Guyana eyes China’s Belt and Road Initiative to fund Linden-Lethem road

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Guyana is eyeing China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to fund the construction of a paved highway from the town of Linden and across the jungle to the town of Lethem, where there is an easy border crossing to Brazil.

“Yes, this was one of the matters that were raised – the question of the road between Lethem and Linden and going through,” Joseph Harmon, Minister of State said Monday morning in Georgetown.

“That is really one of the major public infrastructure project; this has actually been on our agenda from the time we came into office,” Harmon stated at a post-Cabinet news briefing.

His comments come on the heels of the visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and the recent signing of an MoU between Guyana and China on the initiative.

He was cautious in saying that not every project put up for funding will receive funding, but it will have to be “interrogated properly” to make sure it meets the requirements.

On Saturday, President David Granger hailed the Belt and Road Initiative which Guyana signed onto on July 29.

“We feel it could contribute not only to Guyana’s development or its own hinterland but also to penetration of the continent for commercial and other purposes by other countries.

“This means that the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative will be an asset for international development, not just for the local economy,” the President said in welcoming the Chinese Foreign Minister to Guyana.

The Belt and Road Initiative is now five years old. It aims to connect the world through trade and infrastructure and now has the participation of close to 80 countries, resulting in massive Chinese spending wherever it goes.

“It could fill large and long-standing infrastructure gaps in partner countries, boosting their growth prospects, strengthening supply chains and trade and increasing employment,” the International Monetary Fund has said of the Initiative. However, there are fears that it would give China too much influence over other countries, especially smaller, poorer nations.

Harmon stated that at a public infrastructure forum held in China in 2017, countries around the world presented their public infrastructure programmes to China and the Linden-Lethem road was presented by Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson.

On Saturday last, Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge said that while the MoU on the Belt and Road Initiative outlines broad areas of collaboration, such as policy coordination, enhancing connectivity, promoting trade and increased people-to-people exchanges among others, the two countries must now identify specific proposals and develop a mechanism by which projects and programmes in these areas, may be proposed and evaluated at the technical level.

“…we are committed to utilizing this new framework of the Belt and Road Initiative , as well as existing bilateral mechanisms, to channel support to critical sectors, namely infrastructure, agriculture, renewable energy, health and ICT inter alia, in order to bring direct benefits to our citizens,” Greenidge stated at an event he shared with the Chinese Foreign Minister.

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