Saudi’s US$150M loan inked for construction of 2500 houses, Wismar Bridge
In a move that further cements the growing relationship between Guyana and the Middle East, the Dr Irfaan Ali-led Administration on Monday signed a historic US$150 million loan with the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) which will finance a number of transformational infrastructural projects in the country.
The signing, the first between the SFD and Guyana, took place at the Office of the President, with President Dr Irfaan Ali and a number of Cabinet Ministers in attendance. Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh signed on behalf of the Government while Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Sultan Abdulrahman Al-Marshad signed on behalf of the SFD.
In his remarks, Al-Marshad revealed that Guyana is the 88th country to receive money from the Fund for major projects. He also described both the scope and the direct and indirect benefits of the loan, which will go towards the construction of over 2000 houses and the long-awaited four-lane Wismar-McKenzie Bridge in Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice) that will be built parallel to the existing one.
“The first project signed today, worth US$100 million, involves infrastructure development and works for the housing sector. And aims to respond to the growing population demand by developing the infrastructure to provide about 2500 housing units, across three different regions,” Sultan Al-Marshad said.
“The housing project also aims to deliver major value by building main and secondary roads. And the establishment of facilities such as water, sewage, and electricity system, among other benefits. In addition to reducing the current housing shortage, this project will help stimulate the local economy through direct and indirect job opportunities in the housing sector and enhance community lives through social facilities including parks and health [facilities].”
When it comes to the US$50 million loan signed for the four-lane Wismar Bridge project, the Sultan noted that this will have a number of benefits ranging from reducing traffic jams and enhancing road safety to economic opportunities.
He pointed out that the bridge will also link to the existing road network on both sides of the Demerara River, ensuring easier access to nearby public facilities such as Mackenzie Hospital, and other Government facilities.
The Sultan also observed that both of these infrastructure projects will support access to vital services, and represent an essential drive for achieving seven United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 3, Good Health and Wellbeing, SDG 6, Clean Water and Sanitation, and SDG 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities.”
President Ali meanwhile lauded the Saudis for the speed with which they advanced funds for the infrastructural projects. President Ali also observed that not only was the financing provided by the Saudi, but the cost of financing is “second to none”.
“We are on a trajectory in which we are seeking also to build new relationships. To enhance and strengthen old relationships and to build new ones. We have been actively working in your geographic space. And we’re seeing tremendous results. We’re seeing that the activism is leading to meaningful outcomes. And we look forward to this continued partnership and the speed with which you operate, in helping us on this journey of modernisation,” President Ali said.
Urging Saudi Arabia to also avail itself of private sector investment opportunities in Guyana, The President was hopeful that they could have further discussions on priority areas for funding on the next phase of development. The President further noted that the projects will not only bring temporary relief but also permanent benefit to citizens as it forms part of the larger infrastructure masterplan of the country and will help Guyana on its journey to modernisation
The signing ceremony was also attended by the Housing and Minister Water Collin Croal, Public Works Minister Juan Edghill, Minister within the Public Works Ministry Deodat Indar, Minister within the Housing and Water Ministry Susan Rodrigues and officials from both sides.
The signing of these agreements is part of the efforts undertaken by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, through the SFD, to support sustainable development in developing countries and Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Since its establishment in 1974, SFD has implemented more than 700 development projects and programmes in 87 countries around the world. However, the signings mark SFD’s first foray into Guyana to finance major development projects.
In addition to the 2500 housing units that will be built across three different regions in Guyana, the project includes paving the main and secondary roads, establishing water, sewage and electricity networks, digging wells for each of the project areas, and the construction of social facilities serving multiple benefits. It will not only address the current housing shortage and improve living conditions but also stimulate the local economy through direct and indirect job opportunities in the housing sectors.
Meanwhile, the new Wismar/McKenzie bridge the Government intends to build is a four-lane one that will be able to facilitate the increased volume of traffic through Region 10. The current Wismar Bridge has only one vehicle lane and is over 50 years old. Back in 2020, Italian engineering company Politecnica unveiled designs for a new bridge. The company had been contracted by the then Ministry of Public Infrastructure to do a feasibility study for the bridge. (G-3)