A very important and critical infrastructural development was highlighted by the Minister of Finance during his budget speech. And this is the commencement of the GT-Lethem paved highway. If it does become reality it will be one of the largest positive developments made by the APNU+AFC government since it came into power. Strangely this most important piece of budget information has been moderately reviewed so far in the public domain.
For decades this highway has been touted as a key investment for our country, with the economic possibilities seemingly endless. Brazilian Presidents Lula and Rouseff highlighted the need for this highway which would bring economic benefits to both Guyana and Brazil. Brazil even went so far as to offer to build this road during their economic boom a few years ago.
Despite all the obvious economic benefits from the construction of this highway, this project never got off the ground. Many wondered why. The answer seemed finally revealed a few days ago when the Opposition Leader, who was President of the country when Brazil offered to construct the highway, made his thoughts known on the present government’s proposal to commence construction of the highway.
In an article carried in the Guyana Chronicle under the caption ‘Linden-Mabura Road – Govt close to sealing financing pact’, the Opposition Leader reportedly said that “the road should not be paved at this time”. He was rightfully rebuked by an executive of the Private Sector Commission who saw the road as a “huge priority for the private sector” and even went further to say the Opposition Leader, “as an economist, should know better”.
So, was it Mr Jagdeo’s indifferent attitude to the GT-Lethem highway which really prevented this road from becoming a possibility earlier? Thankfully this government sees the importance in a different light and is making steps to make the road a reality.
However, a note of caution is urged when the final plans are being concluded for the positioning of the road alignment. Firstly, they should take into consideration the concerns of the indigenous communities through which the road will run. Their rights and concerns should be respected, and it should be ensured they receive benefits from the road. Secondly, Linden has a history of instability. Lethem residents can still remember the blockage of the GT-Lethem road and the indifference portrayed by Linden to the hardships incurred by the Rupununi people. Even now a toll has been affixed to simply pass through the town.
I hope such factors are considered when the road alignment is finalized.
Kudos to APNU+AFC for making the highway a priority and commencing work on it in 2017. I am certain it will be a lasting legacy of the government and will earn much support from a wide cross-section of the populace.
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