EIB Vice President Pim van Ballekom (centre) along with Angel Diez Fraile (right) and EU Ambassador, Jernej VidetiĉAfter a 10-year bilateral hiatus, the European Investment Bank (EIB) has expressed interests in reviving relations with Guyana and is willing to inject some ‘big bucks’ into developing a deepwater harbour here.This was disclosed by EIB Vice President responsible for lending in the Caribbean, Pim Van Ballekom, who led a high-level delegation from the bank.Briefing the media on the its visit, Ballekom noted that during his talks with Government and the private sector the possible investment in the rehabilitation of the harbour was discussed at length.He explained that this move is part of a much bigger investment programme to improve links between Guyana and neighbouring Brazil. However, the Vice President pointed out that it would be more practical to embrace those projects separately, beginning with the deepwater harbour.Ballekom said it is more a matter of preparing the infrastructure for the more expansive project: “I was told that without a harbour, investing in the road link to Brazil is not economically viable, so we have to start somewhere and I think the harbour, as such, is any how needed due to the fact that Georgetown can receive bigger vessels for containers. I think that makes sense even without investing in the link,” the EIB executive stated.According to the Vice President, prior to coming here he did not consider whether the project is economically feasible but having been given an insight as to what it entails, he believes it is long overdue.He revealed that already he has met a few persons from the local private sector who are willing to invest in a deepwater harbour, mainly because of the potential it has to facilitate access for bigger container vessels. The banking executive further noted that even with Guyana’s emerging oil sector, a harbour port will be more economical for the country.“I think as a stand-alone project, it will be to the benefit of the economy anyhow, apart from what is going to happen in the oil sector.”Nevertheless, Ballekom noted that they are yet to iron out the specifics of the project, that is, whether it will be a Public-Private Partnership or a loan-project. He explained that discussions were held on four separate substantial projects, and the EIB never finances a project fully, as such it will be looking to other international financial institutions, such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) perhaps, to join forces.“So we start up the process, the ultimate amount we are lending to those four projects remains to be seen.”However, the EIB Vice President outlined that no commitments were made on any of the projects until the bank carries out its due diligence process: “I will ensure that (our officers) start up the whole process of appraisal and they will have to come back more often to the country in order to look more in detail on the investment opportunities but I didn’t commit myself to anything.”Meanwhile, Ballekom emphasised that the EIB is eager to re-engage Guyana, either in the private sector or the public sector or both, noting that its economic climate is welcoming.Thus far, the delegation has held talks with President David Granger, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson and Finance Minister Winston Jordan. It has also had discussions with the private sector as well as the commercial sector.The Vice President continued that he was pleased with the preparation of the Guyanese Government, which was particular in its interests.The trip was well prepared by our office in Santo Domingo and I have to say that the Guyana Government was well prepared as well because every minister I met with, highlighted similar projects.“There was good coordination between the various departments and that’s what I like, because if you want to re-engage a country, we want to have people who are focused on the priorities… All in all, it looks very promising in the near future, and I’m sure that I’ll be back in the country in the course of next year to sign the first operations between the European Bank and either the private or public sector in Guyana,” the banking executive posited.Furthermore, Ballekom pointed out that Guyana stands to benefit from doing business with the European Investment Bank, which finances itself on the capital market and as a triple A bank, its funding costs are low, thus those advantages can be passed on to customers.He added too that the bank has a longer tenant than the private sector and also have an impressive technical expertise from which Guyana can benefit, especially as it relates to the deepwater harbour.