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By David Patterson MP- The internationally renowned Chartered Accountants and Professional Services firm, Ram & McRae, in the 28th edition of their detailed annual budgetary analysis, titled Focus on Guyana’s National Budget 2018, dedicated an entire section to the Coalition administration’s proposal for the construction of a New Demerara River Bridge.
In their 2018 publication, Ram and McRae insisted that expansive and comprehensive technical studies, including a full feasibility study, a traffic study, a full Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) and geotechnical studies should be completed before the commencement of the proposed bridge. The 28th Edition also did an analysis on the proposed toll structure for the proposed bridge, which was listed at G$500 per car for the first three years and afterwards increasing by fixed increments in the subsequent years. The report questioned the viability and sustainability of this proposed toll structure.
Interestingly the 33rd Edition of Ram and McRae’s budgetary analysis, Focus on Guyana’s National Budget 2022, made no such demand for comprehensive or technical studies, despite the sum of G$21B being allocated (and presumably spent). There have been no public calls for additional information on proposed toll fees or other financial arrangements. No concerns were raised about the impact of our national debt, or the proposed financing agreements. No questions about the proposed route of the new bridge, its proximity and impact on communities that it will land in the middle of – so much for detailed studies. In fact, this year’s report makes no mention of the New Demerara River Bridge other than listing it under the government’s proposed capital projects.
The PPP administration has awarded a contract for US$260M to a contractor, without any comprehensive studies (technical or financial). Further, the award was mired in controversy with the cabinet’s approved top ranked contractor, being summarily announced as unresponsive by the Vice President during an interview with the US Vice News, when he was questioned in connection with alleged business ventures with the now infamous Mr. Su.
The PPP administration has now taken another loan of US$172M from the China Exim Bank for this project, despite boasting that over US$1B will be deposited in the National Resource Fund for 2022, no explanation has been offered on the rationale of adding this loan to our National Debt, monies which will have to be repaid by future generations, when interest free funds are readily available. No information is available on the tolls that the end users will be forced to pay, especially when based on prior experience, tolls of the level of the Berbice Bridge (G$2,200 per car) are possible.
There has been no public comment on the fact that the PPP administration, invited bids under a Design-Build-Finance procurement model, however they have now awarded a contract which will be fully funded by the taxpayers, without even allowing other prospective bidders to submit proposals under this new financing arrangement.
To a causal bystander, it may appear strange that an internationally renowned firm, which would have, on behalf of the Guyanese people, demanded a holistic and comprehensive approach for such an important and massive infrastructure project, has five years later, dropped those demands for high standards in government’s infrastructure projects. However, those of us living under the two-sided umbrella of One Guyana, understand that the Guardians of Democracy are no longer on sentry duty. Our armchair engineers, and technical experts, once so prevalent from the first of the coalition years, have now fallen into deep slumber and our accountability sentinels are no longer as eagle eyed as in the very recent past.
As the silence echoes, we should be reminded in the words of Ginetta Sagan, that “Silence in the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor.”
Therefore, we can all take note, that the silence is deafening and speaks volumes to those who have ears!!