State Minister Joseph Harmon has declared that the Norway agreement with Guyana is still “alive and well.” In fact, he noted that Government has been receiving funding under the agreement for its ICT Access and e-Services for Hinterland Poor and Remote Communities project.Per Pharo, Director of the Government of Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative during a recent visit to GuyanaAccording to Minister Harmon, the GRIF (Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund) Steering Committee, which is co-chaired by Norway, has approved funding for the project to the tune of US$17 million.The ICT project, he said, will focus on three main pillars: policy development; capacity development; and access to both ICT and public e-services in the areas of education, health, business and security. The project will be executed in over 160 communities and villages.Guyana will be partnering with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in implementing the project. The UNDP will be responsible for quality assurance and for providing and incorporating social, fiduciary, and environmental safeguards and best practices into the design and implementation of the project.A Needs Assessment was carried out last year, and provided strong evidence for the development of this project. A German firm, Detecon International GmbH, was awarded the contract and produced a Baseline Report, a Technical Report and an E-Service Readiness Assessment Report, as well as a final report from the study.Building on information from the baseline and needs assessment study, the project document was subsequently developed.Meanwhile, Minister Harmon also revealed that Guyana is expected to benefit from more funding for similar projects, including the improvement of the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission.“We (also) expect that there is going to be some other projects relating to our Green State Development Strategy (GSDS); and this project with the United Nations Environment Programme as a partner entity was also approved to a tune of $1.5 million. Our strategy advocates for low emissions as articulated in the Green State Strategy will now be consulted on and taken into consideration – the feedback and views of the citizens of Guyana will be incorporated,” the State Minister said.According to Harmon, some of the funds under the GRIF agreement have already been disbursed, while others are in the pipeline to be released.Moreover, the State Minister said, additional details on the status of Norway agreement will be outlined in his presentation during the 2018 Budget debates which kick off next week.The climate and forest agreement between Guyana and Norway was signed in 2009 and the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), which along with the National Development Strategy were absorbed into the GSDS, was developed with targets outlined for economic and social development.Norway had set aside funding to support Guyana’s economic and social development without compromising the forest and the vital ecosystem services.Initially, Norway had committed to contribute up to US$250 million if the country keeps its deforestation rate low and reaches key forest governance targets.As at June last year, Norway had disbursed about US$150 million, of which US$70 million had been transferred to GRIF, which is administered by the World Bank, and the other US$80 million had been placed in an account with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to cover Guyana’s equity share in the controversial Amaila Falls Hydropower project.However, the Coalition Administration has expressed concerns and reservations about going ahead with the project. In fact, Finance Minister Winston Jordan, on Monday last during his presentation on Budget 2018, said in addition to unresolved technical, cost, environmental and other issues, the main sponsor, Sithe Global, has withdrawn from the project.However, Opposition Leader and former President Bharrat Jagdeo, under whose regime the Norway agreement was entered into, pointed out at press conference following the budget presentation that government’s reasoning for scrapping the Amaila Falls Hydro Project cannot stand up “rigorous analysis”.Back in March, Special Envoy and Director of the Norwegian International Climate and Forest Initiative, Per Fredrik Pharo, had stated that Norway remains committed to its partnership as long as the commitment is matched by the Government of Guyana.Pharo noted that once such a plan is finalised and the new Green State Development Strategy is adopted by Guyana’s Parliament, Norway would be in a position to both transfer the US$40 million to GRIF for results that Guyana achieved in 2013, and to put the US$80 million currently placed in a holding account in IDB to good use to reach Guyana’s energy transition goal.