PRESIDENT Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali during his recent visit to Region Six, disclosed a menu of new projects to be undertaken in that region, which he said has ‘the important catalytic push’ to bring about trans-border development. Among these developments is the transformation of the Port Mourant Training Centre into the country’s Oil and Gas Institute. This is indeed a significant development which will provide opportunities for Guyanese to be trained in several skill areas relevant to oil-and-gas operations. Many of the skillsets required for the petroleum sector are not currently available in the country, and have been taken up by foreigners. In keeping with the recently tabled Local Content Bill, these skills can now be sourced locally, which will greatly enhance capacity building in the sector.
The Port Mourant Training Centre (PMTC) was established in 1957 by the then Bookers Sugar Estates (BSE) as an apprentice training facility to provide young Guyanese with greater opportunities to equip themselves with technical skills, mainly relevant to sugar production. The centre was fully equipped with lecture and residential facilities and practical workshops. Thousands of young people graduated from the institute in a wide variety of technical skills. However, with the downsizing of sugar production and the closure of a number of grinding sugar estates by the former APNU+AFC administration, the facilities at the centre became underutilised, resulting in idle training capacity.
The decision by the President to transform that training institute as a training institute for the oil-and-gas sector is indeed forward looking and a step in the right direction.
Region Six which encompasses East Berbice-Corentyne, borders the Atlantic Ocean to the north; Suriname to the east; Brazil to the south and the regions of Mahaica-Berbice, Upper Demerara-Upper Berbice, Potaro-Siparuni and Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo to the west. It is the only region in the country that includes parts of all four natural regions — coastal plain, intermediate savannah, hilly sand and clay area and forested highland. It is also the only region with three towns, New Amsterdam, Rose Hall and Corriverton. With a population of 142,000, it is the second largest region in terms of population size.
The region is therefore strategically positioned to be the catalytical push to bring about cross-border development. The construction of a deep-water port in Region Six, apart from job creation and other ancillary benefits, will also see some significant economic benefits to the productive sectors, especially in terms of containerised traffic, direct export of grains and reduced logistical costs.
Phase One of the Berbice Deep-water Port is to be constructed by CGX Energy Inc and its subsidiary Grand Canal Industrial Estates Inc., at the mouth of the Berbice River. It is expected to be completed by October 2022. A bridge linking the main access road to the construction site has been built at a cost of approximately US$1M, which is a relatively small component of the first phase of the port with an estimated budget of US$80M. The overall construction will see an investment of more than US$2000M injected into the project.
According to Canada’s High Commissioner to Guyana, Mark Berman, who along with President Ali and other senior government functionaries were present at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, ‘the bridge is not crossing a major waterway but it is significant, it is a major step towards development of the Deep-water Port here in Berbice. And that port will play an important role in Guyana’s oil-and-gas industry, as well as product exportation.’
President Ali has outlined a clear vision for Guyana which will see rapid transformation in terms of infrastructural and social development in the regions and the country as a whole. High on the agenda is the re-designing of the country’s future in order to deliver on high levels of prosperity, not only for this generation, but for generations to come. In the case of Region Six, the objective of the plan is to make the region sustainable in terms of its own development trajectory. According to President Ali, sustainable development is premised on a number of key attributes which include job creation, a high quality of social services, education, health, infrastructure, water, electricity and empowerment opportunities. Additionally, there is also need to reduce economic and gender disparities. These fundamental elements of sustainable development, the President said, will be added to the national and regional plans to ensure across- the-board implementation.
Region Six is certainly high on President Ali’s development agenda with a number of key projects which, in addition to a number of mega-projects such as the Corentyne River Bridge and the Berbice Deep-water Port, will also see major infrastructural works such as expansion of the Corentyne highway to international standards, upgrading of community roads and improved drainage and irrigation services, among other developments. The President took the opportunity to update Berbicians of his administration’s plan to construct a new state-of-the art hospital in the region. Plans are also underway for a joint gas-strategy project between Guyana and Suriname which, in addition to providing energy at lower unit costs, is envisioned to provide energy for aluminium production in Berbice, known for its large deposits of A-Grade bauxite deposits.