Guyana, India formalise accords
By Mark Ramotar
November 8, 2006
THE governments of Guyana and India yesterday formalised four agreements, one for a US$2.1M concessional line of credit to install solar-powered traffic lights in Georgetown.
The signing of the four agreements took place in the Credentials Room of the Office of the President Secretariat in Georgetown in the presence of President Bharrat Jagdeo and visiting Vice President of India, Mr. Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.
The first agreement signed at the simple but very significant ceremony late yesterday afternoon, following a 45-minutes closed door meeting between President Jagdeo and the Indian Vice President, was an arrangement for the gainful occupation by family members of a diplomatic mission or consular post hosted in both countries.
This arrangement provides for family members, particularly spouses of diplomats, consular, administrative and technical staff of the diplomatic mission of Guyana in New Delhi and the diplomatic mission of India in Georgetown to seek employment in the country of post.
The arrangement will be reciprocal and entered into operation following yesterday’s signing between Minister of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation, Dr. Henry Jeffrey and Indian High Commissioner to Guyana, Mr. Avinash Gupta.
The second agreement was for cultural exchanges between the two governments for the period 2007 to 2009. This agreement is pursuant to the cultural agreement signed between Guyana and India on December 30, 1974 and will allow for the sharing of resource personnel and information between the Indian Cultural Centre and the Ministry of Culture and the promotion of cultural exchanges. This agreement was signed by High Commissioner Gupta and Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Dr. Frank Anthony.
The third agreement signed is a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the establishment of the Rabindranauth Tagore Resource Centre at the University of Guyana’s Turkeyen, East Coast Demerara campus.
The idea of establishing the Resource Centre at UG, named after the world-famous winner of the 1913 Nobel Prize in Literature, Rabindranauth Tagore, is the brainchild of High Commissioner Gupta who explored the idea some time back with a very receptive UG Vice Chancellor, Dr James Rose.
Following the signing of the MOU yesterday between Gupta and Rose, the centre will be officially commissioned today by Mr. Shekawat.
After the announcement last week by Gupta that the Indian Government has approved the US$2.1M concessional line of credit for the traffic lights project in Georgetown, there were doubts that the agreement would have been ready to be signed yesterday, given the short notice.
Committed efforts on the part of all stakeholders from both countries, however, ensured that the agreement was ready to be signed yesterday by Minister in the Ministry of Finance Dr. Jennifer Webster and Mr. Tarun Sharma, the U.S. based representative of the Export-Import Bank of India.
It was noted that this agreement represents a line of credit from the Export-Import Bank of India for the procurement and installation of traffic lights for the city.
At a news conference at the Indian High Commission in Georgetown last Friday, Gupta announced that he had only received word of the approval of the line of credit from the Indian Government that very morning via an email from the administration’s offices in New Delhi.
He had assured that committed efforts will be made to have the agreement completed and signed during the much anticipated official visit to Guyana by the Vice President of India.
According to Gupta, the basic idea about the traffic lights project was conceived about 10 months ago when an Indian company visited Guyana and gave a proposal for the installation of solar-powered traffic lights, which can also work under the normal electricity grid.
He said another Indian company subsequently visited Guyana just over a month ago to ensure that the project proposal provided by the first Indian firm was financially viable.
“The second company visited Guyana some time in September this year and we (the Indian Government) found that the project proposal of the second company was economically viable,” Gupta said, adding that the Indian Government decided to proceed with the project proposal.
Under Phase One of the project, the envoy said it is expected that some 50 solar powered traffic lights will be provided and installed at sites in and around Georgetown to be identified by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The non-functioning traffic lights in Georgetown has been a sore issue for several years and almost two years ago, on November 29, 2004, the then Home Affairs Minister, Ms Gail Teixeira, had promised that efforts were being made by her ministry to “have this situation corrected in the not too distant future”.
Teixeira noted then that her ministry was trying to pursue funds to install about 23 traffic lights at the most crucial intersections, and had reassured Guyanese that the issue will not be swept under the rug, but avenues were being explored for financial support.
“What the public should realize is that these lights will cost an estimated US$2M, and that is just to purchase them. We still have to look at monies for maintenance,” the minister had said, while noting that attempts to fix the existing traffic lights were thwarted by unscrupulous persons who deliberately damage them.