President directs Baksh, GWI to address water woes in Region Six By Daniel Da Costa

Stabroek News
October 31, 2002

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President Bharrat Jagdeo has directed that Minister of Housing and Water Shaik Baksh and Managing Director of the Guyana Water Incorporated Paul Bonar visit Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne) to address a number of complaints about the functioning of the water sector in several communities.

Baksh has since journeyed to Berbice and he promised that within two years all Berbicians will have access to potable water.

During his recent trip to the region, President Jagdeo received numerous complaints from residents in several villages about their dissatisfaction with the supply of potable water.

As a result, Baksh and Bonar were in the region over the weekend and visited several of the areas identified as having problems. Among those were New Amsterdam, East and West Canje, Palmyra and Seawell, Port Mourant, Albion, Kilcoy, Chesney, sections of Black Bush and villages between Nos. 52 and 61 on the Corentyne.

During the President's visit, he also flayed a number of public sector officials, as well as engineers and contractors, for ineffective management of projects in East Berbice/Corentyne.

"A lot of people who manage projects are totally incompetent - while some are good, some just don't care. People on the ground do not receive the benefits while in some cases projects are delayed," he told Stabroek News during his visit.

Among those bearing the brunt of his criticism were officials, engineers and contractors in the water sector. "I get problems with project managers all the time. The problems in the water sector are atrocious."

Referring to the multi-million dollar Rose Hall Water Supply Project, President Jagdeo said "the contractor was not pressed hard enough," and the booster pumps for the project arrived late.

"At Port Mourant, the people were saying 'we are not getting water' and some of the officials were saying 'yes you are getting.' It's obvious they don't have their ears to the ground. Some field engineers do not step out of their offices, they do not care, they are not compassionate."

According to the Head of State people should not be paying for services they are not receiving. "People should get the service if they are asked to pay. Unfortunately, the government always gets the blame when people do not receive what they pay for."

Touching on the agriculture sector, he pointed out that "the quality of work and the management of drainage and irrigation facilities were major problems in the sector."

Jagdeo asserted that "it is a Regional Democratic Council/ Neighbourhood Democratic Council and Rice Producers Association problem but we are reviewing the situation. I am concerned over the performance of some of the people we pay to do work and we will have to do something about it."

And Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) were not spared. "Some NDCs are defunct, some are not working while some are working. We need a renewal," he declared. "We have been calling for Local Government elections to be held this year ...."

These elections will not be held as the relevant legislation is still being discussed between the government and the PNCR. This work was held up following the suspension by the PNCR of the dialogue between President Jagdeo and party leader Desmond Hoyte. "So in some (NDC) areas we are moving to install Interim Committees where the situation is really bad. This is to ensure that officials are more responsive to the needs of the communities," Jagdeo said.

Asked about the performance of the Region Six Regional Democratic Council, he noted that "they have done a lot of work but there are also some weaknesses and I intend to correct them."

Further, Jagdeo said, "officials need to work harder and be more conscientious. Some do work hard but others are lazy and corrupt. There are also problems with engineers and the quality of work they execute on roads and schools and other community projects."