Everyone must benefit equally from investments in infrastructure

Dear Editor,
After the flood water receded from the affected area, people will be focusing on the various types of infrastructure that remains. Most importantly, transport infrastructure which helps us access food, jobs, healthcare and other services. Water infrastructure which helps us access safe drinking water and provides nourishment for crops. Housing infrastructure which provides protection, shelter and a stable place to call home.
This infrastructure is the foundation for development – it’s key to providing human dignity and improving well-being.
However, after this disastrous flood waters we experience in 2021, our PPP/C Government must examine an all-inclusive infrastructure – an infrastructure that takes into account the needs of every Guyanese citizen, including marginalised and vulnerable groups of people, one can imagine what happens when infrastructure doesn’t take the needs of everyone into account? What happens when the infrastructure that is vital for daily life is accessible and affordable for some but not others?
People can be restricted from infrastructure intended to make their lives easier.
Infrastructure must be inclusive – when we plan it, when we design it, when we deliver it and when we manage the services that it provides. We must ensure that infrastructure is responsive to users’ needs. If we fail to do so, the services carrying out a need’s assessment at the beginning of a project provides a deeper understanding of the people who will be using the infrastructure, including the specific requirements and needs of identified vulnerable groups. This can help inform the design of infrastructure so that it caters to diverse needs.
Once a needs assessment is completed it should be followed by the creation and implementation of an action plan that tackles the identified constraints and opportunities.
Taking steps such as these helps address the needs of the most vulnerable to unlock opportunities for marginalised and excluded populations. This inclusive infrastructure acts as a catalyst to alleviate poverty, reduce inequality and grow economies – helping everyone benefit equally from investments in infrastructure.
When provisions become inaccessible to marginalised and vulnerable groups – including women, the elderly, the physically challenged and the economically disadvantaged, to name a few – it causes them to miss out on developmental opportunities.
Take transportation infrastructure.
Roads in many rural communities are mainly designed to reduce traffic congestion and geared towards the needs of car and truck users (who often have higher incomes). In many of the communities, people who can’t afford cars choose to walk or cycle, but often there are non-existent or inadequate sidewalks or cycle lanes. Roads designed with these needs in mind would help them safely access jobs, schools and health services.
The public transportation systems are mainly designed to provide a lower cost means of getting around. But access to these services for the elderly or those with physical challenges may be limited for people in wheelchairs or people with other mobility issues. Public transportation infrastructure that takes that need into account would enable the elderly to access critical health services more easily and ensure people with physical challenged are able to access education and economic opportunities.
Gender-blind public transportation can hamper the safety and security of women, exposing them to sexual, verbal or physical harassment. For example, if bus and car parks, bus stopping areas are not well lit or do not provide adequate safety and security measures, they can leave women vulnerable to attackers while waiting for their ride. Women who try to avoid this harassment may stop using the very infrastructure meant to give them access to education and job opportunities, potentially limiting their economic growth.
The above examples could just as easily apply to other types of infrastructure, including water infrastructure and sanitation facilities, schools and hospitals, just to name a few.
Practical actions must be embedded into the planning, delivery, and operation and maintenance of infrastructure projects so that they are inclusive and address the needs of all users. Simply engaging with a wide and representative group of stakeholders at each phase of an infrastructure project is one of the most fundamental actions we can take. This engagement provides information to interested actors, helps us understand their expectations from the project, involves them in the decision-making processes, and enables us to receive feedback on the results of a project.
The Government of Guyana seeks to develop Guyana’s infrastructure to meet the increasing demands of the oil and gas sectors, and transport demands of all our citizens. Roads require restoration and expansion to address the needs of the large vehicles from the oil and gas sector and inbound freight to its ports.
Financing of these projects is likely to be done through Public Private Partnerships. The current PPP/C Administration has already signalled its intent to pursue heavy infrastructure projects after the floodwaters recede.

David Adams