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PPP/C Govt has made unparalleled investments in GDF assets – Finance Minister

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…purchases of helicopters, aircraft & OPV vessels are part of bigger agenda

By Jarryl Bryan

Chief of Staff, Brigadier Omar Khan, Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh and other officials witnessing the signing of the letter of intent with French shipbuilding company OCEA S. A in April

On Friday, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government tabled a number of loan agreements, including one for two Dornier aircraft. According to Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh, the Government’s investments in the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) are not only unparalleled, but are part of a bigger agenda.
In an exclusive interview with this publication on the sidelines of the 82nd Sitting of the Twelfth Parliament on Friday, Dr. Singh spoke about the agreement for a line of credit of US$23.3 million from the Indian Export Import (EXIM) Bank to procure the two Dornier aircraft, which arrived earlier this year.

The 115-foot Metal Shark patrol vessel that arrived in Guyana in April

“This loan agreement that was tabled today, that speaks to the purchase of two Dornier aircraft, is an important transaction, but it’s also part of a much bigger agenda to improve the capabilities of the Guyana Defence Force,” the Finance Minister has said.
“We’ve witnessed, since the People’s Progressive Party has returned to Government, we’ve witnessed the most significant ramping up of the capital assets of the Guyana Defence Force, which goes to the core of the Force’s capabilities to discharge its very important mandate, which includes, of course, critical elements,” Dr Singh explained.
According to Dr. Singh, these critical elements are the protection and defence of Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. This is particularly in light of Venezuela’s recent bellicose actions on the borders, which have prompted Guyana to inform its regional and international allies and partners about developments taking place there.

An example of a Bell helicopter

“We’ve already ramped up the Air Corps’ capabilities. As you know, we bought two brand new helicopters. Tragically, we lost one of those. And every time I speak of those, I must speak of the outstanding Guyanese servicemen whose lives were lost in that tragic accident,” he said in reference to the fatal GDF helicopter crash of December 2023.
The victims of that crash were retired Brigadier Gary Beaton; Lieutenant Colonel Michael Shahoud; Lieutenant Colonel Sean Welcome; Lieutenant Colonel Michael Charles and Sergeant Jason Khan. Only two soldiers survived the crash – Corporal Dwayne Jackson and Lieutenant Andio Crawford.
The fleet
According to Dr. Singh, the government has been rehabilitating the fleet on an ongoing basis and with the purchase of the Dornier aircrafts, has added two brand new aircrafts to the fleet. When it comes to the coastguard side, they’ve also been investing in rehabilitating the assets of the coast guard.
“We bought, as you know, one metal-shark OPV. That vessel landed in Guyana. And we have purchased, now, from (OCEA S.A), a large French ship-building company, we bought a second OPV. You would be aware we just concluded the Memorandum of Understanding and Agreement. And the contract was just signed for the purchase of that OCEA vessel. That vessel, construction is going to start very shortly. And we anticipate delivery of that vessel, I think within 24 months or thereabouts.”

An example of the Dornier 228 plane that arrived in March

“So those represent, I would say, the more prominent and high-profile investments in the coast guard. But we’re making other, strategic investments, to ramp up the coast guard’s ability to protect our Exclusive Economic Zone and to discharge the GDF’s very significant, very important mandate,” he explained.
Of course, the finance minister noted that the government is also making other, strategic investments in improving the GDF’s capabilities… not all of which the government is at liberty to disclose at this time. Importantly, these investments include investing in human resources.

“The army has, of course, a significant core of extremely talented men and women. And we want to be able to ramp up their technical capabilities even further. So, we’re investing very heavily in training, in the army, and similarly in the police and so on. And the disciplined services more broadly.”
Guyana had announced the acquisition of a maritime patrol asset from France earlier this year. A letter of intent was subsequently signed in April, with the aim of procuring the vessel, between the Guyana Government and leading French aluminum shipbuilding company OCEA S. A.
The vessel is valued at EU$39.5 million, while the inked agreement covers the manufacturing of the vessel, a comprehensive logistics package with spears, and five years of maintenance of the product.
That same month, a 115 Defiant monohull patrol vessel, which was designed and built by United States-based Metal Shark Boats to the tune of US$11.5 million for the GDF, had also arrived in Guyana to join the army’s Coast Guard fleet.
Prior to that, Indian firm Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, as part of Line of Credit the Government of India had extended to Guyana, had delivered two Dornier 228 planes to the GDF. The planes were acquired to the tune of US$23.27 Million.
And back in October 2020, the US State Department had approved the sale of four helicopters and related equipment to Guyana to the tune of US$256 million. According to the particulars of the sale, Guyana will get four helicopters, including two Bell 412Epi and two Bell 429 helicopters, plus related equipment. (G3)

The post PPP/C Govt has made unparalleled investments in GDF assets – Finance Minister appeared first on Guyana Times.

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