Bridging of Corentyne River symbolises transition to new era – Surinamese, Guyanese Presidents
…Guyana, Suriname sign MoU formalising project
…Strategic Dialogue and Cooperation Platform agreement also inked
By Lakhram Bhagirat
The bridging of the Corentyne River – the border between Guyana and Suriname – has been alluded to for a number of years but it is only recently that concrete measures were put in place, paving the way for it to become a reality.
The site has already been marked by both Guyanese and Surinamese authorities and on Tuesday, the prospects of bridging the border became a closer reality with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two nations.
The MoU was signed by Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Hugh Todd, and his Surinamese counterpart, Albert Ramdin, at the Presidential Palace in Paramaribo. Todd is in Suriname as part of the Guyanese delegation being led by President Dr Irfaan Ali on his first overseas visit since his inauguration in August.
Back on October, Suriname’s President, Chandrikapersad Santokhi, said that financiers are ready to back the bridge, while promising that it will be completed during his term in office. Shortly after that, Public Works Minister Juan Edghill, who along with his Surinamese counterpart, Dr Riad Nurmohamed, planted flags at the sites in both countries where the Corentyne River Bridge will land.
There were three points of demarcation identified – Moleson Creek, Long Island in the Corentyne River and South Drain in Suriname. The entire Corentyne River belongs to Suriname.
President Ali, at the signing event on Tuesday in the neighbouring country, related that the construction of the bridge across the Corentyne River will not only serve as a permanent physical link between the people of Guyana and Suriname but more importantly it would link to the rest of the South American continent.
“We recognise the enormous benefit this can bring in the areas of tourism, transport and trade. To this end we have even expanded our discussion in areas where we can jointly promote business opportunities and tourism opportunities. It is, therefore, expected that the proposed road alignment will create within its vicinity the possibilities for free trade zones, enhanced land values and this, of course, will reduce the cost of business and increase the ease of doing business,” Ali said.
Meanwhile, President Santokhi posited that President Ali’s visit is the materialisation of both countries’ aspirations to energise collaboration in areas of mutual interest.
“We use this occasion to continue our plans on the bridging of the Corentyne River with designing a MoU in this regard which will be signed by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs. This bridge in the Corentyne is not only important to facilitate the movement of persons and goods, trade and cross operation but it also symbolises a transition to a new era. The era of wellbeing and prosperity of our people’s freedom, democracy and rule of law,” the Surinamese leader said.
He also noted that as small border nations, both Guyana and Suriname have recognised the importance of maintaining good relations and joining efforts in hopes of forming strategic alliances to achieve maximum success for the development of their people. He said that he is optimistic that “massive steps” would be achieved in the development of their respective countries in the coming years.
While the Corentyne River Bridge is currently in the developing stages, that is, with the designs being done, it will be a flat bridge from Guyana to Long Island in the Corentyne River and then a high-span bridge from there to the Surinamese mainland to allow for heavy marine traffic. This bridge is expected to promote the safe movement of people and products.
Moreover, it is anticipated that Long Island will become an economic hub and free zone that will also see major infrastructural development such as hotels, recreational parks, entertainment spots, tourist attractions, malls and farmers’ markets.
Strategic Dialogue and Cooperation Platform Agreement
Another one of the agreements inked between the two countries is the Strategic Dialogue and Cooperation Platform Agreement, which outlines areas of mutual interest and provides a platform for investment and collaboration. President Santokhi related that the importance of bilateral engagements was underscored during his initial dialogue with President Ali.
“During our deliberations today, we have reiterated the importance of further deepening of the political dialogue at the highest level and to give direction to and monitor the bilateral negotiations and future undertakings in order to achieve tangible development results. With the recent oil findings in both countries and the mitigation of COVID-19 pandemic, the momentum is there to target our focus on sustainable development solutions and the common existing challenges of the two developing countries,” Santokhi noted.
President Ali told those at the signing event that several areas for possible cooperation were discussed between the two countries and that the formalisation of the new cooperation mechanism is integral to advancing those discussions.
“This [Strategic Dialogue and Cooperation Platform Agreement] establishes a framework for dialogue and cooperation which will guide our future collaborative efforts aimed at improving the lives of our people in every possible way. We expect that the joint working groups meet expeditiously to agree and activate the work programme,” Ali said.
He noted that both Guyana and Suriname recognises the importance of engaging the private sector in the strategic plan for development and explained that in that regard, both countries have agreed to the creation of a Guyana-Suriname Business Facilitation Unit to manage and facilitate collaborations between the private sectors.
The Unit would also provide investment and business opportunities for agriculture, tourism and fisheries among other sectors.