Advertise on Caribbean Construction Digest
Advertise on Caribbean Construction Digest

Feature interview: Winston Dookeran

Feature interview: Winston Dookeran

image 3

All things being equal, it could easily be that one of the most popular words in 2009 has been “recession”.
Indeed, President of the United States of America (US) Barack Obama said “recession”6 times in his February 24th address to Congress. Whilst the rest of the world battles with varying degrees of reactive and preventative measures in an effort to deal with this phenomenon, the Governor of the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago has only now admitted Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) being in a recession. His admission is based on the conventional definition of recession (three consecutive declines in GDP growth). Despite his optimism that various factors may mitigate the effects of the recession, Economist, Former Central Bank Governor and Political Leader of the Congress of the People, Winston Dookeran cautions that we will find ourselves surrounded by “rough waters” during the next year.
CCD’s Nalinee Khemraj met with Mr. Dookeran and got his views on Trinidad and Tobago’s current economic position and the likely effects on the construction industry.

1.What are the some of the major challenges facing the T&T economy at this time and how will these impact on our economic position?

In order for us to hypothesize about our future position, we must reflect on our history as well as our current position. T&T is in a recession. There is no need to deny this fact. 2009 saw the contraction of the global economy for the first time since World War II and we are aware that no country would have been immune to the effects of this decline. Bearing in mind that a one percent fall in the global growth rate is equivalent to 1,000,000 barrels of oil loss in global demand for energy coupled with the unstable price of oil during the course of this year, our government continues to promote projects and programmes that are weakening rather than strengthening our economy.

I am inclined to believe that we have adopted an Americanized approach even in the way we manage our economy. One of the major factors which led to the demise of the American economy was the fact that Americans were living unsustainable lifestyles. Their lifestyle was not consistent with what they were producing. Therefore there was always a shortfall and this laid the foundation for the entire system to crash. The economy of T&T is very similar in that our production levels are quite low. We have been enjoying a level of comfort beyond what we are actually producing and this has nothing to do with production but rather proceeds from our declining energy sector.

Today, although the price of oil seems to have stabilized albeit at a lower level than previous years, we must expect a decrease in revenue from the energy sector. This decrease is based on the fact that one never knows how the geo politics of the Middle East will play out. Moreover, given the Obama administration’s Energy Policy (to make the USA more energy self sufficient) we must be prepared for some degree of volatility in the world’s energy economy. We must also guard against down trends in prices. So to answer your question, the major challenges to our economy at this time are:

a. A loss of competitiveness due to globalization and declining productivity.
b. The decline in Caribbean economies; which could continue for some time, given the architecture of these economies.
c. The imbalances between finance and production considering also the contraction of our financial sector.
d. The prospect of inflationary trends and
e. Our continued reliance on the oil and gas sector, although we are well aware of what happens when we place all our eggs in one basket. We are already experiencing the effects of these challenges. We are in a recession which I believe will be worse than we expect. Maybe you can recall the recession of the late 1980’s? If not, the media has made the effects of the global recession visible for those who wish to acknowledge reality. The Governor of the Central Bank believes that the recession may only last until the end of the second quarter of 2010, when he expects investor confidence to pick up. What do we do until then? We cannot sit and hope for the best, we must take immediate action. We cannot address these challenges by any short cut method. We need to redesign our development strategy from excessive dependence on energy to a greater reliance on domestic and regional output in order to provide any growth impetus. The first step is to simply start producing more. Even if we implement reactive measures, we must recognize that recovery will be slow in coming. The economic cycle will take it course and recovery will take a life of its own. When one considers this in the context of our burgeoning national debt, reduced revenues from energy prices, depressed investor confidence and general low productivity, we must be realistic about what our position will be.

2. What are the challenges facing the construction industry?

Generally, it has been the norm that activity within the construction industry is pegged to the well being of the national economy. In the present scenario, the construction sector has contracted and this is largely due to the following factors:

a. A lack of domestic demand for construction services and
b. The curtailment of access to financing.

