By Rehana Ahamad
WHEN the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) assumed office in August, 2020, efforts were made to reduce the cost of the proposed Ogle-Diamond bypass road. This resulted in alterations being made to the original project plan, and further approvals being required from the financier of the project – the Government of India.
According to the High Commissioner of India to Guyana, Dr K. J. Srinivasa, the redesigned project documents have already been submitted and are currently being deliberated on by the Government of India.
“Since the original specifications of the road have changed, we had to go back to our headquarters for some additional clearances, which we are now at the end of that particular process,” Dr. Srinivasa told reporters at a media engagement on Wednesday.
He believes that approvals to the changes are likely to come within the first quarter of the year. “I think in the next couple of weeks, we should have some good news on that front,” the Indian envoy said.
Senior Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill, reminded that the redesigned project has saved Guyana close to US$158 million. “Since we took office, we have moved from a 200 plus million (US) dollar project, and we have fitted the road into the monies that were available, which is US$50M,” Edghill told reporters on Wednesday.
Before the PPP/C demitted office in May 2015, former President Donald Ramotar had conducted an official visit to India, where he received the commitment of a US$50 million loan from the Indian Exim Bank to fund the proposed bypass road.
When the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) took government that same year, the designs of the project were altered, drastically increasing the cost of the project to some US$208 million.
The loan agreement, secured by the Ramotar administration, was signed in 2017 by the then APNU+AFC Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan.
With the recent modifications, the construction of the 20-kilometre road will be covered entirely by the US$50 million loan.
Junior Minister of Public Works, Deodat Indar, had explained that the new road is expected to be constructed from Ogle, East Coast Demerara, to Haags Bosch on the East Bank, after which a structural link will be created to Diamond, East Bank Demerara.
According to Indar, a connection had to have been made to Diamond, since previous plans to link the road to Mocha Arcadia on the East Bank of Demerara, would have been too cost-consuming due to swampy areas that would have had to be developed.
“For you to do those swamps, the cost of the earth works pushed up the cost to US$208 million. Remember, the Indian Government only had US$50 million allocated to this project. So, we had to redesign the project to bring it to the original design,” Indar posited in an interview with the Department of Public Information.
Nonetheless, Minister Edghill said that continued efforts are being made to “aggressively pursue the finalising” of the modified designs. “So very soon, you might be invited to a signing ceremony,” Edghill teased.
High Commissioner, Dr. Srinivasa said that he is also very pleased with the progress of all of the India-sponsored projects being executed in Guyana.
“The projects are well under control and we are expecting these projects to proceed on time,” Srinivasa said.
Once completed, the bypass road, coupled with the construction of a new Demerara Harbour Bridge, is expected to bring tremendous relief to East Bank and East Coast commuters, while opening up virgin spaces for housing and other investment opportunities.