While income in the construction and engineering sector of the Guyana economy has been growing at the rate of 12 percent per annum over the last five years, there is an increasing lack of attention to a critical aspect of Guyana’s infrastructure. During this time, the administration has spent over G$240 billion on roads, sea and river defence, installation of new drains and other infrastructural works. Yet, a walk or drive through its long-standing communities leaves much to be desired about the appearance of the country and one to wonder about the purpose of its gutters, trenches and canals. Despite the exorbitant amounts spent, it looks as if no part of the city and coastland of Guyana is spared from environmental abuse, and raises questions as to how much care new infrastructure will receive as the administration proceeds with its development of land for housing and industrial use.
Only time will tell. But, the deplorable condition of the existing series of interconnected inland waterways of gutters, trenches and canals does not offer much hope for a better tomorrow. It is as if the administration is turning its back on the people of Guyana and could not care less about their welfare. No facility can operate efficiently without regular maintenance. Bridges collapse when neglected or improperly maintained. Buildings decay and machinery stops working when not properly maintained. Current procurement practice in Guyana tells us that decisions on new public works are made on the lowest cost to buy and not on the cost of owning an asset over its useful life. For the administration, putting down drains is important but maintaining them is not. This philosophy is evident from the condition of the current infrastructure in the country. The rush to build new infrastructure without an interest in maintaining it is good politics, but poor economics.
Because of improper maintenance, the gutters, trenches and canals do not work well and make it easy for yards and roads to flood. As a taxpayer, the homeowner bears all the costs of poor maintenance of public property. Water damage to property increases the cost of repairs to the homeowner with no consequence to the administration responsible for its upkeep. In addition, the homeowner ends up paying higher taxes when the administration decides to raise taxes to carry out repair and maintenance work. Matters are likely to get worse with the changing lifestyle of Guyanese. With consumption spending exceeding G$393 billion last year and expected to grow further, Guyanese seem to have many more items to dispose of, but no awareness of where to do so. As such, the gutters, trenches and canals that were intended to collect water and facilitate drainage serve instead as repositories of solid waste and fertile ground for wild vegetation. If the practice of irresponsible dumping continues, soon the inland waterways will serve no good purpose.
Excesses of Environmental Misconduct
Travel the streets of Georgetown and those of the coastland and some of the worst excesses of environmental misconduct and neglect will be apparent. At times, the parapet seems like personal dump sites of one set of taxpayers which must be tolerated by another set of taxpayers. The filthy mounds of seemingly unmanaged garbage serve as nothing more than eyesores and a health hazard and no one seems to care. The walls of gutters have collapsed and water, instead of flowing freely, settle on nearby lands and become breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Maintaining a clean and healthy environment is not common practice. It is the absence of this pesky thing called maintenance that leaves people’s yards and Guyana’s roads flooded when rain falls, and residents at risk for the outbreak of an epidemic.
Apparently, the mistreatment of the environment is not exclusive to any economic zone. It seems to afflict affluent and decadent neighbourhoods alike. A casual glance last week at the gutter outside of Bel Air Gardens alongside Sheriff Street revealed discarded food boxes, plastic bottles and other debris sitting idly atop of the water. Going further south along Sheriff Street the scene repeats itself, except with larger quantities of the offending debris and waste stuck under bridges or between clumps of grass, some 25 feet in length, blocking the flow of water, and the view of residents at ground level. No one seems interested in keeping the drainage system clear, not the City Council or the central government. Whatever conflict exists between those two entities is no excuse for Guyanese to display such irresponsible behaviour and tolerate administrative intransigence.
In other parts of Guyana, the confrontation between the environment and residents is just as hostile as the confrontation between the Guyana Government and the City Council of Georgetown. In parts of Meadowbrook, for example, water does not flow in the gutters. As a consequence, mixed with the mud and sediment from its resting place, the water takes on the colour of charcoal and offers up an offending odour unique to its own constitution. The foul odour takes pleasure in floating through the air when pushed by the slightest wind. Those who can endure the drifting stench show the slightest discomfort. The less tolerant are more expressive in their resentment of the unpleasant smell and hold their breath for as long as they deem necessary. If it is not bottles, cans, or food boxes, it is wood, cloth, wires, plastic bags and other solid waste taking up refuge in the gutters or trenches. The standard refrain from some residents is “we try, but it is others who are doing these things”.
The East Coast is not spared from the environmental scourge either. In addition to the litter from discarded consumption, the trenches seem to be unpreserved reclamation fields for the forest canopy lost centuries ago. Even where residential properties are well laid out, the trenches are thick with overgrowth that prevent the flow of water and present an incongruous contrast to the immaculate and attractive structures they serve. The contrast is both unsafe and unhealthy.
What is troubling is that, no one seems to have a sensible plan for cleaning up Georgetown and the coastland of Guyana, neither the City Council nor the central government. Spending on new infrastructure seems to be a hobby, but maintaining it appears to be a burden since the task comes with no glitter and glamour of a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Guyanese should realize though that it is the routine of regular maintenance that creates a better quality of life for all. With responsibility for the nation, the current administration should be held accountable for the current condition of the environment.
ECONOMICS AND FINANCE
LUCAS STOCK INDEX (LSI)
In the second week of trading in August 2011, the LSI recorded no change from the previous week. The stocks of Banks DIH (DIH), Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) and Sterling Products Limited (SPL) all traded at the price of the previous week. As a result, the spread between the index and the risk-free Treasuries due to mature in December 2011 remains above 21 percentage points.