Guyana pushing for Linden-Lethem road, deep water harbour

– in wake of Suriname’s US$6B MOU for similar projects

Guyana is close to finalizing funding for paving the Linden-Lethem road and has intensified its push for a deep water harbour in Berbice, a government source disclosed recently, while saying that the country’s aim to become the gateway for Brazilian trade will not be challenged by recent developments in Suriname.

Guyana has long spoken about paving the Linden-Lethem road and building a deep water harbour here but progress on these projects continues to be delayed. However, Suriname recently signed Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with two Chinese companies for US$6 billion worth of projects, including a deep sea harbour and a road and railroad to Brazil. Suriname President Desi Bouterse had promised to deliver during his campaign for the presidency.

President Bharrat Jagdeo, on Thursday led a delegation to Brazil to attend a Mercosur summit. Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon said that during this two-day conference a technical team would be pursuing talks on the deep water harbour and the Linden-Lethem road pavement initiatives.

According to reports in sections of the Surinamese media, Public Works Minister Ramon Abrahams signed three MOUs with two big Chinese enterprises, Cheng Don International and China Harbour. The MOUs with China Harbour relate to five projects including a road and railroad from Paramaribo to Brazil, a deep sea harbour, a sea dam from Albina to Nickerie and a highway to Zanderij.

Speaking about these developments, the government source said the signing of the MOUs did not mean that Suriname was now ahead of Guyana. According to the source, Suriname will now have to start from scratch to determine the feasibility of the projects etc. The source said Guyana was in a better position since it was working with directly the Brazilian government on the Linden-Lethem road and the deep water harbour as opposed to a third party.

Recently, outgoing Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva pledged his country’s commitment towards advancing and expanding its bilateral agenda with the country, with an immediate focus on Guyana’s hydropower project and the paving of the Linden-Lethem road. He was speaking at a special ceremony held during the UNASUR Summit where he was conferred with the Order of Excellence, Guyana’s highest national award.

In August, a team from Brazil submitted a proposal which outlined how funding could be secured for the Linden-Lethem road for President Jagdeo’s consideration. Brazil’s Undersecretary-General for South and Central America and the Caribbean, Ambassador Antonio Jose Ferreira Simoes said the road was a “priority” in Guyana-Brazil relations and that among the proposals was a suggestion that a Brazilian engineering company would commence work on the road.

Regarding the construction of a deep sea port, there has been division as whether this should be located in the Essequibo or Berbice rivers. In February, a team of experts from India in collaboration with local representatives carried out a one-week feasibility study and found Berbice to be the most suitable area for the deep water harbour.

The previous Brazilian Ambassador to Guyana, during an interview with this newspaper last year, had said that based on preliminary studies, the Lethem to Linden road would only make economic sense if it was complemented by a deep water harbour.

Recently, Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) Ramesh Dookhoo and President of the Rupununi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI), Alfred Ramsaran told Stabroek News that the recent developments in Suriname could have a major impact on the trade arrangements between Guyana and Brazil.

They said Guyana should move on its own projects with urgency, if it wanted to be competitive. Dookhoo noted that Guyana had the advantage of being situated closer to Brazil.

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