Sixty-five vendors from Vreed-en-Hoop have agreed to relocate to enable the West Coast Demerara Road Improvement Project, a release from the Ministry of Public Infrastructure said yesterday.
The decision came following discussions with Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Annette Ferguson.
The release said that Ferguson met with the vendors on Thursday afternoon at the Vreed-en-Hoop Primary School to discuss the way forward. She was accompanied by officials from the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, the Ministry of Finance, and the Region 3 Democratic Council.
During the session, it was emphasised that the project was one which would ultimately benefit the entire community, particularly its economy. It was also relayed by Project Coordinator, Kester Hinds, that the US$44M project is the largest infrastructural development to ever be undertaken in Region #3.
For the project to be successfully completed, it was stated that the 65 vendors from Vreed-en-Hoop would have to temporarily relocate since their current location is in the path of the proposed road.
“It was highlighted during the discussion that a failure to move forward with the project as stipulated in its contract could lead to heavy financial repercussions for Guyana from the loaning agency, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB). Finance Secretary, Dr. Hector Butts, explained the ramifications of the loan agreement to the vendors and stated that the loan comes with interest that `grows, whether construction goes on or not’”, the release said.
Ferguson said that the goal was not to “come in like a thief in the night” and remove the vendors. Rather, she said, the vendors had a say in the way forward.
“We are here to listen and to find solutions, not to strong-arm you,” Ferguson stressed while urging the vendors to present options that might not have been previously considered by officials. Two possible locations were also put forward to the vendors for consideration.
In response, the release said that vendors expressed understanding at their relocation but said that one of the proposed sites was untenable. This site is located in an area known as Felix Park in Pouderoyen, West Bank Demerara, and, according to the vendors, it is a “dead zone”.
“No customer is going to want to go there; it is not a catchment area,” one vendor said. Another added, “People would prefer to take the speed boat to Georgetown than to travel to that location.”
The vendors also called for the use of the Vreed-en-Hoop stelling as the relocation site. However, they were informed that this area is currently earmarked for development into a waterfront facility via funding by the United Kingdom Government and would therefore be unavailable.
At the end of the discussion, two sites located right in Vreed-en-Hoop were proposed by the vendors and agreed on, the release said. The 65 vendors will be split between the two locations and are expected to be moved as soon as Monday.
The project, which began in Hydronie and stretches to Vreed-en-Hoop, covers approximately 30.7 kilometres of road.