By Kurt Campbell
After months of negotiations at the highest technical, legal and political levels, the Government of Guyana on Wednesday signed a contract to construct a new crossing over the Demerara River to the tune of US$260 million with a Chinese joint venture – China Railway Construction Corporation Limited.
This represents the largest infrastructural transport project ever undertaken in Guyana to be funded by the government and saw Permanent Secretary of the Public Works Ministry, Vladim Persaud, signing the contract on behalf of the government under the watchful eyes of several government ministers and the Chinese Ambassador to Guyana, Guo Haiyan.
The simple but significant ceremony was held at Nandy Park, East Bank Demerara in a cleared area where the bridge will land from La Grange on the West Bank of Demerara; it will facilitate greater traffic capacity and dramatically improve commuter convenience.
Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh said although the event was “devoid of pomp and ceremony,” it was historic in the transformation of a modern Guyana.
“While simple, make no mistake that you are witnessing history today. The making of modern Guyana is well underway and today’s generation of Guyanese are incredibly privileged not only to witness it but to be part of it,” Dr. Singh said.
“And not history in the sense of a one-off isolated project, but history in the sense of a major transformative project that is part of a much larger, comprehensive plan for transforming Guyana,” the Finance Minister added.
The construction of the bridge is also being hailed as a promise to the Guyanese people by the ruling People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) in its elections manifesto.
Replacing the almost five decades old current floating structure, the new 2.65 km four-lane, high span bridge will have a hybrid design that will allow for the passage of large vessels, putting an end to the lengthy retraction periods currently endured daily by commuters.
With a lifespan of 100 years, the new bridge is expected to be completed and commissioned within the next two years.
It leads other transformational infrastructural works ongoing across the country as the Irfaan Ali government renewed its commitment on Wednesday to deliver to the Guyanese people massive physical development in the coming years.
The signing comes a mere week after the US$190 million contract was signed for the construction of the Linden to Mabura road – the first phase of the Linden to Lethem Road.
Dr. Singh pointed out that Wednesday’s signing also comes mere weeks after the government signed the contract for the construction of 32 concrete bridges along the road from Kurupukari to Lethem which will lay the foundation for the completion of that road.
This is in addition to the recent signing of the contract for the Corentyne River Bridge and the visit to Guyana by the President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro and several other Heads of Government from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
“We meet also to sign this contract at a time when advertisements are going out and the procurement processes are being launched for the Gas to Shore Project… which will lay the foundation for the construction of Guyana’s first major industrial complex to be known as the Wales Development Authority.
“Today’s signing also comes at a time when we are about launch the procurement process for the construction of a new road from the alignment of this bridge on the West Demerara side to Crane and when we are at an advanced stage of designing a highway from Schoonord, West Bank Demerara to Parika, East Bank Essequibo.
“It comes after the Mandela to Eccles bypass road [was commissioned] …ultimately, we will have the continuation to Diamond and a new highway from Ogle to Diamond.
“The list goes on,” Dr. Singh said.
Meanwhile, Public Works Minister Juan Edghill agreed that the construction of the bridge was the largest infrastructural project to ever be financed by the government in Guyana and noted that the President has attached great significance to the signing of this project.
The Joint Venture Company includes China Railway Construction Corporation (International) Ltd., China Railway Construction (Caribbean) Co. Ltd, and China Railway Construction Bridge Engineering Bureau Group Co. Ltd (China & Trinidad and Tobago).