Gov’t admits plan to upkeep Linden-Lethem road failed

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Two government Ministers Thursday evening apologised for the sufferings caused to Guyanese because of the state of the Linden-Lethem road, but it failed to agree to measures proposed by the Opposition to bring relief.

“I do stand here and apologise that we dropped the ball,” David Patterson, Minister of Public Infrastructure said during a debate on a motion put forward by Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira.

He said that the government obviously thought that it had established a good model to keep the road up and running, but that was not the case.

Patterson explained that the interior road works were handed over to the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) this year and that caused the delay in maintenance.

Teixeira’s motion sought to get the government to do several things.

These included: having the Government use aircraft to transport food supplies and other items at reduced costs for interior residents; allowing Lethem (Region Nine) residents to purchase fuel from neighbouring Brazil until the roads are repaired; meeting with logging and mining companies to discuss measures which can be put in place to save jobs and revenue; and repairing roads urgently and put in place mechanism for constant maintenance.

 

Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira holding a photo of the deplorable road during her presentation

Teixeira contended that interior roads have worsened over the past six months, something which she said was a result of lack of maintenance since 2017.

 

“People are suffering, businesses are suffering and the economy is suffering,” she said, pointing to major industries such as logging and gold and diamond mining which use to road to transport fuels, goods and other necessary materials.

The Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) in a statement on July 12 claimed that some logging companies are shutting down, while others are downsizing, causing a setback for not only the forestry industry but also for mining, tourism and trade, due to the condition of the roads.

The Association said that across the regions of Essequibo, Demerara, and Berbice, the hinterland road conditions have significantly worsened due to an extended rainy season and the failure to maintain the interior roads prior to the rainy season.

Waving news articles with photos of the deplorable roads, Teixeira pointed out that it currently takes two days from Kurupukari to Lethem.

“I believe that government – Cabinet – are either not properly apprised or properly informed or that they believe some issues and statistics are of no importance.

“…the deterioration of the roads did not start this year…maintenance was already a problem last year,” she told the National Assembly.

Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Annette Ferguson denied those claims but apologised to the commuters who use the roads. She told the house that $168, 000, 986 was spent on interior roads in 2016, $106, 000, 550 in 2017 and over $5M during the first six months of 2018.

The Minister listed the Rockstone to Mabura stretch of road, Kurupukari to Annai, Annai to Lethem, Lethem to Ituni, Ituni to Kwakwani and Linden to Lethem carriageways as areas which were fixed.

Minister Patterson said the problems being experienced surrounds the types of material used to fix the roads, such as laterite, which is very susceptible to waterlog.

However, he said the government went ahead and started stockpiling laterite along the roadways.

“The idea is that during the rainy seasons or when you have to make emergency, the materials will be easily accessible,” he said.

He said that businesses are not hindered from importing fuel from neighbouring Brazil as long as their taxes are paid but this venture will prove to be even more expensive.

Patterson also denied that everything is at a standstill, as is being implied, saying that light vehicles still utilize the roads and the Ministry will do everything to keep the Linden-Lethem road operable even as works are ongoing to fix the problems.

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