U.S. backs Guyana projects
-- pleased with how aid is used By Chamanlall Naipaul
Guyana Chronicle
June 24, 2004

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THE United States Government is satisfied with the way the aid it is providing is being used by the Guyana Government and is extending its support for development projects here.

This position was echoed yesterday by both the Charge d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy here, Ms. Betty McCutchan and Director of the local United States Agency for International Development (USAID) mission, Dr. Mike Sarhan.

They were speaking during the signing of a PL 480 Title I Food for Progress FY 2004 agreement which provides for the donation of 23,000 tonnes of wheat, valued at US$5M, to Guyana.

“Overall, the U.S. Government is satisfied”, McCutchan said.

According to the U.S. officials, minor problems pertaining to aid programmes have cropped up periodically, but overall the U.S. administration is satisfied with how the aid is being utilised.

Sarhan noted that last year no aid was provided under the provisions of the PL 480 agreement because of ongoing evaluation of previous programmes to determine how future programmes would be dealt with.

McCutchan, acknowledging Guyana’s reliance on agriculture, remarked: “As we all know, Guyana’s economy remains heavily dependent on agriculture for income generation and job creation.”

“The challenge of making the agricultural sector much more productive and efficient remains critical for most developing countries, and Guyana is no exception. Increasing agricultural production has a manifold impact, not only on reducing hunger and increasing food security, but also on poverty reduction and ensuring higher living standards for all Guyanese.

“It is for these reasons that support for agriculture remains a major thrust of development planning”, she said.

However, she pointed out that while the U.S. Government’s food aid programmes generally support agricultural, economic, and infrastructure development, Guyana benefits also through the foreign exchange savings realised, which directly contribute to the improvement of the country’s balance of payments.

McCutchan said that under this year’s programme proceeds will be used to support a wide range of development projects, including the rehabilitation and maintenance of 20,000 feet of sea defence.

Also planned are drainage and irrigation systems for 67,000 acres, while collaboration in germplasm collection, conservation and use between the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Research Service will be supported; adherence to sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures for exported produce will be promoted, as well as improvement of agricultural extension services.

In addition, five fellowships will be extended to Guyanese researchers, scientists, faculty members and policy and regulatory officials in the agricultural sector, McCutchan said, explaining that these activities are all directed at addressing deficiencies in the agriculture sector - strengthening infrastructure, increasing efficiency and building capacity.

Also identified for support are environmental projects designed to boost conservation efforts and the sustainable use of natural resources, as well as the social and judicial services.

“These varied initiatives will build upon the Government of Guyana’s efforts to improve living standards and the quality of life for all Guyanese,” McCutchan said.

Sarhan observed that the grant “frees up money” that is raised through taxation, thus providing budgetary support.

He also pointed out that during this programme there will be greater emphasis on social sector development with about 30-35% of the proceeds earmarked for that sector.

Minister of Finance, Mr. Saisnarine Kowlessar recalled that this year’s agreement marks the fourth such under the PL 480 Title I Food for Progress.

Previous accords were in 2000, 2001 and 2002, he said, pointing out that the terms and conditions of the new agreement are similar to those of the PL 480 programmes from which Guyana has been benefiting since 1986.

He said that all projects and activities related to the programme will be mutually agreed upon by both parties concluding the agreement before implementation.

Over the past 18 years, the U.S. Government food aid programmes have contributed about US$115M to Guyana’s development.

Under the PL 480 programme the U.S. Government donates wheat to the Government of Guyana, which is sold to the local flour mill, and the Guyanese currency generated from the sale of the wheat is then programmed jointly by the two governments to finance local development projects.