Why so much focus on Oil & Gas and not on Agriculture 

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Dear Editor, 

The government is placing almost all of development eggs in one nest – oil and gas – to the neglect of other key sectors of the economy. Oil is short term and non-renewable. Once it runs out, it can’t be replaced and that industry dies as has happened in Trinidad.  Agriculture is long term sustenance of country given our abundance of fresh water and geographical location of Guyana. Government should simultaneously focus on agriculture which is sustainable and long term. 

Our development hinges on agriculture. And at any rate, we need food for survival and we are not meeting our potential. Serious questions have been posed and questionable activities exposed at Oil and Gas and Agriculture as well as several other Ministries. 

The Agriculture Ministry can be better managed to be the breadbasket of not only Guyana but the region and the Guyanese diaspora at large.  Agriculture is being run like a private cake shop. Things are not going in the right direction. Staff is disgruntled; a survey should be conducted to determine level of satisfaction of the staff; findings would be surprising. Tendering rules and awards are not followed according to letter and spirit of rules. 

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Process for Tender evaluation and the granting of awards are highly contaminated. Many projects are re-tendered to get the right contractor. Is right contractor defined by the who can pay the required amount of draw back? Sheet piling fiasco is an illustration – it was tendered once and re-tendered four other times. Is it to get the contractor who will pay the huge draw back? And there are so many other cases of continuous attempt to award contracts at inflated prices and to get the right contractor. Pump station contracts have been tendered and re-tendered. Are evaluators coerced into recommending bidders (for the awards) who are aligned to high officials rather than evaluate bids based on competence? 

It has been brought to my attention that contractors who provided drainage services during the recent floods that resulted in untold damages (much of which caused by malpractice of administration) have not been paid as yet. The machine operators and owners had to protest before they were paid for tractor pumps to assist with drainage. Then there is fiasco with the flood relief grants in which genuine victims were not adequate compensated or not at all. There is the issue of the fishing trawler license to the Windsor Forest recipient who it is reported never fished and who does not own any vessels. This could have caused Guyana to lose its fishing accreditation. 

Rumours coming out of the secretariat abound with lack of transparency and other issues involving contracts. One rumour has it that a mechanic from Bush Lot Corentyne who never built a simple sluice is being considered for an award of two huge pump stations in Corentyne amounting to some $1.5 Billion. This individual is not qualified for any of the evaluation criteria for this project or any other DNI work.  Yet, he is considered for this project. He is a wheeler dealer, a political grass hopper, feeding politicians in the food chain without having to meet criteria or performing work. 

Higher powers are not doing anything about the doling out of contract to those who persecuted businesses. Is awarding of contracts dependent on who pays the drawback with the recipient unconcerned about a contractor? Is it a only a case of paying to play regardless of political affiliation? 

Generally, it would appear that government is only thinking about oil and gas revenues, a limited resource. It is not addressing issues at Ministry of Agriculture to manage it efficiently.  I urge government to take actions to clean up what is happening in the Ministry. 

Yours truly,
Samuel Gittens



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