3. What opportunities are available to the construction sector at this time?

With the government’s continued spending on grandiose projects, some may be fooled into believing that “good times” are just around the corner for firms within the construction industry. However, given the government’s lack of performance and the many other issues plaguing the construction industry one must be cautious that these projects could be slow in implementation… if they get off the ground at all.

When one considers our current economic position and the prevailing conditions at a global level, the government’s priorities certainly seems misguided. From an infrastructure perspective, the government is bent on creating “symbols of development” instead of focusing on the “substance of development.” Although prospects may be dim, there are opportunities which firms within the industry can avail themselves to. The best opportunities lie in looking south to Guyana, Brazil and Suriname. These are perhaps the most efficient within the region and have enormous opportunities for joint venture type arrangements where the experience and expertise of our local contractors and consultants could easily be absorbed. Our local workforce has an abundance of qualified, experienced and hard working tradesmen and professionals. Given the level of activity within the industry during the last 10 years, our  workforce would have amassed a considerable amount of knowledge and experience. Therefore they can provide knowledge and even technology transfer to other countries. There is always opportunity in chaos but we must be wise enough to recognize it and brave enough to embrace it.

As we look for opportunities locally, we should note that the mechanism for the expansion of the construction industry in Guyana and Suriname was the creation of public sector infrastructure projects. Comparatively, the government’s allocation to infrastructure in T&T continues to be minimal and therein lies one of our major problems. It never ceases to amaze that the country has enough money to host international summits and other frivolous projects but very little to spend on a reliable road and drainage program me; especially since a well developed and properly functioning infrastructure plan is one way of maintaining a level of sustainability within the sector.

4. How do small contractors survive in times like these?

Over the years there has been a sharp increase in the number of small and medium sized firms within the industry. Currently, it must be difficult for them to survive. This is exacerbated by the fact that public policy seems displaced. However, in the absence of government support, in order to survive and be successful, firms need to adapt by:

- Increasing productivity by trying to become more involved in trying to become competitive in recessionary times.
- Using technology as means of becoming more productive, being more efficient and improving construction methods.
- Seeking more opportunities from within the private sector.
- Aligning themselves with international counterparts with a view to accessing outside technology (technology transfer).

image 5
5. What measures would you implement to develop the industry?

The construction industry does not operate within a vacuum. It is part of the entire economy. Thus, whilst some solutions may emerge directly from within the industry there are others which will necessitate the redefining of our national development plan. However, from an industry specific perspective, the following are some measures which can assist in the development of the industry:

a. A higher emphasis on safety: Both firms and the authorities must commit to a more stringent enforcement of the rules and regulations on the jobsite. This will ultimately affect cost, production and profit positively.
b. The establishment of pension plans as well as increased health benefits for construction workers:
These must be designed to adequately provide for workers despite the project oriented nature of work within the industry. These measures would increase motivation and provide a level of comfort and security to workers.
c. Tax incentives for both onshore and offshore investments:
One issue which has never been addressed within the context of the construction industry is that of taxation. A properly implemented taxation regime could be used to create a stimulus within the sector. Since the government has been not been proactive in developing this regime, the onus is on stakeholders within the industry to engage the government in a tax regime which promotes its growth.
A number of incentives are offered to firms within the energy industry, especially multinational corporations. Thus it seems only fair that local small and medium enterprises (even large firms) be given similar type incentives, especially since the construction industry is often used as the catalyst to stimulate the economy. Furthermore becoming an exporter of construction services can add to our external revenue base.
d. The establishment of an Institute of Transport Economics and Infrastructure: Many years ago when I was a lecturer at the University of the West Indies, I pioneered a Transport Economics course. I also recommended the development of a major transportation plan which should anticipate the demand for transport services and infrastructure within the next 20 years. Regrettably the course was not pursued and today, transportation remains one of our biggest challenges with the government’s solutions being more reactive than anything else. Maybe if the course was applied we would have a fully developed and integrated transportation system today. Of course, we would expect some challenges with implementation. Today, I think that the establishment of an Institute of Transport Economics and Infrastructure will be able to drive transport and other infrastructure related initiatives. Partnering with the private sector would also lend to the success of this venture.
e. On the job training for new technology being used within the  industry: T&T has been slow in adapting new technology within the building process. At all levels, we need to embrace technology and use it as a tool to make us more productive and efficient.
f. More forums for knowledge creation and development: CCD in itself is a giant step in making this possible.
g. Better priorities than what has emerged instead of tall buildings:
The government must lay the foundation for “the substance of development” rather than continuing to focus on “symbols of development”. As I have said in the past “development cannot be imported, rather it resides in the capability of the people to improve their lives. If we cannot have public policies that will aid in the development of our people, then there will be no development.”

