The government should call it a day on the Amaila Falls access road

Dear Editor,

In an interview reported in SN on December 16 with respect to the PPP/C government’s commitment to continue upkeep of the Amaila Falls access road after it is completed, Minister of Public Works Robeson Benn was reported as saying that the proposed Amaila Falls Hydropower Project (AFHP) access road, “is not a road to nowhere but a road to everywhere since he believes it is the single most important infrastructure project needed for Guyana’s economic development.”

It is unfortunate that Minister Benn continues to dream of AFHP becoming a reality now or in the foreseeable future as he has no idea where the money will come from to design and build it. Despite repeated requests the government has failed to release for public scrutiny feasibility studies claiming to show that AFHP is a viable project, and together with the lack of transparency and other factors, investors have been wary to make any financial commitment for a costly project in a country which is politically unstable and is likely to be so for some time to come.

Despite this stark reality, the PPP/C government continues to waste scarce public money to complete the Amaila Falls access road and bridges which Minister Benn erroneously claims are substantially completed, since much work remains to be done on the bridge across the Kuribrong River and that segment of the road from the AFHP site to the Kuribrong river bridge. All these works and much more are required to be completed as per design to make the road functional, and this is unlikely to be so before early 2016, provided funding could be assured to complete the works.

Maintenance of a roadway (which is not bitumen sealed) as well as its drains, culverts and bridges located in the hot, humid tropics with over 100 ins of rainfall annually will be very costly, and Minister Benn should state what the estimated maintenance cost for this access road will be and how it will be paid for since the government has had serious financial difficulties maintaining coastal roads as well as the Linden-Lethem fair weather road/trail and its appurtenances.

Minister Benn would be well advised to cease work on the access road and ‘call it a day’ as continued investment on a white elephant cannot be justified. The money now being spent on a road which will not serve its intended purpose any time soon will be better utilized on upgrading other hinterland roads urgently needed for Guyana’s economic development and the opening of trade with its large and prosperous neighbor – Brazil. Alternatively, the government should be exploring other sources for electricity, as recently the American Investment Banking Firm, Lazard, stated that the cost of power in the United States from solar is US7.2 cents/kwh, gas (for steam generation) US6.6 cents/kwh and from wind turbines US3.7 cents/kwh. Electricity costs from these sources continues to fall as production efficiency improves.

Yours faithfully,

Charles Sohan

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