MONEY DEH PLENTY!
The President went personally to West Coast Berbice to declare open a water treatment plant. Then he proceeded to Maria’ Lodge in Essequibo to declare open a school.
When such high level representation surfaces for these projects it is a sign that the administration knows that it is facing a credibility crisis and is seeking to unlock some goodwill.
It will do so by parading in front of the people its many development projects. Millions of dollars are being spent by the administration for developmental works. The water treatment plant in West Coast Berbice will service some 15,000 residents with purified water and has been funded by the World Bank. The plant itself forms part of US$12 M programme and the west Coast treatment plant cost some US$2M or G$400M.
It is interesting that for a necessity like water, Guyana went to the donor agencies. In this instance it went to the World Bank for funding. But in the case of the Amaila Falls Road Project, it has not gone for international funding. I wonder why?
How is it that we can go begging for the US$2M to construct that particular water treatment plant but when it comes to US$15M road project, this will have to be funded by the taxpayers of this country?
There is a need for Guyana to reduce its dependence on foreign capital, especially financing from international banks such as the IADB and the World Bank. It is commendable that Guyana is demonstrating increased capacity to fund local developmental projects. Even without the road project, the monies that are being spent on massive contracts in the agricultural sector, point to an increased ability of the government to finance major developmental initiatives.
But in as much as we should take pride in this accomplishment, there is an undeniable benefit in having foreign funded projects. In the context of the need for greater transparency and accountability, foreign funded projects require detailed feasibility studies which ensure that money is not thrown away, and it also requires strict guidelines intended to ensure fairness and transparency in the tendering process.
In so far as these international banks are concerned, before any contract is signed between the parties to the agreement, the financial institution is required to give its no objection to the process and they are not going to do this unless they are satisfied as to certain standards of transparency and accountability. It is not however as if these arrangements are foolproof and not susceptible to corruption; rather, given the stringency of the arrangements and the detailed oversight which takes place, it is less likely.
There is no way, for example, that the IDB, was going to award any contract worth US15M to a contractor without being satisfied that the required due diligence was done. There is no way that the World Bank would have allowed for a contract which was to design and build. It would have insisted that there be a design contract and having determined the winning bid would have then invited bids for the construction phase.
These are some of the advantages of doing business with these financial institutions. The project costs may be increased, the approval time for the loan may be long but in the end the end there would have been transparency and full disclosure about the project since this is something to which these international institutions are committed.
Disclosure is seriously lacking when it comes to the road project. We do not know, for example, what is the rationale for the taxpayers of this country having to fund this project. We do not know why, if there is a sponsor for the hydroelectric plant, that the road component could not have been included.
There is also some amount of confusion. The original developer was quoted as saying that power costs would be reduced by half.
A top government official was heard saying, recently, that the power costs would be one third of what it presently is. All this confusion can be cleared up if the government simply makes public the power sales agreement between the sponsor and the Guyana Power and Light. Inc.
What is certain is that taxpayers have to carry the three billion dollar cost for the road which has an amazing time frame for completion. (Why the hurry?) The treasury may also have to shoulder the four billion dollars that may be required to build the Hope Outfall. Add to this the billions of taxpayers funds that are being spent in the agricultural sector, we have a situation whereby the government cannot complain any longer about the inability to finance major development works.
The excuse cannot be made about not having enough resources. After all we are awash with the proceeds of VAT and there is the boast that we are spending only 4% of our revenues on the foreign debt.
In the scenario whereby there is not much local funds being spent, should we not do something about the salaries of our nurses, teachers and police. Accepted we cannot significantly raise the salaries of everyone at the same time.
But should we not do something at least for our nurses, teachers and police. If we can find US$15M to build a road in eight months, we can find a few billion dollars to pay these sectors better.
Let us bring back some respect to these professions. Let us do better for our nurses who have to tend to the sick; let us restore some pride to those who educate the nation; and let us bring back some respect to the police so that some of the ranks do not have to be begging for “tap- up” money.
If we can find the money to pay road contractors, we surely can find the money to treat our critical workers better.