–$29B earmarked for future development
By Nafeeza Yahya-Sakur
OVER 14,000 residents in several communities in East Canje and other surrounding communities will benefit from potable water with the commissioning of a new water-treatment plant at Sheet Anchor, East Berbice-Corentyne, Region Six.
President Dr Irfaan Ali was present on Saturday to officially commission the plant; it is a project that he initiated when he served as Minister of Housing and Water in 2014. The US$6 million or G$1.2 billion water-treatment plant was made possible through support from the European Union and the Inter-American Development Bank.
In his feature address, President Ali said while he is happy that the project has been realised, he is disappointed that it took so long to materialise due to a policy decision taken by the previous APNU+AFC administration. He noted that if they had continued on the strategic plan in place for the Guyana Water Inc (GWI), the project would have been completed over three years ago.
The President made clear that water is a fundamental right of every citizen and should not be used as a political tool. Meanwhile, the Head of State noted that he is happy with the progress made by GWI over the past year to turn around some of the policies and regression that took place during the APNU+AFC’s term in office.
“It was a nightmare to go into communities as Minister of Housing, every single community there was a complaint, lack of resources, lack of technical capability, non-profitability, financial stress. It was hard work, very, very difficult and I want to thank them for their hard work … and I always say this what we worked for during those years and where we brought the company.
“The CEO would tell you; we brought the company from a neglected non-profit scenario to a situation where we are actually approaching the break-even point. The company was at a point that would have allowed for rapid take-off. The type of regression that took place, and I am not speaking about personalities here, I’m speaking strictly about performance. The up-to-date company audits were delayed for years where the operational costs went through the roof are things, we must not take for granted.
“And I am happy to hear that whilst recognising the challenges that faced the company a year ago, that there is a clear direction that the company is heading.”
The President was strong in message that the development of Guyana should not be politically manipulated.
“In my mind, the development of Guyana is paramount over everything else, it is paramount to political views.”
$29B for future development
Looking towards the future development of GWI and provision of potable water for all Guyanese, President Ali emphasised the need to look at the provision of water not only from an economic standpoint, but also from a social view. In this regard, he pledged some $29 billion to help the company realise its goals of providing water to hinterland and riverine communities, as well as making treated water available to 90% of the coastal areas.
“You have heard the company’s aggression for hinterland and riverine communities; we have cost this and it’s about $4 billion in immediate investment in the medium term that is required to support this, and I want to assure you this: that the government is committed in providing this four-billion-dollar capital investment for hinterland development.”
The President further gave assurance of another $25 billion investment to ensure that 90 per cent of the population along the coast would have access to treated water.
Dr Ali further advised the gathering on best practices for both consumers and the company and cautioned GWI to look at the reduction of their operational costs. He highlighted that energy was responsible for 65 per cent of the overhead expenses. In this regard, the President urged GWI to look at renewable energy sources.
Meanwhile, Minister of Housing and Water, Collin Croal, in his address noted the delivery of a reliable supply of clean, safe water to citizens is a commitment that the government is working assiduously to fulfil.
“Our government upon entering office recognised that the availability of a safe and reliable supply of potable water is a basic right that citizens are entitled to. But it is no secret that the water sector had been in a poor state in terms of infrastructure and availability, and that it is plagued by other challenges too, like high water loss, unacceptable levels of service and low-metered coverage among others.”
He posited that the water-treatment plant is a great boost to the community and urged the residents to protect it.
MASSIVE DEVELOPMENTS FOR REGION SIX
President Ali assured the residents that Region Six can expect massive developments in healthcare with the addition of a new hospital, infrastructure, ICT and job creation.
“Region Six will see tremendous investment not only in water. Very soon, we will be releasing our plans for healthcare, which includes a modern hospital coming your way; we will be unleashing our infrastructure development; our ICT plan.
“As a matter of fact, only two days ago the Minister of Finance was in discussion with a major call centre that is willing to bring investment to Region Six that will create at least 500 jobs. We are now working on a new budget to put the money, to put the infrastructure in place to have this investment catalyzed as quickly as possible. We will announce shortly an agriculture diversification plan that is mind-blowing.”
Meanwhile, residents also expressed gratitude for realisation of the water- treatment plant.
Elaine Pellew, 57, a resident of Sheet Anchor, has been living in the community for over 40 years. She is happy for the new water-treatment facility as she can look forward to having access to clean and healthier water for her and her family.
Another resident, Parbattie Chatergoon, 56, said with the treated water she can save money since she no longer has to purchase bottled water.
Martin Lampkin, 61, another resident, expressed similar sentiments while reminiscing on how “rusty” the water used to be.