Paramaribo: From backward port to being named the best twice

(de Ware Tijd) PARAMARIBO – When John Defares retires as director of the Port Authority on 31 December, he will do so with a sense of satisfaction. During his twelve years at the helm, the port of Paramaribo has been transformed from a ‘backward’ one to one that has been named best in the region twice.

Defares is to be succeeded by Andreas Talea, currently head of economic statistics at the statistics bureau ABS. This means the ABOP party of Ronny Brunswijk is filling in this post. This reportedly took a lot of doing. President Desi Bouterse had asked Defares to serve a year longer, and would ask him to add another year; otherwise the NDP would fill in the post. Yet ABOP wanted the post too because it did not get other ones it believed it was entitled to. This involves functions related to the Ministry of Transport, Communication and Tourism (TCT) in particular.

In fact Defares has carried out projects as port director he had prepared while he was Minister of TCT between 1991 and 1996. After all, he submitted the project to rehabilitate the Nieuwe Haven to the European Union (EU) as TCT Minister in 1995. This project eventually cost 30 million Euros, and 18 million Euros of Dutch development aid funds were invested as well. The port also obtained US$ 50 million in loans from local banks.

As part of the rehabilitation project, the pier was extended by 80 meters and 15,500 square meters of paved storage space was added. The port of Nickerie is also being rehabilitated with US$ 16.5 million from the Islamic Development Bank. Defares points out that not all improvements are initiatives from the Port Authority. Private enterprises have also invested some US$ 40 million in renovating storage facilities and purchasing new equipment.

The project has become a good example of public-private sector cooperation, the outgoing port director states. He is confident Talea will take the port to greater heights. “He must get that support too. And if people need advice, I am here.”

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