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The European Union (EU) has given St. Vincent and the Grenadines EC$21 million in developmental assistance that will support the government’s efforts at improving rural infrastructure.

The monies, the 11th European Development Fund (EDF), comes as the government shifts the focus of EU assistance away from the health sector, as has been the case over the last six years.

Some EC$18 million will be spent over the next few years to improve climate change resilience of rural road networks, Mikael Barfod, European Union ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean told a joint press briefing with Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves on Tuesday.

“And at the same time, we will contribute to the stabilisation of economic activities in rural communities and 1.8 million EC dollars will be spent in supporting the national authorising officers and the team in St. Vincent where we also have the technical cooperation facility, which will facilities small actions in support of the bigger programme,” Barfod said.

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The 11th EDF also contains funds for supporting non-state actors and civil society.

“And that’s gonna play an important role in the partnership between the European union and the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Barfod said.

The envoy said that the EU is very keen to support rural roads.

He said that for this sector it is going to be very critical to coordinate any interventions with the complementary EU Banana Accompanying Measures for the agriculture development and modernisation programme and to coordinate with the World Bank funded Regional Disaster Reduction Project and the Caribbean Development Bank, which is funding the Basic Needs Trust Fund Programme.

Prime Minister Dr. Rlaph Gonsalves, left, and Mikael Barfod, European Union ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. (IWN photo)
Prime Minister Dr. Rlaph Gonsalves, left, and Mikael Barfod, European Union ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. (IWN photo)

He said that the EU expects high-quality coordination from the Ministry of Works.

“In addition to coordination, we expect adequate counterpart contribution in kind or otherwise from the government to cover the full cost of the intervention, adequate technical capacity at all levels, and that qualified contractors will be available at all levels to participate in tenders.

“It has worked in the past so why should it not worked on this occasion,” he told reporters.

“… St. Vincent and the Grenadines may consider to regard the European Union as an all-weather friend. The European Union will always endeavour to help vulnerable small island developing states when you need it the most, and then a bit more. We also hope that our partnership with St. Vincent will grow stronger and be extended to more regional and international issues where our minds happen to meet,” Barfod said.

Gonsalves told the press briefing that the assistance of the EU is critical for development funding in SVG.

He said that while SVG cannot look to the EU alone to assist with developmental funding, their assistance is critical.

He said SVG has received EC$39 million in assistance from the EU in the various component of the 11th EDF and aid in the aftermath of the December 2013 floods and landslides.

“This is significant amount of money. Of course, one would always wish it to be more, but still 39 million dollars cannot address our road problems, or, indeed, the recovery after the disaster,” he said, noting that loss and damage amounted to EC$330 million.

“And we have to be engaged in a process of rebuilding,” Gonsalves told reporters.

“I would say that this is a good package, and I want to thank the European Union.

“The European Union, some of their countries are having economic difficulties, as you know, and we are very grateful for grants, and we have a good partnership, we work together, we share a lot of values, social democratic values. Of course, we have differences. Friends will always have differences, but it is the way we address them in the interest of ourselves — their interest, our own interest and move forward,” Gonsalves said.