Saturday, October 31, 2009
A foreign government or agency lending money does not have the right to dictate the design.
Peeping Tom: What has happened with the Security Reform Project which was to be funded by the British Government should be a lesson for the Guyana Government who must now reassert the same rights to sovereignty over other foreign-funded projects.The fact that a foreign government or agency is lending or giving you money to undertake projects does not give that government or agency the right to dictate the design of that programme. For too long this has been happening and it is high time that a stop be put to this practice whereby sovereign governments are asked to rubber stamp projects designed by foreign consultants.Guyanese must design their own projects and must seek funding for such projects. If the funding agency feels that certain things need to be changed it should suggest this and if the sovereign government does not approve of the design changes, then the funding agency should make a decision as to whether it would wish to go ahead.For too long the government of Guyana has allowed foreign consultants to dictate the terms of institutional reform in Guyana. Often these consultants know little of local conditions, and about our institutional culture; more than often they are as qualified as locals yet they receive super salaries for writing reports, the contents of which are gleaned from their interviews and discussions with Guyanese personnel.Guyana has been awash with foreign funded projects over the past twenty years and there is one familiar characteristic. These projects give rise to a consultancy industry. So long as you have a little technical knowledge and good writing and research skills, you can rebrand yourself and secure a consultancy which pays big bucks.Most of the foreign funded projects utilise consultants from overseas and thus these foreign funded projects help to provide high paying jobs for consultants whose abilities are no better than local experts.The government should learn from this recent fallout with the British. They should now take steps to ensure that there is greater local input into the design and implementation of all foreign funded projects. They should insist that only when local skills are not available should foreign consultants be utilised and they should also review the work permit of some resident consultants who seem to hop from project to project. These persons should be asked to give way to local experts where the necessary skills are available.The government should do an audit of all foreign funded projects and report to the National Assembly on the percentage of the funds provided which go back overseas. For example, apart from the payment of foreign consultants, some projects insist that procurement must be done from the country supplying the funding.There should be a buy local and buy West Indian clause for every project that is externally funded. This clause should stipulate that where the goods in question can be coursed in Guyana or within the Caribbean then it should be so sourced. This would help local and regional industries rather than having the bulk of the funding go overseas.The government should not be afraid that by standing up to these foreign governments and agencies that Guyana would be deprived of resources.There should be no fear of this because the reality is that the foreign agencies themselves are always keen to lend money to governments because if they do not lend they cannot justify their existence and the many in house consultants and staff that they have. So it is in the interest of these foreign agencies to lend money.If the British feel that they were not being given satisfactory say in the design of the Security Reform Project that is their business. Since it is their money which was involved, they may have felt that they needed a greater say in having a management team in place.If the government of Guyana insisted that when it comes to security matters there is an overriding obligation on the host nation to exercise greater control of the reform process, then this position is consistent with the responsibilities of national sovereignty.Forty-three years ago, Guyana became an independent nation. No one has any right to impose on our conditions which we are not comfortable with. The British can keep their money; we will keep our self respect, however undervalued this is in today’s world.