defence is seen as critical since the defence serves to protect Guyana's coastline, while in the areas of macro-economic support, health has been given the highest priority but the support under this section can also be directed towards housing.
De Visscher noted that in addition to the assistance provided for under the GCSS, the European Commission will continue with its other support programmes such as the Linden Economic Advancement Programme, and the private sector will continue to be able to access support from the European Investment Bank.
Country support strategy papers were introduced in 2001 as part of a wider programme of the Commission reforms in external assistance. Their purpose is to improve the coherence on the policy toward third countries, particularly to ensure a match between political priorities and spending on development assistance. Country support strategy papers are developed in collaboration with national governments, EU member states, other donors and civil society. This cooperation strategy is based on the principles of partnership and ownership set out in the Cotonou agreement signed in June 2000.
According to a statement from the Finance Ministry, the CSS is the basis for developing the country's five year National Indicative Programme (NIP) under the 9th EDF.
In addition to the National Indicative Programme, the EU also provides other forms of assistance such as structural adjustment support, debt relief, and emergency and environmental aid, the Ministry stated.
Minister Kowlessar noted that total funding by the EU for previous NIPs under the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th EDF amounted to some Gy$20 billion (EURO 114 million).
He noted, too, that Guyana's performance under the various EDF programmes over the years has been excellent so much so that under the 8th EDF, the country was able to receive additional funding to the tune of some Gy$1.5 billion (EURO 9 million) for sites and services for low-income housing development.
Unlike the Lome Convention whereby countries were able to retain their initial allocation despite the level of their performance the new successor Agreement places emphasis on performance so that countries stand to benefit from additional resources or risk losing them depending on how well they perform. Based on past performance, the Ministry envisages that Guyana will be in a very good position to receive additional benefits under the new agreement.
The Finance Ministry also said it is encouraged to note that the delegation to Guyana will soon be upgraded to a regional office and that it will be taking over some of the responsibilities from Brussels as part of the policy changes now being introduced within the European Commission to improve performance and efficiency.
"Let me say how happy we are this afternoon that we are in a position to sign the country support strategy. We are now entering into a new agreement here today (and) this CSS is going to inform our relationship between the Government of Guyana and the EU over the next period - from 2002 to 2007," Kowlessar told reporters during yesterday's signing ceremony.
He said in terms of the allocation of the resources, sea defences will get about EUROS 19 million, while macro economic support for the social sectors would be about EUROS 14.9 million.
The Finance Minister also congratulated Ambassador De Visscher for the good work he has been doing here in Guyana and in the region and expressed thanks to the EU for their continued assistance and support which are aimed at developing this country.
Ambassador De Visscher said the signing of the agreement is an indication of the partnership between the Guyanese people and the European Union for the development of Guyana
"I am very pleased that, after some months of efforts, we are able to bring together this new partnership agreement and I am looking forward to its implementation," De Visscher stated.