For the second time in four days President Donald Ramotar accused the media, or at least sections of the media, of conducting a crusade against every development programme that the government undertakes.
He said that sections of the media paint every development effort in a negative light. From his perspective he may be seeing what in recent times have been attacks on some high priced projects. There was the new Skeldon Sugar Plant that is still to perform at the level it was supposed to. This project was Guyana’s largest.
Surely, the Head of State cannot be angry that people feel that they have been shortchanged after spending so much money and not getting the value they think they deserve. Every other criticism of a high priced project came after the failure of the Skeldon plant.
Many will still remember the enthusiasm with which they welcomed the news that Guyana would be home to a sugar factory that would not only lower the cost of sugar production but would also boost local production to counter the price cuts by the European Union. This is not to be.
The next attacks have been against the Amaila Falls hydro project and the government has only itself to blame. When the government awarded the contract for the hydro road, sections of the media having done extensive research on the contractor, warned that the contractor was incapable of undertaking the project; that the government was preparing to waste money.
Officials of the government came to the fore to criticize the critics. Head of the Government Privatisation Unit Winston Brassington proclaimed that the contractor was duly studied by the insurance company that put up the Performance Bond and that the man would complete the project.
The nation has seen what amounted to a waste of money despite the admonitions of the press. The road is still to be completed; the government is at odds with the insurance company and it is going to cost the government much more to complete the road because of the predicted failure of the contractor.
The Skeldon factory project and the Amaila road project are what really pushed the media to examine the other high priced contracts. What made the questions flow faster and even more furious was when the information was gleaned from foreign sources. Take the case of the Marriott Hotel project. The information was first released in an overseas newspaper.
Two developers at different times began to pay attention to the project. Most surprising of all was the reaction of the government when Zublin Grenada announced that it was considering a deal with the government for the construction of the Marriott. The government was angry and Zublin later said that it regretted talking to the local media.
Mr. Brassington sought to justify the silence on the part of the government as a case of confidentiality. The media could not buy such an explanation. The government had refused to take the people into its confidence although it was spending the people’s money. This is what sparked the investigation.
This was the same situation with the expansion and reconstruction of the facilities at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport. The signing of the contract was first reported in Jamaica.
For President Donald Ramotar to contend that the media was keen on negating every contract signed by the government is to suggest that the media is opposed to development and hostile to the government. The truth is that the media is keen to represent the interest of the people and where they coincide with national development then the media would be supportive.
We recognize the need for hydroelectricity; we recognize the importance of an upgraded airport and while hotels are not being filled to capacity we could understand the desire to construct a state of the art facility.
On Monday, President Ramotar spoke about his government examining the possibility of a deep water harbor and an upgraded road surface linking Linden and Lethem. We welcome that announcement. This is what we had been asking for all along.
President Ramotar would be surprised at the support he would get for these projects.
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