By Devina Samaroo
Guyana and China Saturday signed agreements worth US$52 million that will go towards a national broadband network and other projects that are being fine-tuned, including those under China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative.
The agreements were signed by the visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Minister of Foreign Carl Greenidge at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre.
Greenidge and the Chinese Government delegation discussed a range of areas of cooperation.
Among the agreements is a 250 million RMB (US$37M) Framework Agreement to implement the “Guyana National Broadband Project.”
“This project will see the upgrading of the network to enable an equitable delivery of service in the education, health, security, business and other sectors,” Greenidge stated.
The contract for this project was already signed last year with multinational Chinese firm Huawei pending the approval of the loan.
The two countries also signed an agreement on economic and technical cooperation to fund several projects, including a Public Service College. This grant is valued at an estimated 100 million RMB or US$14 million.
Guyana already has the Bertram Collins College of the Public Service which was officially opened in 2016 by President David Granger.
It is believed that through the assistance from the Chinese Government, the college will undergo several upgrades to make its infrastructure modern.
Two months ago Guyana and China signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative.
During their meeting today, the ministers discussed how they will move forward with the cooperation areas identified under the MOU.
While the MOU outlines broad areas of collaboration, such as policy coordination, enhancing connectivity, promoting trade and increased people-to-people exchanges among others, Minister Greenidge said the two countries must now identify specific proposals and develop a mechanism by which projects and programmes in these areas, may be proposed and evaluated at the technical level.
Minister Greenidge said the Guyana Government already commenced discussions with other agencies in order to secure their inputs to assess their needs and to identify priority areas.
Referencing the longstanding diplomatic ties between Guyana and China, Minister Greenidge expressed that the visit by the Chinese Foreign Minister “will no doubt contribute to the strengthening and advancement of our relationship”.
For his part, Wang Yi noted that “Guyana has been China’s traditional friend”.
In 1972, Guyana became the first country in the English-speaking Caribbean to establish diplomatic relations with China.
“We always recall that when China was experiencing some difficulties, it was Guyana who spoke up in support of restoration of normal seat of the PRC at the United Nations,” he expressed.
It is against this backdrop that the Chinese Foreign Minister pledged to help Guyana achieve faster progress and prosperity.
China also signed another agreement giving Guyana a grant of US$1.1M for the hosting of 17th Session of the Committee for the Review and Implementation of the Convention of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in January of 2019.
It will be the largest international meeting Guyana has ever hosted.
Wang Yi said the two governments have identified future priorities for collaboration covering a wide span of areas like infrastructure, agriculture, fisheries, energy, including renewable energy sources, ICT, education, sports, public health to achieve faster progress and prosperity.