Now for the best part of Dumbo Persaud letter to REDD Monitor
***********6 comments to A response from Guyana’s Minister of Agriculture, Robert M. Persaud
October 20th, 2010 at 4:08 pm
The Minister claims that I was “briefed about the [Guyana-Norway] MOU days before it was announced” and was “aware of its clear statements that Guyana would not be paid for increased deforestation. At the time of his prior briefing, Mr. Counsell raised no concerns about the MOU.”
I have no idea what the Minister is referring to, and I was certainly not “briefed” before the event. (As far as I know, even my colleagues in the Rainforest Foundation Norway, which had been part of the Norwegian negotiating team that had visited Guyana in October 2009, were unaware of the final details of the MoU.)
Most importantly, though, when a question was raised about increased deforestation (not by myself, but by the Chair, Jo Andrews) at the November 2009 event hosted by Global Witness, to which the Minister refers, President Jagdeo himself confirmed that the agreement does indeed allow for increased deforestation:
– about 5?50?.
Jo Andrews: “But under this agreement, am I right in thinking that you get the right to increase deforestation?”
President Jagdeo: “Basically, yes…If we fall anywhere below 0.45%, we get compensated”
(By the time the President had made this acknowledgement, he had already noted in his response to a question from myself that the actual rate of deforestation is probably between 0.1% and 0.3% – see the video linked to above, from the beginning).
So is the Minister now stating that the President was wrong?
We all no doubt await with interest the work that is now being undertaken to provide a more accurate assessment of historical deforestation rates in Guyana.
October 20th, 2010 at 5:01 pm
This has been so interesting.
My wife is a member of Rainforest Foundation UK, and I take a keen interest in REDD, and we both have been disgusted about Guyana being paid by Norway for increasing deforestation. This was based on lots of statements in the press and elsewhere from Simon, and we noted the Minister’s reply on this with real interst.
Simon – you reject the Minister’s statement that you were briefed in advance. I would like to hear from Mr Persaud why he said that if it is not true.
But the more important question is: when you repeated the accusation in the press and elsewhere after you had seen the MOU, why did you do that? Even if you were not briefed in advance, surely you looked at the MOU once it became public. I have just looked and it seems to be very clear about the fact that Guyana will not be paid for increasing deforestation. So after you had read the MOU, why did you continue to say that Guyana will be paid for increased deforestation?
It is really important that we know why you said it after the event, because this will become a really important matter for other countries too. And if my wife’s membership of Rainforest Foundation UK is to mean anything, we need to trust the information you give us.
Thanks a lot – keep up the good work.
October 20th, 2010 at 5:45 pm
As Minister Persaud rightly points out, the agreement states that “Norwegian support is also dependent on no national-level increase in deforestation *over an agreed level that should be as close to historical levels as is reasonable*” (my emphasis added). So it’s not that tbhere can be no increase per se, but no increase beyond what is determined as the historic baseline rate of deforestation.
That ‘historical level’ was, in the the first instance, set in the MoU at the somewhat arbitrary level of 0.45% – though no-one at all believes that the actual deforestation rate in Guyana is anything like as high as that, and the official FAO figures have reported zero deforestation for the last two decades. So, as President Jagdeo himself explains in some detail in the video for which I have provided the link above, there is the scope for Guyana to be compensated up to the artificially high deforestation baseline, which could exceed the *actual* rate of deforestation, i.e there could be a real increase in deforestation.
What remains to be seen is whether the promised new and hopefully more accurate ‘historical baseline’ which we are told by the Norwegian government is forthcoming this month, and which should be considerably lower than 0.45%, will then be used for future assessment of REDD payments to Guyana.
October 20th, 2010 at 5:55 pm
I follow REDD-Monitor and have not read statements from Mr. Lang which would lead me to think that he holds the broad sweeping prejudices stated by Mr. Persaud:
“What is unacceptable is his [Lang´s] other dominant prejudice – that most people who enter public service in Africa, Asia and South America must be corrupt, stupid, inarticulate or some combination of all three. These regularly repeated viewpoints place Mr. Lang at a particularly rancid place on the spectrum of extremism.”
