THE capital works component of the 2021 Budget Estimates has been successfully implemented. According to Public Works Minister Bishop Juan Edghill, roughly 85 per cent of the programme has been completed. This is indeed a commendable performance especially when seen against the devastating flood situation and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the combined effect of which resulted in some amount of bottlenecks in the implementation processes.
These capital works form part of a much larger Public Sector Investment Project (PSIP) which is a strategic investment plan of the Government of Guyana. Billions of dollars are being invested by the Government of Guyana to transform and modernise the physical and social landscape of the country.
The successful completion of capital projects is very important not only in terms of the money spent on the projects but more significantly in the provision of new and improved services which the projects offer to the Guyanese people; take for instance the completion of the Herstelling to Diamond road which was recently commissioned. Immediately the quality of life of the travelling public improved by way of hassle-free travel and less time lost in traffic congestion. This is just one of the numerous instances where the lives of Guyanese have been positively touched by way of capital works.
According to Minister Edghill, except for the two foreign-funded projects which are currently at the procurement stage, namely the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) $22.5 billion Linden-Mabura Hill Road Project and the US$ 158 million Government of India-funded Ogle to Eccles Bypass Road Project, all of the other capital works have been fully implemented.
These two unimplemented projects soon to come on stream are transformational projects which, when completed, would result in greater connectivity between the various communities and regions in the country. The Linden-Mabura Hill Road upgrade will cover 121 kilometers and represent the first phase of a wider plan to develop a transportation corridor from Georgetown to Lethem and ultimately to northern Brazil. According to the CDB, the upgrading of this portion of the road from Linden to Mabura Hill is not just an infrastructure project but will also include social safeguards that will ensure residents benefit from the road development project with adequate environmental protections to preserve the ecosystem.
In the case of the Ogle to Eccles road link, this project is expected to bring significant benefits to commuters and will ease traffic congestion along the lower East Bank corridor. The road will in effect link the East Coast of Demerara with the East Bank and will create a new development corridor with potential for more housing development projects and new business opportunities. The project was delayed for several years because of the intransigence of the previous APNU+AFC administration but has now been re-vitalised and construction works are expected to commence this year.
The capital works programme is likely to get bigger as more revenues from oil become available to the country in the coming years. The construction of the new Demerara River Bridge is expected to commence this year which, along with the Corentyne River Bridge linking Guyana and Suriname and the several other mega-projects soon to come on stream, will impact big on the construction industry. Already, the local construction sector is being challenged to respond to the demands of the massive capital programme.
The need to ensure that projects are completed on time and within the budgeted allocation cannot be overemphasised. According to Minister of Works Juan Edghill, government is paying keen attention and keeping an eye out for non-performing contractors. This will ensure that taxpayers benefit from efficient and quality work. President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali had also warned that the government will not tolerate contractors who fail to meet their contract obligations especially as they relate to quality, expediency and accountability while explaining that government has a mandate to improve the lives of every Guyanese.
The PPP/C administration must be commended not only for making the financial resources available to modernise the infrastructure of the country but to ensure that the works are executed within the fiscal year. This is all the more significant given disruptions in the supply chain due to the COVID-pandemic and the adverse effects of climate change.