Guinea Bissau Leaders Seek New Strategies for Donor Money

Linked with Macaria Barai – Guinea-Bissau.

By Kari Barber, on Voice OfAmerica VOA, 28 November 2006

(On the same page: Listen also to the Barber report, – Download it/ 507k, or Listen online).

Top officials from one of the world’s poorest nations, Guinea Bissau, met in Senegal recently to form a strategy to alleviate persistent poverty. In the informal meeting, representatives from donor nations and aid organizations had the chance to ask how their money is being spent. Kari Barber attended the meeting on Senegal’s Goree Island and has this report.

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It is in the private sector that Macaria Barai is trying to revive her country. Barai, who is the president of the chamber of commerce of Bissau, says some donors have lost confidence in the nation.

“You know when you have a vision and you tell people and they have to think about it, especially in terms of Guinea Bissau that nobody now believes that it is capable of staying away from conflict definitively,” she said.

Despite a history of military upheaval since independence from Portugal, Barai says Guinea Bissau is a young country and needs another chance to prove it is capable of good governance and political stability.

“After the colonial era we had only one high school, so how do you expect this whole population to be good managers, to be good technicians, etc,” she added. “So it is like they supported people who at the time didn’t know the value. They were not trained. So, now we want to be trained.”

Aid workers said economic reform and stability in Guinea Bissau also depends on a reformed military. It was a military mutiny in 1998 that resulted in civil war. In 2003, it was the military who overthrew then-president Kumba Yala.

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In 2006, aid from international donors in Guinea Bissau totaled more than $250 million. Experts stressed more transparency was needed in the government to handle aid money. Guinea Bissau usually ranks as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, in surveys done by economic watchdog groups. (Read all on this link).

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