Sep 21, 2008 Features / Columnists
Guyana lost its skilled personnel to other countries over the past few years, and today the effect is being felt.
Many projects that this country once undertook in the days gone by cannot be undertaken these days, with the result that, often, the Government has to pay for such things as cost overruns, experience delays in project completion, and rely almost exclusively on people from overseas.
These days, the situation is such that even simple projects are delayed, and the beneficiaries often voice their dissatisfaction in no uncertain terms, sometimes protesting, as was the case at a school in the city just a few days ago.
The school should have been ready for the new school term, but when school reopened contractors were still at work, and the teachers could not conduct classes in the manner they should.
Almost the same thing happened at some other schools, and it took the quiet intervention of the officials from the Ministry of Education to hasten the completion.
The Government is concerned about these things, and it responds and attempts to alleviate the situation whenever it becomes necessary.
There have been road projects that were so shabbily executed that the people not only complained, but they also blamed the Government.
Contractors placed extremely thin layers of road surfacing material that, within days, would cause the road to deteriorate.
There were those who called these projects elections projects. There have been cases where contractors have been penalized, but this was not done often enough, and people blame this on the sympathetic nature of the Government.
Those days of sympathy are coming to an end, because the Government recognizes that it can no longer be supportive of inadequate skills because, in the long run, the taxpayers have to bear the brunt of these poorly executed projects.
The case of the Skeldon Modernisation Project is somewhat different, although local skills have been used on the project, but mainly as low level managers of the labourer class.
This project is seriously delayed, and the Government is contemplating punitive action against the Chinese company because, with each day that the project is not completed, the cost escalates and the country suffers from its non use.
This project is supposed to help with the cost of production of sugar by lowering it to levels that would make it competitive with other sugar producers.
Guyana has already lost a significant volume of revenue, largely because of the price cuts imposed by the European Union and because of action by the declining ranks of cane cutters.
There was a time when Guyana had cane cutters to the point that it exported some of them to those Caribbean countries that cultivated sugar.
Guyana also helped fashion the region’s sugar industry by exporting its sugar boilers. Today, such skills are all but non-existent because there was no replacement pool, and the Government has plans to replenish this pool.
Just recently, the first set of engineers who underwent training in Cuba returned home ready to undertake some of the projects that must now be undertaken by foreigners who are imported at great cost.
If the country had the necessary skills, the Berbice River Bridge would have been completed on schedule, instead of experiencing the delays that are frustrating the people of Berbice and the nation as a whole. Some of the road approaches are still to be completed, when this aspect of the project should have been completed well ahead of works on the bridge.
Today, the non-completion of these approaches is being used as an excuse for the delay in the completion of the bridge. Fortunately, the project is one of fixed cost, so no matter how long the contractor takes to complete it, the cost will be no higher than when the project document was signed.
There were times when Guyana had the reputation for completing projects ahead of schedule, and those days must return if the country is to move ahead in a competitive world.
The Government is seeking to enhance the level of technical education from the lowest level of the education system.
The technical institutes must be enhanced, teachers must be found and facilities must be improved. This is going to be done at a cost, but the Government realizes that no expenditure in this area would be a waste of time, because the skills would remain here.
This is far better than paying for the importation of skills, which would be lost to the country whenever the project is completed.
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