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The quality of Guyana’s road network tells us a lot about the true state of its economy and about the priority placed on infrastructure development that directly impacts the quality of life for Guyanese citizens. Many roads in Guyana are craters of destruction during the dry season and treacherous impassable pools when it rains and too often residents must navigate mud, slush and filthy water on their way to school and work and relief is not coming anytime soon.
Most residents will acknowledge that roads in Guyana are an abomination. Poor roads that reflect massive potholes, uneven surfaces, broken concrete, cracking of the road surface, and even sinkholes, can damage vehicles and injure occupants. The worst accidents occur when the driver does not expect the road conditions to be so dangerous. Hitting a large pothole or crack at speed can cause a serious road accident. Poor roads are also a direct cause of gross inefficiencies in the economy which often results in shockingly high prices in many regions and communities.
Roads in Guyana often aren’t built to last due to corruption and greed in the government. This ultimately results in higher costs for goods and services, poor quality of life for citizens and massive cumulative economic inefficiencies over time. It should also be noted that high-quality roads are more expensive to build since they need to be made to last. The average cost of building a quality road in the US is quoted at around $156,000 USD per km. In Guyana the Government, through the Ministry of Public Works, has spent as much as $136M / $690,000 USD for 800 meters(M or .8km) of road (Lima Sands 2021).
Government leaders seem to have chosen the strategy of building high cost, low quality roads, and low-quality roads are more expensive to maintain since they require regular upkeep, which includes pothole repairs and the occasional repaving job that is needed after years, even months of wear and tear on the road surface. High-quality roads are cheaper in the long run because they don’t have to be maintained as often or at all; instead, they can simply be repaired when necessary—which is much less costly than rebuilding an entire section of a low quality road every few years.
Guyanese will NOT be surprised to learn that corruption and greed also negatively impact the quality of a country’s transportation system. For example, an official responsible for road construction may demand bribes rather than doing their job. This can lead to poor quality roads throughout the country because there’s no way to ensure that you’re getting the best work at a reasonable price. A second example comes from another industry: greed in construction means that contractors will build things quickly and cheaply instead of following proper safety regulations or doing enough research before starting work on something new. This can also lead to substandard products being installed across the country.
When it comes to building and maintaining roads, Guyana has a long way to go and even if the government wants to improve road infrastructure, it can be difficult for them due to lack of capacity (quality contractors), priority for spending of funds or corruption within government departments (which may require bribes).