The implementation and success of these measures requires action on the part of the government. It has been my observation that the various ministries are more often reactive as opposed to proactive and enabling. The viability of the construction industry will determine its stability. Note however, that viability and stability are also dependent on onshore development and growth in the south (Guyana, Suriname and Brazil). It is a huge challenge to turn around our economy and by extension the construction industry back to a path of growth but we have the power to make it happen.

6. What are your personal plans for the future?

I continue to build my professional practice outside of T&T.
This is not because I do not wish to serve our country but because all opportunities within T&T have been denied because of my political affiliation. From a political perspective, my plans are to continue to engage deeply in a political party – to be freed from a history of past acceptance and accommodation to corruption and racial bias to one that is more responsive to good governance for all of our people. There is much to be done if we wish to reclaim and rebuild our country. I believe that we are standing at a political crossroad, armed with the knowledge that the way forward must be different from past ideas and solutions. I thus find it most satisfying to be engaged in shaping the future through political engineering which has created a democratic option for the people of T&T.

The Jamaica National Building Code

The Jamaica National Building Code
Noel C. daCosta BSc, MASc, MBA, ACII

When I was honored to serve as President of the Jamaica Institution of Engineers (JIE) in 2002, some of my colleagues suggested that it would be a good idea to do something constructive about establishing an up-to-date building code for Jamaica.

This was against the background that the extant legally enforceable code was published in 1908. An updated code was published in 1983 as a policy document but was not legally enforceable and the Caribbean Uniform Building Code (CUBiC), produced by a group of Caribbean engineers in 1985, was used by fewer than half the practitioners in Jamaica andalso was not legally enforceable. The Jamaica Bureau of Standards (BSJ) began a national review in 1991 based on the six volumes of the CUBiC, but the effort was abandoned in 2000 for lack of funding and leadership. The result was that we were using several different codes, some obviously well past their “use-by” date.

Laying the Groundwork

When I started the project I thought that writing a new code would merely mean completing the work started by the BSJ. Soon, however, the question of maintaining the code loomed large. One suggestion offered at a stakeholders meeting was that we base our code on a document that is updated on a regular basis. This led to the decision to use an existing model building code as the base and to write a corresponding “Application Document” that would integrate local parameters, values and worthwhile cultural practices. The International Building Code (IBC) was ultimately selected because of the attentiongiven to safety issues related to earthquakes and hurricanes, two natural hazards that occur frequently in Jamaica, and because it is updated every three years. Mutual building societies and mortgage banks generously contributed the startup funding (one would have thought that enlightened self-interest would have encouraged the general insurance and banking institutions that are integrally involved in the building industry to assist, but regrettably that was not the case). With assurances of less than 10 percent of the anticipated project costs identified, I took a leap of faith and engaged a code consultant to commence the work. The International Code Council helped by donating several sets of the 2003 International Codes with which to commence our work.

We began by selecting five codes which we thought would cover our requirements. Before long, however, we determined that the close interrelatedness of the family of Codes meant that we would actually need to go through eleven of the codes in detail. Although this would significantly increase the duration and cost of the project, we forged ahead believing we would finish with a better and more complete document.

