A region aburst with potential
December 27, 2003
THE disclosure by President Bharrat Jagdeo on Christmas Eve that East Berbice/Corentyne is to get an injection of approximately G$20 billion in 2004 will no doubt propel Berbicians onto the conference table early in the New Year, to determine how their community can benefit from that much investment in the region.
East Berbice/Corentyne is aburst with potential and public and private spending will go a very far way in realizing that potential.
East Berbice/Corentyne is richly endowed with fertile farmlands and natural resources.
The region once served as Demerara's main supplier of farm produce. And until international competition depressed prices and skyrocketed production costs, Berbice accounted for about 35 percent of Guyana's bauxite exports.
Berbice is currently the focus of extensive onshore and offshore exploration programmes.
CGX Energy Incorporated, undaunted by Guyana's maritime border dispute with Suriname that has stymied its offshore exploration programme in the Corentyne, about 135 kilometers offshore Guyana, has switched to oil hunting on land.
Encouraged by initial analysis, CGX has increased its land concessions in Berbice from 387,000 acres to 800,000 acres - almost two-thirds the land mass of neighboring Trinidad and Tobago - and is nearing the completion of preliminary drilling.
CGX anticipates onshore drilling producing a more modest quantity (100 million barrels) than the 850 million barrels of oil it projects coming offshore, but it is wooing Caribbean investors to join its land-based oil search, optimistic that it will soon find what it is looking for.
Also, with the Guyana/Suriname Ferry Service in full swing and a bridge across the Berbice River on the cards, Berbice will continually serve not only as a "receptacle" for settlers into the region but also as a conduit for the movement of people and resources via the South American superhighway.
Of course, the State isn't only now 'waking up and smelling the coffee' about Berbice!
As far back as the late 1960s, the then Guyana Development Corporation had unveiled a comprehensive plan for socioeconomic growth and industrialization in the Ancient County.
With the town of New Amsterdam in mind, the New Amsterdam Town Council and the Berbice Chamber of Commerce and Development Association recommended a deepwater harbor, a milk condensary, a milk pasteurization plant, an oil factory, a stockfeed mill, a beef processing factory, agro-processing factories, and the "growing and processing of bull frogs."
We would hear later of a leather tanning factory and a bicycle factory in New Amsterdam, but these all paled into history, as did many other operations, as the management of the nation's economy at that time spiraled into a sea of crisis.
Today, renewed focus on Berbice is making a big difference.
Government is aiding Berbicians in the reconstruction of their business premises after a fire gutted parts of Pitt Street, the commerce center of New Amsterdam, in March.
Sea defense, road and river transport, bridge, drainage and irrigation and other infrastructure works are taking place in East Berbice/Corentyne to increase farm output and also to enhance service delivery in health, housing, education, water supply, and electricity.
Berbicians eager to attain higher education can now enroll to study right in their region - at Tain, which is the first campus of the University of Guyana outside of Turkeyen.
A lot more is happening in Berbice. All in all, it's a region where business is committed to investing, where Government is going an extra mile to raise the stand of living of Berbicians, and where Berbicians themselves are no less dedicated to striving to realize their dreams.