– in keeping with President’s commitment during meeting with Forestry stakeholders
Following up on President Irfaan Ali’s announcement in October of a $900 Million Revolving Fund to boost Guyana’s forestry sector, Senior Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh today, on behalf of Government, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Demerara Bank Limited during a simple signing ceremony at the Ministry of Finance. As can be recalled, President Ali had indicated during his announcement that Government’s intention is to increase its focus on small, medium and community loggers and had noted that Government and Demerara Bank Limited will collaborate to make available the $900 Million revolving fund to increase production in the forestry sector. The signing was witnessed by Minister of Natural Resources Vickram Bharrat, forestry sector stakeholders including representatives of the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) and the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA).
The establishment of the Fund is expected to address some of the challenges faced in the forestry sector in terms of the availability of easily accessible, low cost financing, especially for small scale operators. Meanwhile, the $900 Million Revolving Fund comprises a commitment of $300 Million by the Government of Guyana and a further $600 Million commitment by Demerara Bank Limited to address the challenges. It is expected to be utilized by individuals or companies operating within the forestry sector for the purpose of increasing production and value-added products in the sector.
Speaking during the ceremony, Dr. Singh reiterated that despite Guyana’s economy growing due to the oil and gas sector, Government remains committed to ensuring that the country’s economy is also diversified and resilient and not dependent solely on the oil sector and as such is continuing to work towards the country building a ‘vibrant, competitive and rapidly growing non-oil economy’.
“Naturally oil and gas will be driving a lot of the incredibly exciting economic growth that we’re seeing in Guyana, in 2022 we’ll see out economy grow in excess of 50 percent of real terms and in 2023 we are going to see our economy continuing to grow by an astronomical 25 percent or thereabouts and this is expected to continue into the medium term based on current proven reserves comprised of 11 billion barrels of oil but of course exploration is still ongoing…,” he added.
Dr. Singh pointed out as well that in keeping with Guyana’s historical and pioneering Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) which has resulted in Guyana being the first country to gain the first sale transaction of certified carbon credits under which Guyana has already earned US$75 Million as a first transaction of an ongoing series of transactions, that the realization of the forestry sector’s growth will be achieved in the context of continued responsible management of Guyana’s forestry resources and continued strong emphasis on value-added production.
Noting that access to financé has been a bottleneck for small loggers in Regions 1 and 10 in particular who are in need of same to capitalize or to recapitalize their operations as well as the need for available concessions to produce, Minister of Natural Resources Vickram Bharrat who witnessed the signing today, noted that the Forestry sector is in a better position than it was when Government returned to office in 2020 and that to date the GFC has allocated over 100 concessions to local small Guyanese loggers with the second issue being access to financing being addressed currently.
“So it is indeed pleasing for me as Minister of Natural Resources that we have reached this stage where we bargained (ofcourse with the intervention of His Excellency President Ali) with Demerara Bank Limited that we can now access finance for our small loggers, our sawmillers and to ensure that the forestry sector is being restored and returned to its former glory days,” Minister Bharrat added.
Minister Bharrat reminded that Government also has a housing project initiative with Barbados and St. Vincent and the boost to the forestry sector for further production through the MOU initiative signed today would assist in ensuring that there will be a further increase from that in 2022 and more production in the years beyond.
Signing on behalf of Demerara Bank Limited was General Manager Dowlat Parbhu who said that the Bank was pleased to partner with Government in the monumental initiative that will help to boost the sector. He recalled that the Bank has been supporting a number of sectors including agriculture alluding to the Bank’s launch of the Farmers’ Credit Line which provides loans to farmers for up to $1.5 Million at a very concessional rate. He noted that almost 300 farmers have been loaned financing from the last crop and this has helped many to return to the fields which in turn helps the sectors in Guyana which depend on rice especially.
“Today we are ensuring that for another sector in Guyana credit is available,” he added as he thanked President Ali for the initiative.
President Ali, in October had highlighted that financing through the Fund would be provided at an affordable interest rate of 4 percent and that Government would work in conjunction with the bank to prequalify persons based on recommendations from the GFC following which a system would be put in place to provide access to financing so that there would be an increase in cash flow for production. He had also emphasized that his Government is committed to supporting small, medium and community-based loggers but that there must be “clarity, good governance, transparency, accountability and a system that works”.