Revisiting the proposed construction of the new Demerara Harbour Bridge

Last week, we discussed the concept of Public Private Partnerships (P3s) by providing a broad perspective of what a P3 arrangement is about; how it differs from privatization; the rationale for entering into P3 arrangements; its advantages and disadvantages; and the various models of P3s. We concluded that, given the Government’s expressed desire to adopt the P3 approach to certain infrastructure development works and service delivery, extreme care needs to be taken not to repeat the mistakes of the past.  We expressed the hope that comprehensive analyses would be carried out of the conventional approach versus the various P3s models, preferably by an independent group of experts, to determine which option is most suited to ensure cost effectiveness and the best value for money for the investment to be undertaken. The involvement of key stakeholders before any decision is made is also crucial to successful implementation.

  One of the projects earmarked for a P3 mode of delivery is the proposed construction of the Demerara River Crossing at Houston, Georgetown. The Government had announced that a three-lane fixed bridge would be constructed but has now decided to opt for a four-lane one. This change appears to have been influenced by expressions of interest that the Government might have received as well as genuine criticisms of the original design. In our column of 2 October 2017, we had stated that if funding was not available to construct a wider bridge, the project should be delayed until we are able to garner the necessary funds. However, as time goes by, the cost of the project will increase. Now that funding is likely to be available via the P3 mode, the Government has made the right decision in enhancing the original design.  In the long-run, the benefits are likely to more than outweigh the additional cost of US$20 million.  One hopes that the new design will include a walk-way for pedestrians as well as a cyclists’ lane.       ….