Ongoing Progress

In 2005, severe flooding caused by tropical storms and hurricanes prompted widespread calls in Jamaica for an appropriate building code, and this along with other developments encouraged the BSJ to put some funding into our project. This support came at a propitious time because the work was slowing down due to our inability to purchase the necessary hazard maps and other materials to continue moving forward.

More recently, the steering committee established a subcommittee to address education and training. So far, this subcommittee has facilitated an arrangement between the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech) and ICC whereby UTech can deliver certified and noncertified Code Council courses, and a course for code trainers organized in Miami in collaboration with ICC was attended by eighteen participants from UTech, JIE and Jamaican local government authorities.

Throughout the project we have been mindful that without the legal underpinning of a National Building Act the work we are doing could suffer the same fate as the 1983 code and be unenforceable. To avert that outcome, we hired a legal consultant to draft the required documents in parallel with our engineering work. We have since learned that the Chief Parliamentary Counsel—who is responsible for drafting laws—is reluctant to use the work of others, but we are hoping that our efforts will not be in vain. At this writing, the cabinet submission to the Ministry of Local Government and Environment to start the process has regrettably not yet been approved. Considered along with the current ten-year queue to get laws passed in Jamaica, the situation requires some special intervention.

In any case, the IBC is already starting to be used in Jamaica along with an Application Document. The document provides alternate compliance paths when appropriate, local hazard data and allowances for local practices. Application Documents have also been developed for the other I-Codes selected for use, and all eleven are to be promulgated into mandatory national standards under a proposed act that would establish a Jamaica National Building Code comprising the IBC and its Application Document.


The simple, fundamental fact is that the enforcement of appropriate building codes is necessary to ensure public safety. It is therefore essential that the code have the force of law behind it.

Over the past six years I have learned that the agendas of international funding agencies are not always aligned with what is appropriate for a particular country. The built environment represents a significant percentage of a nation’s wealth. Close to home we saw how a single event, Hurricane Ivan, wiped out the building stock of Grenada and profoundly impacted the country’s GDP for many years. In addition, many tour operators are now enquiring about the safety aspects of hotels—including the building codes used for their construction— and reinsurers are becoming more insistent that potential risks to the buildings they cover are mitigated by appropriate codes and standards. Yet although my associates and I spent hundreds of hours writing funding proposals, the agencies who responded indicated that they would only fund regional projects. It is my reasoned opinion that the entire Caribbean area would have been much further along towards having a regional building code if Jamaica would have been considered as a pilot project and funded accordingly. Nonetheless, support from the private sector allowed us to start our project and now others are seeking to learn from us.

Perhaps the most important thing I have learned is that true professionals contribute to the improvement of their profession and the betterment of their society without thought of personal gain. Over 100 professionals including engineers, architects, contractors, administrators and others contributed countless hours to participate in meetings and working on Application Documents. We even had overseas Jamaican professionals participating by email.

I wish to take this opportunity to publicly salute all of those public-spirited professionals and thank them most sincerely for their tremendous contributions.
Noel C. daCosta, BSc, MASc, MBA, ACII,
is a partner in the engineering firm Jentech
Consultants Ltd. and a director of Jamaica
Engineering & Technical Services Ltd. and
Geotech Exploration Services Ltd. He is a
registered engineer in Jamaica and a chartered
engineer in the UK, and also a Fellow of
both the Jamaica Institution of Engineers, the
Institution of Chemical Engineers (UK). He is
also the Chairman of United Way of Jamaica.

CCD Signs Distribution Agreements

CCD Signs Distribution Agreements
Trinidad –
CCD recently signed circulation agreements with distributors in Canada, the United States of America and Barbados. Even though the magazine is just three issues old, Editor in Chief Steve Rajpatty believes that CCD is well on its way to becoming the forum where students, professionals and the public at large can obtain information on the industry as well as a place where the industry’s top decision-makers go to find the information and insights they need to make informed business decisions. He indicated that feedback from construction professionals, government officials, contractors; students at the local, regional and international levels were quite positive and assured that the magazine would continue to improve with the publication of each new issue. CCD is now exploring distribution opportunities within the U.K., Europe and other Caribbean countries.

