Outgoing US Ambassador elated that democracy project approved

The US-backed democracy project that was halted last month is back on track after Government approved elements of it.
Speaking with reporters yesterday, outgoing US Ambassador D. Brent-Hardt said that the Guyana Government has issued a diplomatic note to the embassy which greenlights the project to restart.
In early May, Guyana and the US agreed to bring to a halt the Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) Project, being implemented by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The LEAD problem has been a major disappointment for the outspoken diplomat who has also been pushing aggressively also for the early Local Government Elections and passage of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Bill.
According to the Ambassador, the LEAD project is a crucial one for Guyana, and an extension of the USAID work.
Admitting that he was surprised at the unexpected challenges that arose, the Ambassador made it clear that he is convinced that Guyana’s potential is still to be realized. The LEAD project is supposed to address some of the democracy and Parliamentary issues that hinder development.
Explaining, the official pointed to Guyana’s per capita figures which remained “fairly low” in the hemisphere, despite an abundance in resources.
With political issues among the biggest challenges in Guyana, the USAID programme was geared to address especially the areas of economic and social challenges.
The LEAD project itself would have been critical in helping to build consensus in Parliament. The 10th Parliament has been facing significant challenges as Guyana for the first time in decades as an independent country, has an Opposition-controlled House.
The LEAD project especially targets the youths and women in engagements, as part of the efforts to establish proper consultative mechanisms.
Weeks after halting the project, Government last month announced that it had withdrawn its non-approval and had started negotiating with the US on the project.
In early January, Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon said that the decision by the US Government to proceed with a project that the Guyana Government had already rejected was disrespectful.
He had said that the four components of the project were analyzed by Cabinet and one contained major activities that captured a relationship between USAID and individual political parties in Guyana.
Guyana does not have a public policy by government for the support for political parties, he added.
The LEAD project seeks to enhance the technical capacity and functionality of the legislature through the regular use of consultative practices and mechanisms for legislative drafting, analysis, review, and passage.
On May 8, Ambassador Hardt met with Dr. Luncheon at the Office of the President where it was announced that the US Embassy had agreed to immediately put the contentious USAID-backed project on hold in order to facilitate talks with the Guyana Government with a view to coming up with a mutually agreed position.