Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Annette Ferguson, during the 2017 budget debate today, said the opposition left government with ‘baskets to fetch water’.
The Minister alluded to the colourful language used by the Members of the Opposition during the debate to describe the Budget, such as ‘sufferation’, ‘murderation’ and ‘helplessness’, but noted that they are the ones who have put Guyanese through such situations.
Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Annette Ferguson, during the 2017 budget debate today
The Minister pointed out that with the 20 -plus years the PPP/C was in power, they have never sought to create a strategic direction for the Ministry of Public Works or Infrastructure to ensure a result – oriented operation of the ministry, and this holds true for most of the agencies under the PPPC’s watch.
“When I assumed office at the Ministry of Public Infrastructure there was no long-term development strategy, no vision, no mission or core values to govern the conduct of employees and the affairs of the ministry.”
Minister Ferguson pointed out that since this administration took office, infrastructural developments across Guyana have improved significantly. Noting some of these improvements, the Minister listed the Public Procurement Commission which was required after the Constitutional amendment established by the PPP/C in 2001, the reduction in VAT, and improved roads, airstrips and bridges across Guyana, especially in the hinterland.
Further, the Minister pointed out that in 2017, greater works will be carried out by the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, to further improve and enhance the Transport and Harbours Department (T&HD), Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB), Hinterland Electrification Company Incorporated, and the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA).
Transport and Harbours
From the $34.6B allocated to the Ministry of Public Infrastructure in the 2017 National budget, $240M will be used for the re-conditioning of ferry vessels – the M.V. Malali, M.B. Sandaka and M.V. Lady Northcote. This, Minister Ferguson said, will improve the facilities and services offered to Guyanese. Additionally, in 2017 an Inspectorate Division will be established to deal with inspection of traffic management, quality, safety and compliance, while additional staff will be employed in the Audit Department.
Finally, an Advisory Council, as per Section 5 of the Transport & Harbours Act (Chapter 49:04) will be established to function as an oversight body providing supervisory oversight and governance of T&HD and ensuring that management implements policies to run the day to day affairs of the agency in an efficient and proper manner to better serve the public, Minister Ferguson explained.
Meanwhile, the acquisition process for the new ferry vessel to improve transportation from Georgetown to the North West District is moving apace.
Demerara Harbour Bridge
In 2017, $2M has been allocated for the provision of control and hydraulic cabins for the DHB.
According to Minister Ferguson, Government cannot continue to make provisions for a bridge that has outlived its lifespan, hence, the construction of a new bridge is imminent. Therefore, expressions of interest were received from 23 companies for the feasibility study and design of a new bridge and in the first six months in 2017, the final study on a new bridge will be done by Dutch Company, Lievense CSO, an engineering firm from the Netherlands.
The Minister noted that the government anticipates an increase in vehicle importation and the usage of the bridge will heighten, since it is a vital transport link between East and West Demerara, facilitating the movement of vehicles for commercial, social and educational purposes.
Minister Ferguson informed the House that Cabinet has given its “no-objection” for the establishment of a National Airport Authority. This body will be responsible for managing and overseeing operations at both international and domestic aerodromes.
“I had the privilege of visiting a few of the airstrips in Guyana and the conditions and facilities of those airstrips are below expectations.”
In 2017, efforts will be increased to implement projects including the construction of micro-grids in 25 hinterland communities, upgrade of distribution network and switch gear at Mabaruma, installation of LED street lights in Lethem and extension of power network in St. Ignatius, Minister Ferguson pointed out.
The sum of $264M has been allocated for the realisation of these activities.
Guyana Civil Aviation Authority
The Minister disputed that when this administration took office, Guyana’s compliance with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) was at the lowest level with the standards and recommended practices of International Civil Aviation Organisation at 44.24 percent level.
However, after much investment in staffing capacity, institutional strengthening, provision of technical training both locally and overseas and the development of modern regulations and enhancement in the management of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), compliance now stands at 64.66 percent.
Additionally, the administration has since managed to facilitate training for eight trainee Air Traffic Control Officers, who are currently in Jamaica.
“Moreover, for 2017, $24M has been allocated for further institutional strengthening and capacity building of the GCAA, to ensure ICAO compliance and Federal Aviation Administration FAA Category 1 Rating,” Minister Ferguson explained.
The Ministry of Public Infrastructure will also be working on a Civil Aviation Master Plan that will comprehensively map the path for the aviation sector for the next 10 years.
Minister Ferguson concluded that “our Government is resolute on providing a better quality of life and a good life for all Guyanese, and will not be distracted by the shouts of empty promises from the PPP-C who were the author of Guyanese suppression.
Meanwhile, Opposition MP, Alister Charlie, argued that there is no evidence of the improved infrastructure across Guyana that the government claims. MP Charlie said that the government has not improved airstrips and they are the ones who damaged them. The Opposition MP added that the government cannot even build the good life they are promising Guyanese.
Charlie alluded to the Tabatinga Bridge in Region Nine, noting that the $60M spent to rehabilitate the structure was in vain. He contended that not too long after the bridge was rehabilitated, it fell apart.