Corruption has developed into an audacious right and an entrenched culture

December 13, 2009 | By | Filed Under Letters 

Dear Editor
An MOU regarding cooperation on the fight against climate change, protection of diversity and sustainable development was signed on November 8, 09 between the Governments of Guyana and Norway. These two countries intend to set up a Guyana REDD Investment Fund (GRIF) which will receive result-based funds from Norway and other subscribers to the fund.
According to the MOU the partners with vested interests will select a reputable international organisation to manage GRIF. The partners will then decide on safeguards including fiduciary and operational policies in the running of the investment fund.
Guyana’s Ministry of Finance will hold overall responsibility for the management of GRIF.
The project will come under the control of the Centre of International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the UN FAO plus relevant legislation, policies and processes in Guyana. This forum will develop transparency, rules, forest governance, accountability and enforcement.
On the face of it, the MOU seems like manna from heaven that will now be showered upon the people, after decades of literal famine that was imposed upon them by the politicians. It seems far too good to be true.
The Guyana/Norway REDD scheme is voluntary to the extent that the UN body has not been able to set up legal limits on global emission reduction levels. This is unlikely to be achieved at the UNFCCC conference on REDD this year at Copenhagen.
In the absence of a binding treaty, the control forum for Guyana/ Norway REDD project will develop and decide on its own self governing voluntary rules that will underpin the project execution. There is no guarantee that the interests of the Guyanese people will be fully safeguarded and with full entitlement to the unencumbered benefits from the scheme.
But the carbon vultures are already circling and the scheme could yet end up as charter for big businesses and corrupt carbon officials to set up dubious deals and to earn vast sums of easy money at the expense of the citizens of Guyana.
A voluntary REDD scheme was set up in Papua New Guinea but this was halted and the commissioner in Port Moresby suspended. It was discovered that corrupt carbon officials were persuading indigenous communities to sign over their forest rights to them and using bogus carbon trading certificates.
The Jakarta Post has also reported about fake carbon brokers, who were setting themselves up in business and pledging that money will be paid out from a voluntary REDD projects in Indonesia.
CIFOR is involved in forest related issues in both of the countries of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
Oil Watch and World Rainforest Movement have both criticised CIFOR on their deforestation and degradation study that it ‘constitutes one of the worst examples of a biased, simplistic and unscientific study’ and that the CIFOR authors ‘show a total lack of understanding about ecosystems on how oil and mining impact on them and their inhabitants’.
CIFOR is slated as one of the controllers of the Guyana/Norway REDD scheme.
The UN FAO is a food and agriculture organisation but now seems to be assuming a major controlling role in Guyana’s carbon marketing.
The Guyana economy is in a desperate need for an injection of funds which a REDD
Project can effectively deliver. At the end of the day it will depend on whether the government will do a u turn and to shift from their current rigid policies on corruption or to forever remain in denial.
Transparency International has pointed out that Guyana has been bumping along at the bottom end of the TI Index over the years. Successive governments have always sought to challenge the TI Index as opposed to tackling corruption.
By doing nothing the government is implicitly encouraging corruption which has developed into an audacious right and an entrenched culture. This can hardly provide the right ambience conducive to successful REDD project in Guyana.
Not so long ago the President has failed to secure EEC funding as a result of an inept government. The funding was time-lined and the government was unable to submit an application in time and to meet the dead line. The funding was withdrawn.
The UK security funding has suffered the same fate, when the government scuttled the $1.6 billion funding by claiming that it was trampling on sovereignty and ownership of processes. The UK then diverted the fund to another needy country. This resulted in the security forces being denied the training needed to deliver effective and accountable policing for the citizens.
The developed world has been pumping vast quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere since the 1850s and this is now threatening a global climate catastrophe. Much of their forests have been destroyed with little or no control in place. Like a ticking time bomb it set to explode if it is not quickly disarmed.
The consequence however, are that it is set to destroy the very countries that have been priming the climate bomb and continuing to do so. Rising temperatures does not respect borders and this will result in increasing sea levels, flooding in low lying areas and droughts in other areas. With the Arctic ice melting, a chain reaction will trigger-off more methane release from the vast northern tundra to pollute the atmosphere even further. The result would be dramatic; with deaths, destruction and population displacements on an unprecedented scale.
The very forests that were being destroyed relentlessly over the centuries are now providing a key that could help to save the world, with Guyana playing a pivotal role. Countries with pristine forest are countries that can use their forests as carbon banks. The forest would extract CO2 from the atmosphere by sequestration and capture the carbon. Trees cannot be taken for granted any longer and tress seems to be turning into gold. The more trees the more gold and Guyana has always been blessed with trees.
But Guyana was also blessed with gold and other valuable resources. The trouble is that politicians have always been selling out Guyana cheaply. Apart from buying in pollution from logging, mining, missile dredging and creating stagnant breeding ponds for malaria; the people of Guyana had reaped little benefits from its natural resources.
Even if Omai had declared and paid the measly 5% of its vast gold revenues, little had filtered down beyond the politicians and a corrupt elite class.
Barama and its parent company Samlin, are also no strangers in their quest to exploit indigenous communities.
The President’s carbon hard-sell has gained him much publicity, but is this his ship that will deliver the goods to the rickety wharf in Georgetown, or will it end up hijacked at sea?
With the big scramble by the developed countries to buy carbon offsets, the price can only rise and to his benefit.
The Surinamese has already created a stir against the MOU and voicing claims about sovereignty over a disputed territory, which was supposed to have been settled some time ago.
The Venezuelans has kept quiet so far and in no hurry to react against the MOU. The Venezuelans have established a claim to over half of Guyana and they have stopped the Guyana government from doing any oil exploration on the disputed territory. They hold the card to intervene, if and when it suits them.
Further, Guyana has become dependent on subsidized oil from Venezuela and the future of President Jagdeo’s REDD project may lie firmly in the hands of the Venezuelans.
Would REDD be yet another funded project destined to end up in shambles as in recent past, or would it finally bring the prosperity that has long eluded the people of Guyana?
Mac Mahase

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