Kaieteur News – Guyanese are being fed the same old rigmarole. They are being encouraged to support the use of public funds for infrastructure on the basis that this investment will help diversify the economy.
Guyana’s Second Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo was recently embroiled in controversy when he suggested that in order to avoid the fate of Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana should invest in agriculture so that the country’s non-oil sector can generate jobs here.
Increased investment has long been touted as the means to create jobs. Every time, it is revealed that the government has offered extremely generous concessions to investors, the government claims that this is in order to generate jobs.
The investments have been coming but where are the jobs? The Marriott Hotel was supposed to generate local jobs. But when the hotel was commencing construction, the media discovered that the majority of the workers were Chinese and that the only local onsite Guyanese was the gateman.
Investment has not had the desired impact on jobs. Nor has public spending on infrastructure.
Since 1989, the government has been injecting billions of dollars into infrastructure and yet there is little to show in terms of improvement in jobs or competitiveness.
Once again, the Second Vice President is saying that we should be investing in infrastructure so as to develop the non-oil sector and avoid dependence on the oil sector.
And true to form, he has come up with some new infrastructural projects for the drainage and irrigation sector. What is most interesting is that the government has not indicated just how it arrived at these projects. But it says that these projects have been suggested. But suggested by whom? The man in the street? In a dream someone had?
We are told that stakeholders in Region suggested the construction of several gates to connect canals to the Pomeroon River. But who are these stakeholders who suggested this? And is this how public infrastructural projects are conceptualised?
Projects are supposed to arise from technical assessments, not from ideas from stakeholders. Billions of dollars cannot be thrown at ideas unless there has been some preliminary assessment which establishes the need for specific projects.
In the Canals’ Polder there is an idea to build a third canal. Where is the technical study which recommends this? The problem with the Canal Polders is the length of the main canals and the poor discharge into the Demerara River. How is a third canal going to improve either of these two problems?
The Abary River is dead and instead of a proposal to revive this River and clear the heavy siltation, we have ideas being floated about new drainage outlets in Region Five and rehabilitating the Mahaica Creek embankment.
For Region Six, the idea is to construct a flood embankment on the west of the Canje creek, traversing from #66 creek to Canje, then to the #52 main drain at Mibicuri and finally onto Brotherson irrigation canal.
But where are the technical assessments which establish that these are options that should be examined. How did the government arrive at these ideas?
It appears as if the government is plucking ideas out of a hat. Why assemble stakeholders to discuss ideas when they were not presented with the technical assessments which suggest the need for these projects.
Instead the ideas are being thrown out and hundreds of millions are now going to be spent on feasibility studies for these questionable projects. Instead of throwing out ideas the government should undertake a comprehensive assessment of the country’s drainage system and for recommendations as to how to address the system’s faults.
These recommendations should then be subject to feasibility studies to decide whether they are viable. Instead of this approach, the government is floating ideas – from heaven knows where – and asking stakeholders to comment on them before embarking on feasibility studies. But why should stakeholders be enticed into rubber stamping a list of projects, the origins of which they know very little of?
The government is in a mad rush to spend the oil money on infrastructure. And they claim that it is necessary to save the non-oil economy and avoid the Dutch disease and to generate jobs. Have we not heard this all before?
The time has come for Guyanese to reject this reckless approach to developing public infrastructural project. Projects should not be plucked out of the hat the way the Timehri Airport Project was selected after it was said that a senior Chinese leader came through the Caribbean waving funding for projects.
At the pace at which the PPP/C is proceeding, the bulk of the country’s oil revenues are going to be ploughed into infrastructural projects. Little is going to be left for the small man.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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