Al Saulnier
29 Gervais Drive
Suite 215, North York
Ontario, M3C, 1Y9
Tel: 1 (647) 678 3211
Email: [email protected]

Shara Sooknarine
Price Chopper Inc.
6958 Venture Circle
Orlando, FL 32807 U.S.A.
Tel: 407-679-1600
Email: [email protected]

Lianne Hinds
Olanne Construction
Consultants & Services
Address: Checker Hall,
St. Lucy, Barbados,
West Indies BB27180
Tel: 1 (246) 234 5542
Email: [email protected]

CCD welcomes submissions from our readers

Submission Guidelines

All submitted material is subject to the approval of the Editorial Board. Please ensure that all the necessary permissions and/ or copyrights are secured before submission to CCD. The following are suggested word limits:

• News: 200-400 words
• Opinion: 700-1200 words
• Feature: 700-1200 words
• Technical Paper: 4000+ words

 Photos related to Articles:

Digital photographs are preferred.
Please ensure that photos are at least 1 megapixel (1024×768) in size. 5 megapixels or higher resolution is best. Photos should be sharp, well-lit and the subject should make up the majority of the composition.
Please do not send scans of bad originals.

 Please forward all submissions to:

 Nalinee Khemraj
 Assistant Editor
Email: [email protected]

CCD Benevolent Fund & Honor Roll

CCD Benevolent Fund & Honor Roll

Benevolent Fund
CCD would like to establish a Benevolent Fund to provide financial assistance to construction workers and their families who have been affected by illness, injury or death. CCD would like to set up a “Working Committee” to make this goal a reality. If you are interested in being part of this Committee, please contact us via email at [email protected].

Honor Roll
CCD would also like to announce the introduction of the “CCD Honor Roll”. The “CCD Honor Roll” will pay tribute to the men and women who have made an invaluable contribution to the development of the built environment. CCD welcomes nominations for candidates who meet the following criterion:

•At least 25 years service within the industry and
•Are willing to share their experiences with our readership and individuals who meet the above criterion can nominate themselves.

For further information, please contact us via email at [email protected].

A bit of BITS

Here are a few shots from the 2009 combines Buildings and Interiors Trade Show and SIREN (HSSE) Show held at the Centre of Excellence, Macoya, Trinidad hosted by Premier Events Caribbean. Of course, our team was present at the CCD booth to facilitate live enquiries and introduce the magazine to new readers. Highlights included the Shell Formula 1 car at the FT/Farfan booth and various safety, equipment and technology demonstrations and product displays.

Guyana’s way forward

Guyana has had a history of economic challenges, inclusive of economic decline due to the increasingly high costs of imported oil and petroleum products, a decline in exports, shortage of basic commodities and dwindling foreign exchange reserves. However, Guyana’s economy improved dramatically under the Economic Recovery Program (ERP), which was launched by the government in April 1989. The ERP was designed with the assistance of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank officials and was supported by Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. This period marked a radical reversal in government policy away from a predominantly state-controlled, socialist economy towards a more open, free market system. Today, whilst many of her Caribbean neighbors are struggling to deal with the after effects of the global financial crisis, Guyana’s economic prospects seem brighter than they have been for more than three decades. The trickle down effect has worked well for the construction industry.

Guyana Highway

Four Lane Road, Guyana

Within recent years, the construction industry in Guyana has been quite active and has seen the involvement of stakeholders at the level of the individual, firm (private sector) and state. There are many who believe that the present boom within the construction sector can be largely attributed to the Guyanese government’s prudent management of the economy in creating an enabling environment for continued investment and in encouraging persons to venture into several sectors within the areas of services.

