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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