Stabroek News Sunday
First pot of NRF money should be dedicated towards a massive infrastructure plan
I would like to suggest that the first pot of NRF money be dedicated towards a massive infrastructure plan, similar to what President Biden did when he got in. Let’s fix all the roads and bridges! You can call it the “Highways to Happiness” Plan if you want. This can be the “tipping point” for Guyana. (“Tipping point” refers to the one thing you can do in a situation, process, or system, that can make such a big, significant, transformational, far reaching difference that can bring about more unstoppable effects or important changes).
In my recent trip to Guyana, I was so abhorred by the atrocious condition of the roads. I had seen pictures of new roads being built and thought there was widespread progress, but realized those were just “a drop in the bucket” given the massive road building needed all over the country. Coming from the airport, there were so many potholes right through up to the bridge area; as was the road from Parika to the Bendorf area in East Bank Essequibo. I was so ashamed that’s how we welcome visitors to
Guyana who would think we have so much oil wealth but we are a backward place still. Drivers have to bob and weave, dodging holes so as not to fall in one and damage your rims, axles or damage the bottom of your vehicle. You can hit other vehicles driving in that zig zag manner. But if you want to get where you are going, the situation requires such dangerous driving. I wondered how can ministers who have travelled to and from the airport see those holes, and why would he or she not call the roads minister and ask him to send a truck with asphalt right away to patch up the holes. People need to start suing when their vehicles are damaged due to unmaintained roads that pose an ever-present danger to all road users. One engineer told me about 80% of our roads are really terrible. From East Coast to Rosignol, there are many potholes. The same problem from New Amsterdam to Crabwood Creek – that road is deteriorating quickly. The only good highway was from Vreed-en-hoop to Parika. We want to be like Dubai, don’t we?
In the villages, almost all the roads need patching and/or paving and repaving. In my village of Whim, all our 32 roads and cross streets need paving. The Whim/Lancaster Road needs to be an all-weather farm-tomarket road, as well as the Whim/Auchlyne Ketting Dam. (The PPP always takes Whim for granted and has done very little over the years to pave these roads. They approve shoddy work and the roads don’t last any time). The same for the road from Parika going in to the St. Lawrence area. That’s a productive area and enormous wealth comes out of there in the form of lumber and farm produce. That road needs fixing urgently for those hard-working folks. This is the same story in every village. Mud roads and bad roads predominate. In the villages, almost all the roads are narrow and only one vehicle can travel at a time. If you were coming in from one side, and somebody was driving in from the opposite side, somebody better wait or you would have a long reverse to do. What is needed to make the streets a little wider is to concrete the
drains at the side, and let the edge of the roads extend to the concrete sides. Nation, how long will we have to walk and drive in mud, while the oil companies carry away the bulk of our oil money, leaving us some fine change that cannot do much for us? We have US$600 million in the NRF. How many US billions did the oil companies make? We have been walking and driving in muddy roads all the days of our lives under the PNC and PPP. Our punishment never ends. Driving on bad roads steal your time and your joy when you have to slow down all the time to dodge potholes and craters, making you late for work and appointments.
Nation, let’s fight for this “Highways to Happiness” Plan as a “tipping point” strategy! Guyana’s wealth belongs to Guyanese first and foremost. It is our country and our wealth! You may say but Health, Education, Salaries, Pensions, Housing, Agriculture, Crime control, Flood and Sea Defence control, Water Treatment plants, Solid Waste disposal, etc. are important too. And they are. But understand, our leaders of both parties are allowing the oil companies to rape our nation, and we have to go “one day at a time” to get all these things done. Until the PPP and PNC ketch some sense, or until Guyanese nationalists who care, form a new Oil Renegotiation Party to secure renegotiation of the oil contracts, we will not get more money to do all the things we need to do to take us to the promised land. Right now, we in Babylon, not Zion! The working poor are still in purgatory, and we will still be a “rich country of poor people” unless people wake up and take action to improve their lives.
Dr. Jerry Jailall