Support Guyana’s participation in Silk Belt Road Initiative

first_imgDear Editor,I compliment the Chinese on their longstanding support of Guyana, and I believe the Government’s signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China within the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative is the dawn of a progressive new era of relations between the two nations.It is clear to me that Guyana needs to develop its infrastructure, especially roads and bridges that link the mineral-rich areas with the city, and we simply do not have the funds, expertise and experience to do this alone. It is good that Guyana can turn to a powerful friend like China to get help with key national development projects.What I like about China is that their support for Guyana has been consistent throughout the years, and has spanned many Government administrations. Space does not permit me to cover all their positive interventions, but off the top of my head, I can recall the valuable contributions of Chinese medical brigades to our health sector, and several donations of much-needed equipment to hospitals.I remember in 2013 China gave Guyana US$8.16 million in grant aid. That is a lot of money, and it has grown since then. I also recall, with respect and gratitude, how they helped us to acquire marine vessels for plying the Essequibo River between Parika and Supenaam. They also assisted with the construction of the Guyana International Conference Centre, and funded multiple scholarships and training and capacity-building in a wide variety of areas.Furthermore, they provided millions of dollars in equipment and vehicles for the Guyana Police Force.That is why I extend blessings and praises to the Chinese for making Guyana a partner in the billion-dollar Silk Road Initiative. I am pleased that the first funds are earmarked to upgrade the road from Linden to Lethem, which is often in a deplorable condition, with maintenance costs running into tens of millions of dollars annually.It makes good sense to me that, instead of constantly spending this kind of money in a losing battle to keep the road in good order, Guyana may be able to get funding to fix and strengthen the road by activating a solid relationship with China that is based on over four decades of goodwill and cooperation between our nations.Some countries are saying that partnering with China in the Silk Road Economic Belt initiative has left them up to their ears in debt. I do not see Guyana going along that route. My advice to Government is: instead of taking out loans, try to utilise the Build, Operate, Own and Transfer (BOOT) system for this project with China, and give the Chinese a 20-year reprieve on taxes.This would mean we would not become saddled with debt. After a few decades, the road will be transferred to the Government and people of Guyana. If we play our cards right, we will have millions of dollars in oil wealth pouring in, so by then we would be able to afford the maintenance costs.By giving my support to this project, I am not saying we should just accept any offer we get from the international donor community of powerful nations, who have their own agendas. I am saying that with our upcoming oil revenue, we will have greater capacity to meet our repayment commitments for essential development projects, so we can go after more external funding. We don’t know what the future holds, so we have to be cautious, but I believe that we can be optimistic about the returns from signing the Silk Belt Road Initiative with China. I believe that, concerning deals with international partners, we have learned a lot from tough lessons in the recent past to be able to assess and monitor a new project of this nature.I feel a sense of pride to know that Guyana, the first country in South America and the first English-speaking Caribbean country, is to sign such a treaty with China, because it shows that we have insight and vision. I believe both nations realise that it is in their interest to make this venture a showpiece for the world, and Guyana should press for funding of other important projects under this initiative.Kudos to Guyana and China for maintaining their mutually beneficial relationship, and securing the basis of an exciting way forward for the well-being of both nations.Sincerely,Roshan Khan Srlast_img read more