Workshop spotlights South America infrastructure linking plan
Border crossing for discussion

Stabroek News
April 21, 2004

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A two-day workshop yesterday tackled the way ahead for infrastructure projects in the north of South America aimed at boosting economic and social links between the various countries.

Guyana, Venezuela, Brazil, Suriname and French Guiana are the countries targeted in the Guyana Shield hub, as outlined in a Power Point presentation yesterday during the opening of the workshop on prioritising projects and dealing with border-crossing issues facing the Initiative for Integration of South Ameri-can Infrastructure (IIRSA).

Addressing the media and attendees at the opening session at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel yesterday, Bianca Alar-con of the Andean Develop-ment Corporation (CAF), which, has exclusively Latin American and Caribbean membership explained that the sessions, which end today, will discuss the possible impacts of the integration and development process in South America.

IIRSA emerged from the first meeting of South Ameri-can presidents in Brasilia, Brazil in 2000 where governments agreed to modernise and integrate regional infrastructure. The initiative seeks to create infrastructural links to promote trade integration in the region, reinforcing its competitive position in the global economy. It recognises the potential of the continent, which has 350 million-odd inhabitants and a GDP of US$1,153 billion, for consumer market growth and new market development.

Notwithstanding the current economic and other integration processes in the region, which include Mer-cosur and Caricom, IIRSA seeks to design a strategic vision for South America by 2020. It also plans to design and develop a business vision for each of the ten hubs identified, which include Merco-sur (Chile Hub), the Andean Hub, the Guyana Shield Hub, the Amazon Hub and others.

Four project groups have been earmarked for the Guyana Shield Hub. In group one, the interconnection of Venezuela and Brazil is expected to see the development of potential economic sectors like the heavy and durable goods industries; mining and jewellery; agri-business and ecotourism, taking into account the existing paved Manaus to Caracas road and the transmission line between Guri in Venezuela and Boa Vista in Brazil. In group two, the interconnection of Brazil and Guyana is expected to realise the consolidation of a development and integration route involving the Brazilian states of the Amazonas and Roraima and Guyana. In group three, the interconnection of Venezuela and Guyana should see the implementation of a development and integration link along the Caribbean coast in the extreme north coast of South America.

Group four which proposes to interconnect Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana and Brazil will seek to consolidate an international physical connection to promote the social and economic development and integration of the first three countries named with the Brazilian states of Amapa and Para. However, because of the presence of French Guiana in the group, this would require input by the European Union.

Alarcon said it is envisioned by IIRSA that by 2010 the Venezuela, Guyana, Brazil infrastructural trade link could generate some US$4B - US$10B, however such in-creased regional trade would place growing demands on infrastructure. The sector integration process would therefore involve identification of operational and other bottlenecks and the actions to solve them, as well as identify potential areas for greater regulatory alignment in areas such as information technology, border crossing facilitation and financing instruments.

Eustavo Guerra Garcia, an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) consultant told Stabroek News that since IIRSA started some three years ago, there has been agreement from the countries in all the different hubs on the main projects.

He said implementing the projects would be done by setting priorities among South America's 41 groups of projects. Focus would then be placed on the main sequence of implementation, and the states involved would have the help and support of the IDB.

Garcia noted that some of the projects had already started and yesterday's exercise was a part of the continuing process. The main issue now is to identify projects important for integrating economies so as to improve commerce.

Border crossing issues will be among the matters discussed today.