Mr. Lang is relating facts and concerns about the misuse of REDD funds and in highlighting this there is a hope that indigenous and local peoples and rainforests can be better protected by the honest, transparent use of REDD+ money.
Corruption in Guyana is well documented, it has not been created in Lang´s imagination – from the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal:
“Corruption is perceived as widespread. Guyana ranks 126th out of 179 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2008. There is extensive corruption at every level of law enforcement and government.”
However, in citing the Heritage Foundation it does not prove Mr. Persaud´s unfounded assertion that Chris Lang is aligned to “economic neo-conservatives around the world”, here are local Guyanese newspapers with example reports on the concerns of Guyanese people about corruption:
“According to an opinion poll conducted by NACTA, crime and corruption are the two main concerns of most voters that are likely to determine the outcome of May 24 elections.” From Kaieteur News April 20th 2010
And an example of the serious concerns about the police: “Corruption and criminality inside the Guyana Police Force are becoming worse” March 25th 2010
Further information: http://www.stabroeknews.com/2010/features/05/11/guyana%e2%80%99s-national-report-to-the-united-nations-serious-issues-of-public-policy/http://www.stabroeknews.com/2010/guyana-review/05/31/human-rights/
Page 13 of a 2004 UN report on Guyana´s public administration: http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/un/unpan023199.pdf
Guyana is a country of exquisite natural beauty and has a wonderful mix of multi racial people, with a high level of literacy and talent. If REDD funds could be used transparently and without corruption, Guyanese society could fairly prosper, Mr. Lang along with many readers of REDD Monitor would welcome this.
Anon (because of relatives in Guyana)
October 20th, 2010 at 6:13 pm
OK, thanks for that, Simon. But it seems to be a lot more nuanced and thought-through than what you told us before, and in the press. I think it would be good if you were a bit less simplistic / sensationalist in future; we look to you for expertise not easy headlines. I have just read the MOU and won’t pretend I understand it all, but I can see why Mr Persaud is sensitive about people jumping to attack when that is unfair. Contrary to what I have thought in the past, it seems that we should give the Guyanan guys a chance to work through the difficult issues, and not take the easy road of running to the press with sensationalist headlines about “Guyana being paid to increase deforestation” when that is obviously not true. But maybe, my wife and I are guilty – it is the sensationalist headlines we respond to and they make us get out our credit cards to “help”. This has been very thought-provoking. Re: less sensationalism in the press, it is just a suggestion, I recognise I am not an expert. Ian.
October 20th, 2010 at 6:46 pm
Well, none of us can be responsible for the way that the media tends to sensationalise events, thoguh I don’t think I am saying anything different now than I have been all along. (And one could equally question the somewhat exaggerated claims for the agreement that were made by both Norway and Guyana at the time.)
It should be noted though that, the Norway-Guyana agreement does not require any active DECREASING of forest carbon emissions (and President Jagdeo has repeatedly stated that neither of the two main sources of forest carbon emissions, ie gold mining and industrial logging, will be effected by the agreement), whereas, as reported elsewhere on REDD-Monitor, the Norwegian funding is supporting, amongst other things, a hydro-electric dam development which will inundate a substantial area of forest and in turn require an access road which will also cause the loss of forest (which commenced this week, and in turn could indirectly cause further forest clearance and degradation from farmers, loggers, miners etc using the road to access Guyana’s hinterland).
So there is a real prospect that the agreement will not only allow for increased deforestation, but will positively *encourage* it. Thus it is not obviously untrue that Guyana is being paid to increase deforestation: this eventuality is, unfortunately, looking increasingly likely – whatever view one might take on the merits or otherwise of hydro-electric power development.