Increasing demand in housing sector
Guyana, meaning “Land of Many Waters” is named by the country’s first people, the Amerindians. With 18,120 square kilometers (7,000 square miles) of the country’s area being water, Guyana is truly a land of many waters with wide rivers, canals and streams meandering across the country providing water for irrigation and domestic use. With a population of approximately 770, 794, mostly settled on the Coastal Plain, the majority of the country’s construction projects, were centered within this area. However, the past few years have seen new entrepreneurs and individuals taking bold steps in projects in the outer areas and settling in areas once used for farming and those that were never occupied in the past.

Brandsville Apartments

Brandsville Apartments

Development of the housing sector has been regarded by Government as a key tenet for poverty reduction and expansion of growth. Thus unflinching efforts have been made to ensure that every Guyanese can access affordable housing.

Families, who in the past relied on the older generation to bestow plots of land to them or to leave properties to be passed on after death are now able to nurture dreams of having their own homes, given the fact that, the Government of Guyana has been continuously negotiating with several commercial banks to lower their interest rates for mortgages. Today, decreased mortgage rates have enabled the average man to construct comfortable homes at relatively low interest rates.

The proliferation in the housing sector has seen increasing demand for low-income mortgages as homeowners try to ensure their families have a sense of peace of mind and well being that comes with owning a home. The Government of Guyana has assisted persons with providing house lots at affordable cost. However, the increasing demand for plots of land necessitated the opening of new housing schemes across the country; leading the Government to set about converting cane fields into new housing schemes. This Herculean undertaking required much funding which was solicited from donor countries as project based work.

Today, what once was green fields are awash with colour and shapes as fully settled housing areas. A plethora of colours and designs ranging from very simple to magnificent edifices greet the eye when passing along the roadways. To date, approximately 80,000 houselots have been allocated across the country with 35 new housing schemes established with the basic amenities. These new schemes include Tuschen, Belle West, Zeelugt, Parfaite/Harmonie, Diamond/ Grove and Enmore/Haslington among others. Several local businessmen have invested in this lucrative industry by constructing housing schemes and providing affordable houses to individuals interested in purchasing their own homes.

Berbice Bridge

Berbice Bridge

Bringing people closer
The roadways along the Coastal kilometers of bitumen surface were done with the construction of bridges across canals along the way. Roads were constructed across the country with major works being done to the East Bank roadway which leads from the City to the Airport, the East Coast Highway, and from Rosignol to Moleson Creek where the roads were resurfaced and bridges constructed along the way.

The Mahaica and Mahaicony Bridges, included in the road improvement project, were constructed parallel to the old bridges which deteriorated over time and needed replacements. The new bridges provide a viable alternative route which links the Capital City to the ancient county of Berbice running all the way to Moleson Creek, where the ferry to Suriname docks.

Roads along the West Bank and West Coast of Demerara spanning from the Demerara Harbour Bridge to Parika were resurfaced to ensure a smooth flow of traffic. Roads in the Cinderella County of Essequibo roads were resurfaced and bridges constructed along the Coast.

The 1.5 km Berbice River Bridge, a dream for many finally became a reality in December 2008 when it was commissioned amid much pomp and ceremony. Following years of vision and persistence by the Government, the private sector and other stakeholders, the Berbice River Bridge became a reality. It is the sixth longest floating bridge in the world and stretches from D’Edward village on the Western Bank of the Berbice River to Crab Island on the eastern side. The Bridge was constructed by Botch Retrox and Mabe Johnson under a contract with the Berbice Bridge Company Incorporated.

Buddy's Hotel

Buddy's Hotel

A home away from home
With the hosting of World Cup Cricket 2007, several hotels and apartment buildings were constructed to accommodate the expected influx of visitors. Millions of dollars were spent by private individuals who sought to take advantage of the opportunities in ensuring that enough space was available for visitors. Hotels were constructed in and around the capital city providing rooms and apartments at afford- able cost to overseas visitors and their families. These included Buddy’s Hotel, Kanuku Suites, Brandsville Apartments, and Ocean Spray Hotel.


