By Bibi Khatoon
With the 2020 national elections completed and a legitimate Government now in place, the European Union (EU) is set to release funding to Guyana to address the impacts of COVID-19 along with “budget support” which was held up since the passage of the No-Confidence motion.
“If things go as we are working, there will be a very sizeable amount that will be dedicated on many fronts to the fight against COVID or more concretely to support Guyana in the fight against COVID,” EU Ambassador to Guyana Fernando Ponz Cantó told the News Room Thursday.
“It will be sizeable, it will be a big package.”
Cantó said engagements have already begun with the 18-day old Government.
“It is extremely useful to have a Government which is fully established,” he stated, adding that the EU is keen improved planning to ensure assistance goes where it is most needed.
The EU Ambassador said plans were in the pipeline to disburse assistance and that was one of the reasons he was advocating for a speedy end to the electoral process.
He said the EU is looking to support rebuilding different sectors of the economy which are affected by the pandemic and related restrictions.
While he said the package of assistance will be “a sizeable amount”, the EU wants to ensure it goes to where it is needed, and not lumped in areas already identified for support by other donor agencies.
He told the News Room that the assistance to Guyana could include the exchange of expertise in key areas, funding for important studies to map the situation and organizational support.
“It can be many things in many areas because let’s not forget that COVID impact is not only the illness, the disease itself, it’s not only on the people who are directly affected –of course, those are the worst affected. But it affects the whole country…in many areas which range from industry to tourism to everything. Our idea at this point is to have something very comprehensive,” the Ambassador explained.
Guyana has so far recorded 776 COVID-19 cases with 29 deaths.
As a result of restrictions to curb the spread of the disease, the airports and all tourism-related businesses remain closed as well as entertainment spots. Mining was suspended for a short period of time while the petroleum industry is affected by low oil prices. Other businesses which were deemed unessential have also had to close their doors and lay off staff affecting the overall economy.
However, Cantó believes that Guyana has done well so far in addressing the pandemic by ensuring that it does not explode.
“Guyana has managed to avoid the explosion of COVID-19 that has happened in other countries,” but he was quick to add that “this does not mean it cannot still happen,” as persons are still engaging in social activities and some are refusing to wear masks.
The Diplomat said while this is not a problem unique to Guyana, it must be looked at in the context of the country’s proximity to Brazil and Venezuela which have seen millions of cases recorded.
“I’m very concerned about the proximity to our neighbours,” he said.
Guyana shares a porous border with both countries.
Further, the European Union which has been providing support to Guyana to fight climate change and other budgetary needs will soon embark on a new 6-year cycle of funding to developing countries.
That cycle is currently being crafted and engagements are ongoing with the Government to determine its needs.
“Our instrument with Guyana is what we call Budget support and budget support requires the existence of institutions, requires the existence of a series of requirements and this does not matter whether it is climate change or whether it is any other subject…we need the institutions in place in order to pay if only that is to guarantee that the taxpayers money goes where it needs to go,” he noted.
The EU is also looking forward to the reconvening of the National Assembly to scrutinize the allocation of funds.