Friday, December 06, 2019

Norway-Guyana deal. How aid officials were sidelined

Norway’s unlikely NOK 1.5 billion partnership with Guyana, a country that was virtually unknown in Oslo, was only possible because two ministries - Environment and the aid portfolio in Foreign Affairs - were controlled by one minister, Erik Solheim, and he had the ear of the “environment side”.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and former President Bharrat Jagdeo of Guyana  Photo: Prime Minister’s Office, Oslo

Financing the scheme from the aid budget was viewed by proponents as not being perfect; it was simply the only place they could get the money. Aid officials in the Foreign Ministry were deeply skeptical, but their opinions were given little weight.

Heidi Bade, now a researcher at Fritjof Nansen Instiute, investigated the Guyana deal as part of her master's thesis at the Centre for Environment and Development in Oslo. She spoke to many of the key players in both ministries in Norway, as well as with officials in Guyana.

Solheim told Bade: “The Environment Ministry has driven this through while Foreign Affairs has been on the sideline. Then they get nervous, fearful, and a bit jealous.” 

Three years on, only 20 per cent of the NOK 388 million allocated so far have been disbursed to Guyana. Read the full story.