High drama as $38.5B Public Infrastructure budget passed
– Opposition questions $199. 7M rental of buildings for UN
There was high drama in the National Assembly as the Government was questioned about various projects and expenditures under the Public Infrastructure Ministry, which has been allocated $38.5billion in the budget for 2019.
At one point, Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland, had Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira’s microphone cut off even as she argued for more time for her side to scrutinize the Ministry’s budget. The extended time was, however, granted.
Opposition Parliamentarian Irfaan Ali questioned the amount allocated to renting buildings. A whopping $199.7 million was allocated for renting of buildings, which Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson explained would be used to house offices for the United Nations (UN) branches in Guyana.
“This is just one building, one complex. It’s immediately south of the US Embassy. It is to house the United Nations. The UN has, at this moment, six offices. The FAO building, the Unicef building, the UNDP (United Nations Development Program), PAHO (Pan American Health Organisation), UNAIDS, all of which (we will house).”
According to Patterson, the intention is to provide one consolidated complex that could meet the standards of security necessary for the agencies. But when Ali grilled the Minister about whether acquisition of the buildings — which will carry an average monthly cost of over $15 million — went through competitive tender, things became murky.
Patterson informed the House that he worked on the basis of a shortlist of requirements provided by the UN. An impassioned Ali pointed out that tax payers’ money would still be used to cover the expenses of renting the complex. To this Patterson noted that when everything is considered, the Government got value for money with the arrangement.
The Minister was also quizzed on the allocation of $374.8 million to Kwakwani Utilities Incorporated. Opposition Parliamentarian Juan Edghill noted that a similar sum was allocated in 2018, and the community suffered from electricity shortage.
Edghill questioned what betterment would be brought to the community. Eventually, the Ministry’s budget was passed in the Committee of Supply.
Government has allocated $38.5 billion in the 2019 budget to carry out several infrastructural projects.
This had included, among other things, money for construction of 6 kilometres of paved roads in Linden, extensions of the highway from Hope Canal to Mahaica, and a feasibility study for a Linden-to-Mabura link.
When it comes to the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Finance Minister Winston Jordan had said the monies allocated for all capital projects constitute 71.9 per cent of the total Ministry budget. The money is also an increase from the $32 billion the Ministry received last year.
When it comes to the East Coast of Demerara (ECD), Jordan revealed that the projected cost of the East Coast/East Bank road linkage project (Ogle bypass) has jumped from US$50 million to US$120 million. He noted that Government would approach its bilateral partner — in this case the Export-Import Bank of India — for more funds.
This EBD-ECD Bypass project is expected to be 26 kilometres of constructed road linking two of the country’s main thoroughfares. This new road link would also be connected to key communities in Georgetown and along the East Bank of Demerara. Those include Diamond, Mocha, Eccles – all on the East Bank – and Aubrey Barker Road in Georgetown.