By Ray Chickrie
GEORGETOWN, Guyana – A delegation consisting of the foreign minister of Suriname, Albert Ramdin, Amar Ramadhin (public health) and Riad Nurmohamed (public works) arrived in Guyana on October 14 to conclude with their Guyanese counterparts an agreement to bridge the Corentyne River that divides the two neighbouring South American countries.
The bridge initiative is part of a broader Strategic Dialogue and Cooperation Platform (SDCP) between Guyana and Suriname to include cooperation in agriculture, oil and gas, tourism, infrastructure, security, trade and economic diversification that will be launched in November in Paramaribo, which is “aimed at strengthening relations between the neighbours in tangible ways, the Guyana information services on Thursday reported.
A deepwater port and a bridge over the Corentyne River, is a mega transformational projects that will give both countries access to the entire continent of South America are of high priority for president Chandrika Prasad Santokhi of Suriname and his Guyana counterpart, Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali. This infrastructure will greatly bring development to the frontier towns of New Nickerie, Suriname and Corriverton, Guyana, especially that vast oil and gas wealth will come to these countries by 2025. Guyana is already producing oil and is set to produce a million barrels daily by 2022.
The Islamic Bank in 2016 was ready to fund the bridge development when the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) secretary general, Iyad Ameen Madani, visited Guyana and Suriname. Following the visit of the secretary-general, the ministry of foreign affairs of Suriname reported that the OIC is willing to finance the construction of a bridge across the Corentyne River at the eastern frontier between Guyana and Suriname, then foreign minister Niermala Badrising told the media.
After becoming president of Guyana in August 2020, Irfaan Ali held a meeting with the president of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), Dr Bandar Hajjar. They discussed several issues including financing several projects in Guyana.
“The issues discussed included financing solar energy, agriculture, infrastructure, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and containing the novel coronavirus (COVID-19),” according to a statement from the office of the president.
“This (the bridge development) is being done in an effort to enhance regional economic and physical integration. This type of project falls under the rubric and vision of the Arab League and South American group, UNASUR.” Such a project would support and promote regional integration and economic development, which Madani termed “a triangular relationship between the OIC, Guyana and Suriname,” Madani said.
“The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) is in favour of the execution of major infrastructure projects in South America. One of these projects that can finally be realised according to Badrising, is the bridging of the Corentyne River between Guyana and Suriname. This could become a reality if the countries involved are in agreement and if the project is feasible. It is one of the opportunities that we have to utilise OIC funds.”
It is not publicly known yet who will fund the bridging of the Corentyne River. But Nurmohamed said, “financing is part of the first study. A few institutions have offered financing. In the first phase, the consultant will explore all the possibilities, etch, and finally governments will make final decisions.”
After his arrival in Guyana on Wednesday, October 14, 2020, Riad Nurmohamed said on Facebook, “The initiatives taken by president Chan Santokhi and Guyanese president Irfaan Ali are being further developed. The planned bridge over the Corantijn River is also being discussed in depth. The flags we placed last weekend are definitely still there. This project will start in a short period of time.”
“Planting the flags here means that we are here for a sustainable project, which is very important for movement and development of both countries. With this, we are giving a very important sign, not only to the government but to the future persons who will be involved in preparing the signing, constructing the bridge, and maintaining the bridge. We want a very sustainable bridge, which the community can profit from,” Dr Riad Nurmohamed added.
The formal signing of a bridge agreement between the two neighbouring countries will take place in November when the president of Guyana, Dr Ali makes his first foreign visit to Suriname to mark that country’s 45 independence anniversary.