World Bank’s Amaila Falls comment angers Govt.
The comment by World Bank Country Representative, Giorgio Valentini, that the World Bank was never approached to finance the Amaila Falls hydro project has drawn a strong reaction from Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh.
The Finance Minister went as far as to question the Bank’s priorities over its move to new offices and Valentino’s appearances in the media.
Dr Singh suggested that Velentini had no competence to comment on the Amaila Falls hydro project.
However, Velentini’s approach to the media was not unexpected. In fact, last year, all of the country’s foreign development partners had announced they wanted all stakeholders much more involved in the work they are funding in the country.
But this has not gone down well with the government.
Dr Singh said the World Bank has been a highly valued development partner to Guyana, “operating a small and efficient country office, in modest premises within the UNDP country office, with a small staff of professionals dedicated to the task of aiding development in Guyana.”
The Bank’s move to new offices and the hiring of new staff have come to be a “worrying trend of shifting priorities” as far as the Minister is concerned.
“I would be much happier if the country office of the Bank expended more effort to increase the Bank’s work and its development impact in Guyana, instead of trying to increase their own visibility and creature comforts.
“Of all our development partners, the Bank has one of the smallest project portfolios, but one of the largest offices and, it would appear, one of the largest appetites for publicity and self-promotion, even if only recently acquired. Guyana still faces considerable development challenges, and we need the assistance of the World Bank, we don’t need grandstanding by their staff in country.”
In connection with Valentini’s statement that the Bank never received a request from Guyana for support for the Amaila Falls project, the Minister offered two responses.
First, he stated that the Bank’s Representative seemed to be unaware that the project is a private sector project, with international investors as the project sponsors. Any request for support would come in the first instance from the private sponsors of the project and not from the State, although the State would be likely to support any such request, Singh suggested.
Secondly, the Minister stated, the Bank’s Representative should have acquainted himself with the fact that the project sponsors have been engaged in discussions with the Bank’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and other institutions within the World Bank Group, along with several other sources of financial and non-financial support for the project.
“Had the Representative bothered to ascertain the facts, he would not have offered such an uninformed response, which only served to feed Kaieteur News’ apparently insatiable appetite for sensational headlines.”
The Minister emphasised that Guyana has valued greatly the work of the Bank over the years, but is firmly of the view that the Bank’s mandate in Guyana would be better served by greater prudence on the part of its staff than has been displayed by its country office recently, “including the most recent media jaunt by the Bank’s Representative.”
“The emphasis must be on improving delivery of assistance and maximising development impact, rather than on increasing visibility and raising personal profile,” Dr Singh declared.