Home Letters Can Guyanese afford to lose another 5 years?
Guyana has lost five years of infrastructural growth. Blackout and gridlock are now daily features of life in Guyana. David Granger’s Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, failed to add megawatts to the electrical grid, bridges over rivers and the all-important East Bank to East Coast bypass highway (Ogle Bypass). The constant power outages and ever-growing gridlock on the roads is a direct result of gross incompetence. Patterson was advised by a senior engineer (Egbert Carter) not to begin expansion works on the Sherriff Street-Mandela Avenue road before the Ogle Bypass highway was complete. The daily gridlock is a testament to the avarice that has caused the Ogle Bypass to be delayed.
The Ogle Bypass plan, surveys, feasibility studies, and US$50 million in financing were sitting on Patterson’s desk when he entered Office. He had one job, get it done. Patterson, instead, opted for a course guided by greed and corruption. New surveys were ordered, four lanes would not be enough, it would have to be no less than eight. Then the twelve miles of road from Diamond to Ogle was not enough, the plan was expanded to thirty-two miles with the road being extended from Ogle to Soesdyke. We were informed that a swamp was encountered and needed to be bypassed or drained. All of this without a foot of the much-needed bypass being built. Would it have been so terrible to build the original bypass with four lanes and explore extension simultaneously? Surely even the worst of our road building contractors could have built twelve miles of road on sturdy sugar plantation dams in the ensuing four years? The estimated cost of this road project has moved from US$50 million to over US$120 million. The Government of India, which provided the initial $50 million loan has been approached by Patterson and his colleague Winston Jordan for an extension of credit to $120 million, given their track record, the request has been met with much scepticism and reluctance by the Export-Import Bank of India. People know a ‘hustle’ when they see it. Result: gridlock.
An eerily similar situation exists with every other major infrastructure project; every year funds are budgeted and expended for surveys and studies of a Linden-Lethem paved road by Granger’s minions. Not a foot of road has been paved to date despite hundreds of millions being allocated. The saga of wastage on feasibility studies on a new bridge over the Demerara River, half a billion spent and not a pile driven; and Patterson cannot even specify a location for the new bridge.
Recently, four miles of existing loam road was paved in Lethem at the cost of $473 million; another $22 million was spent to send ten Ministers and one Director General to assist Moses Nagamootoo with his ribbon-cutting duties. Half a billion dollars spent on four miles of road and a photo-opportunity. The stench of corruption rises to the heavens.
The Amaila Falls Hydropower Project would have been pushing 168 additional megawatts into the Guyana grid at no cost to the taxpayers; consumers would have seen the cost of electricity drop by over 30 per cent on monthly bills. Instead, we have lost 17-plus megawatts since 2015, the first time since the 1980s that we have not increased or maintained power output. GPL is struggling to maintain ageing generating sets. Corruption remains an issue, was the recent emergency caused by the shortage of Heavy Fuel Oil supplies caused by lack of proper management planning or a ‘manufactured’ crisis to facilitate the increase in supplier price by US$2 per barrel, one for you and one for me maybe?
Granger’s Government cannot fund infrastructure projects via public-private partnerships as was done by the PPP for the Berbice Bridge, Granger’s de facto nationalisation of the Berbice Bridge has destroyed investor security in partnerships with the Government and investors have no confidence in Granger or the protection of investments by the Judiciary. Many investors view the Court of Appeal’s decision that 34 (not 33) is the majority of 65 with morbid fascination and hold it as evidence of a politically biased Judiciary.
As commuters sit in their cars or buses for hours along the only road on the East Bank corridor, further delayed by any mishap, they should think carefully about their future. Should it be on Granger’s imaginary roads going nowhere or on real roads and progress with Dr Irfaan Ali and the PPP? Can Guyanese afford to lose another five years? Elections are on March 2, 2020.