India funding traffic lights for Georgetown By Mark Ramotar
Guyana Chronicle
November 4, 2006

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THE Government of India has approved a US$2.1M concessional line of credit for installing solar-powered traffic lights in Georgetown, Indian High Commissioner to Guyana Mr. Avinash Gupta announced yesterday.

At a news conference at the Indian High Commission in Georgetown, he said he only received word of the approval of the line of credit from the Indian Government yesterday morning via an email from the administration’s offices in New Delhi.

Gupta said committed efforts will be made to have the agreement completed and signed during the much anticipated official visit to Guyana next week of a high level 65-member Indian delegation headed by Vice President of India, Shri Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

The Indian Vice President and his large delegation, that will include 18 Indian journalists, are due to arrive in Guyana late Monday for a packed three-day visit.

Given the short notice of the approval, High Commissioner Gupta was unsure whether the agreement would be completed in time to be signed along with three others next week during the Indian Vice President’s visit.

“If it is possible by both the sides, then this will be the ‘fourth’ agreement that will be signed between Guyana and India (next week),” Gupta told reporters.

He noted that the US$2.1M agreement will be signed between Guyana’s Ministry of Finance and the Exim Bank of India.
According to Gupta, the basic idea about the traffic lights project was conceived about 10 months ago when an Indian company visited Guyana and gave a proposal for the installation of solar-powered traffic lights, which can also work under the normal electricity grid.

He said another Indian company subsequently visited Guyana just over a month ago to ensure that the project proposal provided by the first Indian firm was financially viable.

“The second company visited Guyana some time in September this year and we (the Indian Government) found that the project proposal of the second company was economically viable,” Gupta said, adding that the Indian Government decided to proceed with the project proposal.

Under Phase One of the project, the envoy said it is expected that some 50 solar powered traffic lights will be provided and installed at sites in and around Georgetown to be identified by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The non-functioning traffic lights in Georgetown has been a sore issue for several years and almost two years ago, on November 29, 2004, the then Home Affairs Minister Ms Gail Teixeira had promised that efforts were being made by her ministry to “have this situation corrected in the not too distant future”.

Teixeira noted then that her ministry was trying to pursue funds to install about 23 traffic lights at the most crucial intersections, and had reassured Guyanese that the issue will not be swept under the rug, but avenues were being explored for financial support.

“What the public should realize is that these lights will cost an estimated US$2M, and that is just to purchase them. We still have to look at monies for maintenance,” the minister had said, while noting that attempts to fix the existing traffic lights were thwarted by unscrupulous persons who deliberately damage them.

Meanwhile, Gupta yesterday said three separate agreements are already on the cards to be signed and formalized between officials from the Guyana Government and from the visiting Indian delegation next week.

These are for a cultural exchange programme for the period 2007 and 2009; the establishment of the Rabindranauth Tagore Research Centre at the University of Guyana; and for the gainful occupation of diplomats’ spouses posted in Guyana and India.

The Indian Vice President’s official visit to Guyana from November 6 to 9 is at the invitation of President Bharrat Jagdeo.

“The main objective of the visit is to interact with the political leadership of Guyana…and to join the leadership of Guyana in dedicating the Providence Stadium to the friendly and warmhearted people of Guyana,” High Commissioner Gupta told reporters.

The Providence Cricket Stadium, to first host quarter final matches of the major Cricket World Cup 2007 tournament here, is being constructed with funding from India -- US$6M as a grant, and US$19M as a soft loan.

Vice President Shekhawat and his delegation are due here late on Monday and his packed programme of activities is slated to kick-start Tuesday morning with a visit to the Promenade Gardens where the Mayor of Georgetown Hamilton Green will present him with a symbolic key to the City of Georgetown.

The Indian Vice President will also offer a floral tribute at the statute of Mahatma Gandhi in the Promenade Gardens.

While here, the Indian Vice President is scheduled to meet President Jagdeo and other top Government officials, members of the political opposition including the Leader of the Opposition, and the Speaker of the National Assembly.

He is also scheduled to visit, among other places, the Guyana National Museum, the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre, the Umana Yana, and the Indian Immigration Monument in Georgetown where there is a replica of the ship ‘Whitby’ which brought the first batch of Indian indentured labourers to Guyana way back in 1838.

His visit to the Providence Cricket Stadium is scheduled for Wednesday when he will also formally inaugurate the Rabindranauth Tagore Research Centre at the University of Guyana campus, Turkeyen, East Coast Demerara.

The idea of establishing the Research Centre at UG named after the world-famous winner of the 1913 Nobel Prize in Literature, Rabindranauth Tagore, is the brainchild of High Commissioner Gupta who explored the idea some time back with a very receptive UG Vice Chancellor, Dr James Rose.

Gupta yesterday fondly recalled that the last Vice President of India to have visited Guyana was Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma in 1988. Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visited in 1968.

“All these visits had their own significance in developing the bilateral relationship between our two countries,” he said.

India and Guyana have a long history rooted in the strong foundations of sharing spiritual values and the long journey of this relationship which commenced in 1838 with the arrival of indentured labourers on the shores of Guyana.

Prominent among these were the visits to India by then Prime Minister of Guyana Forbes Burnham in 1971; President Arthur Chung in 1975, President Cheddi Jagan in 1993 and the two state visits of President Jagdeo in August 2003 and January 2004.