-No mention of the construction of a Wismar/Mackenzie bridge
By Vanessa Braithwaite
For the Upper Demerara- Berbice Region (Region 10), the 2021 budget has included several projects across various sectors, that are expected to commence during the first quarter of the year. Top on the agenda is the construction of 1000 homes in Amelia’s Ward, Linden; the construction of a modern agro-processing and packaging facility, construction of a state-of-the-art multi-purpose sporting facility, the commencement of the Linden to Mabura Road and the rehabilitation of the Linden Soesdyke Highway.
Last Friday, Minister with responsibility of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, presented the $383.1 B 2021 budget to the National Assembly and underscored his government’s plan to push development in the bauxite region; many of the projects to be undertaken in Region 10 were promises made during the election campaign. One of the key areas targeted is job creation, since Region 10 possesses one of the highest unemployment rate in the country.
The 2021 budget has allocated $832 M for the construction of agro-processing and packaging facilities in several areas, including Linden. This facility will be constructed in Kara Kara and will enable farmers to access affordable state-of-the-art processing and packaging, at reduced operational costs. The government is also expected to provide laboratory services to agro-processors, to ensure they can attain the necessary standards and certifications.
The government has budgeted $67 M for further rehabilitation of the call centre at Kara Kara Linden, which will create jobs in the Business Process Outsoursing (BPO) and will be partly facilitated by decreased cost of internet services.
In the area of infrastructural development, the government has allocated $3.5 B for the commencement of the Linden to Mabura Hill Road and tenders are expected to be launched in the first quarter of 2021. An additional $150 M has been budgeted for the sectional rehabilitation of the Linden-Soesdyke Highway. Much to the disappointment of residents and regional officials of Region 10, the 2021 budget does not include the construction of the Wismar/Mackenzie bridge which was a highly anticipated project that had its feasibility study completed by the former administration. The community has outgrown the current single-lane bridge that is more than 60 years old and is also seen as a traffic hazard.
For the health sector, Region 10 will receive one of four GeneXpert machines which will be purchased to the tune of $17.6 M. This machine will offer point-of-care COVID-19 testing and near-immediate results.
One of the most anticipated projects outlined in the 2021 budget for Region 10, is the construction of 1000 homes through public-private partnerships, with community involvement in every step of the way. This project will see hundreds of jobs being created in the region as well as the sourcing of housing material locally, which will stimulate the economy of Region 10.
The 2021 budget also includes funding for the completion of the state-of-the-art Wismar Police Station and the sum of $1.5 B has been allocated for the construction of three premuim, multi-purpose sporting facilities in Regions two, six and 10.
With the decline in performance of the bauxite sector, particularly caused by the closing of one of the main producers- RUSAL, the government has committed to establishing a policy framework for bauxite development which is the main economic activity in Region 10.
In addition to these specific projects for Region 10, residents will also benefit from the general measures outlined in the budget which include the increase in old age pension to $25,000 and public assistance to $12,000, the resumption of the ‘Because We Care’ Grant which is now $15,000, paying less on basic food items, construction material and data with the removal of VAT.