Boosting air transport …Cabinet clears $340M to upgrade hinterland airstrips
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Minister of State, Joseph Harmon
Minister of State, Joseph Harmon

SEVERAL hinterland airstrips will be rehabilitated over the next few months following government’s no- objection to the award of approximately $304M to several local contractors.Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary Joseph Harmon told reporters on Thursday during a post Cabinet press briefing, held at the Ministry of the Presidency, that the identified airstrips will receive much-needed enhancement. The Eteringbang airstrip located in Region 7 will be rehabilitated by STP INVESTMENTS at a cost of $76,605,100, while the Kurupung airstrip, also in Region Seven will be rehabilitated at a cost of $28,984,000. That contract was awarded to MMC Inc.
In Region Eight, the Paramakatoi, Kato, Kopinang, and Monkey Mountain airstrips have been selected for upgrades. $39,947,430 was awarded to N&A Construction Company for rehabilitation of the Paramakatoi airstrip, while COLIN TALBOT CONTRACTING SERVICES has been awarded the contract for the upgrade of the Kato and Kopinang airstrips. That contracted was awarded $65,627,935.00 and $38,711,235respectively.
Meanwhile, the Monkey Mountain airstrip will be upgraded by K.P. Thomas and Sons Contracting Inc. to the tune of $23,825,300. In Region Nine, $56, 948, 600 was awarded to SYMS General Contractor Inc. for rehabilitation of the Annai airstrip.
The 2016 Budget highlighted the APNU+AFC coalition government’s plan to carry out major infrastructural projects in hinterland communities. Government had budgeted $241M to rehabilitate the airstrips.
Last November, the Guyana Chronicle had reported that a contract was awarded to Kares Engineering Inc. to the tune of $60.8M for the upgrade of the Eteringbang airstrip in Region Seven. It is unclear whether the new allocation announced on Thursday by the Minister of State is for additional works. Attempts to contact the Ministers of Public Infrastructure for clarity proved futile. $50.7M was allocated by government last year for the upgrade of the Mahdia airstrip in Region Eight; that contract was awarded to Technocon Investment, Procurement and General Contracting Solutions.
Members of the local aviation sector have been lobbying the government to rehabilitate hinterland airstrips. Asked whether with the number of airstrips under rehabilitation, the government has taken steps to ensure there is total radar coverage of the country to monitor possible incursions and illegal activities, Harmon said that would be a major assignment to cover 216,000 square kilometres of land space. He told reporters that steps are being taken by the Ministry of Public Infrastructure and the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority to deal with those issues.
“Insofar as radar coverage, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure and the Civil Aviation Authority are part of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) …that will provide them with the information, sometimes that information is real time and sometimes, it might be dated.”
He said in relation to smaller airstrips that are in close proximity to the country’s borders, “it is indeed a major issue and government is seeking international help to ensure that “we can detect any aircraft which violates our airspace and in fact lands on any of these airstrips.
“That is an ongoing exercise; it is quite a challenge because of the vastness of our borders, and the space that is therefore smaller type aircraft to get below the radar and land in these areas. We have to depend a bit on human intelligence – people in communities to report,” said the Minister of State.
Recently, an illegal aircraft was found at Yupukari, Rupununi, Region Nine. A Commission of Inquiry has since been launched to investigate the illegal aircraft. In the past, several other illegal aircraft were found in hinterland locations.
Community jobs
Minister Harmon also stressed that those contractors awarded are implored to employ residents from the communities in which they will be working. He said it is government’s intention to have the economic activities of residents in the identified areas boosted, as well as ensure a better quality of work.
Finally,he said residents can benefit tremendously from projects and can even be sub-contracted to work on state-sponsored projects.

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