Rupununi Chamber calls for improved infrastructure
By Nigel Williams
Stabroek News
November 27, 2002

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Chairman of the Rupununi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI), Mohamed Khan says the region needs improved infrastructure if it is to develop as a viable farming area and a hub for cross-border trade.

Khan was speaking at the third annual Rupununi Day Celebration held last weekend in Lethem.

He observed from the celebration that farmers had the capability to produce, but the RCCI would now have to find reliable markets in Lethem so that they could confidently sell their produce.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the celebration which commenced last Saturday evening under the theme, “Rupununi - The Bridge to Guyana’s Future” Khan praised Prime Minister Samuel Hinds for making his second trip by road to Lethem, saying that it was a fine example for ministers to follow. He said the community was extremely happy with the contract to upgrade the Linden/Lethem road, but that the toll of $25,000 per truck and $7,000 for smaller vehicles would not help the region’s economy. And he noted that within the region roads also had to be improved.

Amerindian Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues inspecting some of the craftwork on display at the Rupununi Day celebrations. (GINA photo)

According to Khan, “here on the bank of the Takatu, the RCCI is specifically interested in improved economic relations with our neighbour to the south (Brazil) and in a properly maintained border, that protects the interest of legitimate business as well as national security.”

Khan said to accomplish this the government needs the support of the business community as it seeks to establish the credibility and viability of its position. He said, “the need for the Takatu bridge facilities, customs, immigration, health and postage are of utmost importance if the region is to move on.” Khan noted that residents of Lethem have benefited from reliable electricity via the Moco Moco Hydro Station and he complimented the local management.

Khan said the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) should be commended for providing improved telephone service, but observed that there was still need for further expansion especially to areas where there are established businesses. He said this year the area experienced a short rainy season and as a result the water table was not as high as previous years. “We are already experiencing low water pressure, having one well to supply the whole of Lethem, Tabatinga and Culvert City areas. These are some of the issues that affect development of this region.”

Khan also noted that the Lethem Industrial Estate is presently at a standstill.

“While businessmen have invested large sums of money in purchasing equipment and machinery, these still lay idle in their hands. Some of them were even forced to set-up temporary workshops in their own yard.”

In brief remarks, Prime Minister Hinds who declared open the two-day event said he was pleased to be back in the region where he and his wife Yvonne had spent their honeymoon many years ago. According to him in those days residents were still thinking about a road from Linden to Lethem, “but now we are much better but still not good enough.”

The PM said despite the improvement of the road, the government still has a task to make it more reliable. Commenting on the toll issue, Hinds said the government would have been pleased if it could have had the road constructed without any tolls. He said from all reports MMC would exhaust more than $100 million to complete the entire road to Lethem. (See other story on page 14.)

Hinds said, “we don’t have much money in Guyana and we have to find ways to work with what we have between ourselves. So even though one would take some 12-15 hours from Linden to Lethem it is better than before.”

Hinds said the government is hoping that by the construction of the road that Guyana would develop and become a port area for the northern part of Brazil.

Hinds said Minister of Public Works Anthony Xavier earlier in the month attended a conference in Manaus that looked into developing communications between the countries of South America.” It was another in a series of meetings on what is called the Brazil-Guyana-Venezuela-Suriname hub which is aimed at developing road links among the four states.

Among those who attended the opening ceremony were members of the Boa Vista Chamber of Commerce and Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Carolyn Rodrigues.

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