A four-lane highway up to Golden Grove on the East Coast Demerara (ECD) will be built and government is working on setting up a new airline, President Bharrat Jagdeo has announced.

He listed a number of other projects that are being worked upon, also giving updates on others during a press conference at the Office of the President yesterday. In the past weeks, the Head of State visited several countries on various missions while the Prime Minister of Kuwait, Sheikh Nasser Mohammed Al Ahmed Al-Jaber Al Sabah visited these shores on Monday.

Jagdeo said that he was pleased by the Sheikh’s visit, saying that discussions were fruitful and he hopes that some of these initiatives will move forward. “We spoke about the debt, we spoke about some new loans for the housing sector, we spoke about possibility of funding for other types of projects including the four-lane out to the East Coast”, said the President. He pointed out that funding for a four-lane highway up to the Cheddi Jagan International Airport at Timehri is about to be secured and the same needs to be done for the ECD, at least up to Golden Grove, where traffic is heaviest.

“It’s badly needed given the large numbers of vehicles that people are importing”, said the President. “I’m pleased about that because it shows growing income in the country and people being able to afford their own vehicles but it also presents a problem for us because of congestion on the roads so the road network has to expand”. Investment projects in mining and large-scale agriculture were also discussed with the Kuwaitis, Jagdeo said.
National flag carrier
On Wednesday, the President visited Venezuela where four agreements were signed. One of these was for the purchasing of aviation fuel from that country. Guyoil probably needs to get involved in this directly, Jagdeo said. He explained that the price paid for fuel in Guyana is probably two times the cost of fuel at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport. “So as you know we’re trying to work on a national flag carrier, an airline which will be based in Guyana and if they have to refuel here, they simply cannot be competitive with the other airlines if they have to buy fuel at a price double  what their competitors can pay in Trinidad and Tobago or in the US”, the President said. A home-based airline is critical for the development of the local tourism industry and returning Guyanese, he continued adding that large numbers of persons have been travelling to Guyana and although airlines have increased their flights, it is almost impossible to get flights into Guyana for August.

Later, responding to a question from this newspaper, Jagdeo said that it has not yet been decided whether government will have a stake in the new airline. “We haven’t decided whether we’ll take equity participation in the flag carrier as yet but clearly some concessions for them to be the flag carrier and to be based here; we probably have to do it through taxes, maybe a tax holiday and also to get the cost of fuel down”.

Last week, the Head of State was in China leading a Caribbean Community (Caricom) trade mission and he also met with institutions such as the China Development Bank and private investors. A contract has been awarded to a Chinese company to build a modern electricity grid from Crabwood Creek on the Corentyne to Leonora on the West Coast Demerara, the President announced. The project will be completed within two years. Jagdeo said that if the hydro-electricity plant is built, the transmission main along the coast is needed and it would eliminate inefficiency and hopefully, blackouts. He pointed out that the current grid is 50 years old and was built in a haphazard way.

The President told reporters that the government-owned fibre-optic cable will also be run along the transmission main. In China, he met with the company which will hopefully be building “this fibre-optic backbone across Guyana from Crabwood Creek to Pomeroon and all the way up back to Linden”. A Wi-Fi system in collaboration with the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GTT) and others to get internet access to all households at a cheap rate is also being examined, Jagdeo said.

He disclosed that he also met with several companies and one of the projects discussed was a modern, new airport. He said if Guyana is to become a hub, the airport needs to be expanded to be able to accommodate more aircraft. “So I had a discussion with some Chinese companies that are building airports but at this point in time, this is just preliminary,” the President said.