Linden in transformation
March 23, 2004
WHEN we cited what's happening in Linden in a February 5 editorial that analyzed criticisms of the Government's depressed areas initiative, we thought it interesting that critics would chide the Jagdeo administration for ignoring depressed communities populated predominantly by Afro-Guyanese.
By just about everyone's account, the once-prosperous Linden has degenerated into one of Guyana's most depressed areas. Especially since the town lost its luster as the co-producer/exporter, with Everton, of one of the world's most sought-after bauxite, Lindeners have been beside themselves trying to determine where next to turn for survival.
In spite of its claim to wisdom and foresight, the Burnham administration didn't get anywhere establishing an aluminum smelter in Linden as part of a thousand-megawatt hydroelectric power scheme. Its plans to have LINMINE bear the cost of running Linden's utility services and health and education sectors also faltered as Guyana's bauxite fell victim to competitive sources from China and Brazil.
The Hoyte administration didn't fare much better, either. So bogged down that regime was trying to salvage the Guyanese economy from the brink of collapse that even its reluctant acceptance and subsequent implementation of the IMF/World Bank-stipulated Economic Recovery Program (ERP) couldn't save Guyana becoming the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
We've delved into this past for a present purpose. Linden is not only predominantly Afro-Guyanese; it has also been named for late President Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham (1971) and has been a PNC stronghold for as long as the PNC has been a political party. Yet Linden is home to LEAP - the economic advancement programme being co-financed by the European Union to the tune of 12.5 million euros or well over a billion Guyana dollars. The programme aims to rebuild Linden's rundown economic infrastructures, train young Lindeners into entrepreneurs and eventually transform the depressed mining community into a major economic zone.
Hardly an example of the Government ignoring depressed Afro-Guyanese communities!
Among other things, the PPP/C Government has provided in excess of US$5M annually to the town's bauxite operations over ten years. Only a few weeks ago Prime Minister Samuel Hinds commissioned Wismar Municipal Market, rehabilitated at a cost of $103 million under the IDB/Government-funded Urban Rehabilitation Programme, and Housing and Water Minister Shaik Baksh distributed titles to residents of Amelia's Ward, where the ministry is expending $268 million on infrastructure - roads, water supply, drainage and irrigation - in a housing scheme in that community.
Besides, work is underway in WISROC, Blueberry Hill and Block 22, under a $200 million EU grant, to help low-income Lindeners own their own homes.
Linden will also get a US$6 million state-of-the-art hospital, the construction of which is slated to begin later this year, and a call center and business incubation center, all creating job opportunities for Lindeners, are being established in the mining town.
As we reported yesterday, LEAP is expected to transform some 750 Lindeners into entrepreneurs and create job opportunities for another 1,700 residents in the town's business sector by the end of 2009.
These are merely a rippling of the stream of socioeconomic activities underway in Linden, evidence of Linden in transformation, and proof that there's no ethnic bias in the choice of projects for depressed communities.