The Takutu Bridge is complete, compliments of our Brazilian neighbours. The road on the Guyanese side is now in the asphalting phase, compliments of our Brazilian neighbours.
And what’s happening in Lethem to complement our neighbour’s infrastructural work? Absolutely nothing! Our electricity supply is totally unreliable, our roads are still dusty, crater filled and in terrible condition and our water supply is sporadic. Nothing is being seen to appease the concerns that Lethem will be completely unprepared for the opening of the bridge.
There was a time last December when it looked like infrastructural work was finally going to be undertaken. The roads were graded, and loads of laterite were deposited along both sides of the roads. One had assumed that this was the first step in creating proper asphalted roads (asphalting actually commenced on one of the roads but the distance completed was less than 20 metres.) Unfortunately from that time to now nothing further has been done. The graded roads have already deteriorated and the laterite heaps that were deposited on both sides are now a traffic hazard, particularly at nights because there are no traffic lights. Already, there have been a number of minor accidents where cyclists and vehicles have ridden into the heaps. Thankfully, there were no major injuries. But should this hazard continue, who knows what will happen in the future? The next unsuspecting victim may not be so fortunate. Are we to wait until this happens before action will be taken?
As the days go by, the Brazilians continue to work fervently to complete the last phase of the bridge construction, which is the paving of the access road. At the pace with which this last stage is going, work should be completed very soon, possibly within a few weeks time.
Then what happens?
The Brazilians seem more prepared for the expected influx of business and they’ll be the ones to benefit. Residents of Lethem, however, will just have to watch on helplessly as the business people and goods dock in Bom Fin where the roads are all paved, electricity is cheap and reliable, and the services are more professional and efficient (there were recent major infrastructural undertakings in Bom Fin such as the paving of roads, construction of a mega-sized export centre, housing schemes and play parks, state of the art football stadium, etc).
Is this what was envisioned for Guyana when the Takutu Bridge was first mooted? Most definitely not!
Unless our government gets going immediately to ensure that our facilities are on par with Bom Fin, then there is every likelihood that Guyana will have very few benefits from the Takuktu Bridge.
The multi-purpose complex that was constructed in Lethem is but a fraction of the size of a similar facility that was constructed just over the border in Bom Fin. Recently, the Bom Fin facility was completed and it’s a sight to behold. The size of the complex and the design of the facilities that were installed is an indication of what the Brazilian government deems the size of the cross border trade to be − very large.
Over on our side, our multipurpose complex is still the same way that it has been for over a year. It is unpainted, without a fence, overgrown with bush and generally very unbecoming in appearance. Very little or nothing has been done recently to ensure that the complex is ready in time for the opening of the bridge. If the two complexes are compared, it speaks volumes about the expectations of the two countries.
Every time a government official visits Lethem, and they have been doing so with increasing frequency lately, they raise the expectations of how the bridge is going to benefit Lethem and indeed Guyana. But how can this be possible if we do not invest in the necessary infrastructure?
So as time winds down to the opening of the Takutu bridge, it seems that Brazil is far more prepared than Guyana for the spin-off benefits.