National Ophthalmology Hospital, Port Mourant

Improving social service
Within recent times, the Government has continued to invest in the health and education of its people, by constructing a number of schools and hospitals. These structures have served to enhance the delivery of specialized services in areas such as Mabauma, Port Kaituma, Kamarang, Kurupukari, Annai, Bartica and Mahdia. Recently constructed hospitals include the Mabaruma, Lethem and Linden hospitals. These provide service for thou- sands of persons including visitors from neighbouring Brazil. Additionally four diagnostic and treatment centres were built at Diamond, Leonora, Mahaicony and Suddie. The National Ophthalmology Hospital at Port Mourant, Berbice, which was constructed to offer free eye surgeries to Guyanese, commenced operations in July this year.

Republic Bank

Republic Bank

Commercial banks
The commercial banking sector has also invested in the construction of new offices and branches. Republic Bank recently constructed another branch at Robb and Camp Streets. The massive structure has added to the enhancement of the city and has been a visible sign of the company’s commitment to continued business in Guyana and an indication of its belief in the country’s economy.

Other banks have also commenced construction of new branches which would be completed in the near future adding to the magnificence of the capital city while other areas have also seen similar projects with branches in outlying areas to facilitate the banking sector.

Hydroelectric Power Station
An agreement is currently being finalized for a Brazilian company to rehabilitate the Moco Moco hydroelectricity plant which has been out of commission for over six years as a result of heavy rainfall and landslides. The hydroelectricity plant is located at Moco Moco, Region Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo).

It is expected that the plant would be operational within a year and the Brazilian company will be repairing the power station and pipelines that were damaged in the landslide. With the problems experienced at the hydroelectricity plant, Government has moved to ensure that residents receive electricity in the communities, and $30M was allocated for the rehabilitation of the electrical network in the Lethem community while $40M was budgeted for a new 1-megawatt generator. With the commissioning of the Takutu Bridge, which forms an overland link between Guyana and Brazil last month, a new generating set was installed to provide the community with 24 hour service from October 1. At the commissioning of the bridge on September 14, Brazil- ian President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva affirmed his country’s commitment to the construction of the much talked about 800 megawatt hydropower plant in Guyana. The project which will be financed by the Brazilian Government will also benefit the Brazilian state of Roraima, since Brazil will import power generated by the Guyana dam which is not needed in the country.

Whilst there is a lot of activity within the industry, there are many challenges which the various stakeholders must grapple with. Arguably, the major challenge within the industry over the years has stemmed from the fact that Guyana is not a manufacturer of raw materials needed for the construction industry and as such the country has been at the mercy of regional suppliers. In some cases because of delays in shipments and a scarcity of commodity on the local market, projects were brought to a standstill and have been delayed. This in turn created problems with schedule and payback.

However, this situation has improved in recent years and with the operationalisation of a cement bagging facility in Guyana. The opening of facility has eliminated the irregular supply of cement, high internal transportation costs and vagaries of shipping. The bagging facility was constructed at a cost of approximately US$10M by the company which has been supplying Guyana with cement for over 20 years.

Local manufacturers including Gafoors, have also been able to establish factories to produce steel rods, zinc, nails and other small items which have been helping to assist in this area. Guyana is fortunate to have sand, stone and wood in abundance which has helped the construction industry considerably since there has been no need to import these items.

Diamond Secondary School

Diamond Secondary School

The future
Even with all the challenges inherent within the construction industry, especially within the present global economic climate, Guyana’s economic prospects seem encouraging. What will be interesting to see, is how exactly, the government and the population at large deals with this new- found largesse especially after a three decade long drought. From the viewpoint of the construction industry, in an era of sustainabil- ity, prefabricated houses, five star hotels and tall buildings, we can only hope that all construction related works will lead to a better quality of life for the people of Guyana.

Compiled by the Gov’t Information Agency,
Guyana and CCD’s Nalinee Khemraj