Guyana, Canada sign Cdn$120M loan to empower vulnerable groups

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
(Seated L-R) Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana, Mark Berman; Canada’s International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen; Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh and IDB Representative Anton Edwards at Sunday’s signing of the Cdn$120 million Sovereign Loan Programme

The delivery of social services in Guyana will be significantly bolstered with a CDN$120 million (more than G$18.5 billion) loan from the Canadian Government to empower vulnerable groups here.

The 10-year agreement for this Sovereign Loan Programme (SLP) was signed on Sunday by Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh and Canada’s Minister of International Development, Ahmed Hussen.

Under the SLP, loans on concessional terms are provided to eligible countries, tailored to their respective needs and priorities as they relate to poverty reduction and peace and security.

Guyana is the first country to benefit from the SLP in the Western Hemisphere, and the third, globally. The loan will be utilised to improve social protection under the Human Services and Social Security Ministry in the areas of digital transformation, old age pension, gender-based violence, persons living with disabilities and trafficking in persons.

Speaking during the simple signing ceremony at the residence of the Canadian High Commissioner in Guyana, Minister Hussen noted that the goal of this financial assistance was to support Guyana in generating beneficial social, economic and environmental outcomes for its citizens, particularly the most vulnerable groups.

Canada’s International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen

“This loan is tailored towards the needs of Guyana. It will focus on our mutual priorities and interests. It’s about protecting the most vulnerable populations. It’s about making sure that as we grow our economies, we promote gender empowerment, and we fight gender-based violence. It’s about empowering people with disabilities and enabling them to participate fully in the economy and the society of Guyana. It is about supporting victims of human trafficking. It’s about strengthening the pension system… It’s about making sure that as Guyana delivers its social services and strengthens the social safety net, we also improve the delivery and efficiency of that social safety net. This is what this loan will do,” he posited.

According to the Canadian Minister, work in these areas supported by loans will further aid in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It will also bring much-needed financial relief for Guyana in the event of natural disasters.

“When these disasters hit, you’re very concerned about your people and your communities having access to clean water, to food, to power; literally, you’re focused on saving lives. So, this loan includes a climate-resilient debt clause, which enables you to trigger that if Guyana experiences a climate incident, natural disaster, pandemic or epidemic. This frees up critical resources required to respond immediately to a crisis,” the Canadian official stated.

Minister Hussen further noted that this loan agreement demonstrated that countries could work together on shared priorities by pooling resources and expertise while leveraging opportunities to fit respective circumstances.

“So, I want to really emphasise that this loan is not just about financial assistance. This is really about the next level of collaboration between our two countries… It’s about building your institutional capacity to reach your full potential and help people even more effectively. So, it has a sustainable impact on your institutions,” the Canadian Minister said.

Meanwhile, Minister Singh, during his remarks, while thanking Canada for its support, noted that the close friendly relationship existing between Canada and Guyana was now entering a new phase rooted and grounded in economic and commercial ties and opportunities far beyond those that existed previously.

To this end, he pointed out that Sunday’s signing of the multibillion-dollar loan agreement represented yet another instalment of the longstanding and special relationship that exists between the two countries. The Minister noted that it would be a very substantial contribution towards the Guyana Government’s efforts to improve the circumstances of the country’s most vulnerable citizens.

“As we go through this period of rapid economic growth and transformation, we remain ever mindful and we retain at the highest level of our priorities, the objective of ensuring that the most vulnerable in our society experience the physical and tangible improvement in their circumstances, including and in particular, in relation to the delivery of social services,” he stated.

Dr Singh further outlined that Guyana was extremely proud to be only the third country in the world and the first in the Western Hemisphere to have concluded a Sovereign Loan Programme with Canada, as he expressed the Guyana Government’s appreciation of the efforts of Canada to ensure that the two countries reached the point they have today. Dr Singh also acknowledged the role played by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in the process.

“It represents an outstanding example of collaboration and cooperation, including not only across agencies in Government, on our side between the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, but even at the international level, between Canada and Guyana and in partnership with a major hemispheric institution – the Inter-American Development Bank – because the resources are being intermediated through the IDB, of which both Canada and Guyana are proud members,” the Finance Minister stated.