Beyond oil, upgrading infrastructure must be priority – CDB advises Guyana

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By Vishani Ragobeer

Vishani@newsroom.gy

The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) projects that Guyana will record the highest economic growth this year, some 47.5 per cent, largely because of oil and gas development. Even so, top officials of the Bank are advising that the country prioritises infrastructural development.

“Irrespective of how much Guyana has now, the oil and gas will deplete at some point,” Dr Hyginus ‘Gene’ Leon, the CDB’s President, told the News Room during a recent engagement.

As such, Guyana should be prioritising efforts geared at sustaining development in the country. And infrastructural development, Dr. Leon believes, is a crucial component in facilitating this.

One example of such is the development of the Linden to Mabura roadlink, which the CDB and the United Kingdom (UK) government are partnering with Guyana to develop.

This road link is part of a wider effort at developing the 450-kilometre Linden to Lethem road to connect Guyana’s coast and hinterland areas. And that Linden to Lethem road, further, is part of the goal to connect Guyana to Brazil, creating a hemispheric corridor that links South America to the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean.

A section of the Linden to Mabura road (Photo: DPI/ 2017)

The creation of this corridor is expected to facilitate a massive increase in trade with Guyana at the centre of those business activities.

Commenting on the road link, Dr. Leon said, “It has, in my view, tremendous potential but as you very well know it is not a cheap project.

“It is fraught with uncertainty and it has to be managed well with an appropriate infrastructure in place and it has to be managed well with oil.”

This road is but one infrastructural project, though. And the CDB’s Director of Economics Ian Durant also emphasised that there must be a focus on improving infrastructure.

President of the CDB Dr. Hyginus ‘Gene’ Leon (left) and CDB’s Director of Economics Ian Durant

Durant explained that the profitable oil and gas industry has the potential to make other export sectors uncompetitive. To prevent this from happening, the Economics Director said that investments are needed to make the other sectors competitive.

“Basically focusing on the policy imperatives has to be built around focusing on improving the competitiveness of the economy to ensure that the other export sectors can continue to compete on price,” Durant told the News Room.

One of the priority areas to build competitiveness would be to upgrade logistics quality across the Caribbean, Durant said during the Bank’s annual news conference. That means upgrading infrastructure like ports and roads to allow a cheaper exchange of goods, services and ideas.

Investments in sustainable energy, replete with the infrastructure development to facilitate this, is crucial too, Durant said.

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