Building bridges

Guyana and Suriname support infrastructure to connect their economies.

Guyana and Suriname are working jointly on a project to build a bridge across the Corentyne River that will connect both countries linking South Drain, Suriname and Moleson Creek, Guyana. A tender process for the project will be organised by the Ministries of Public Works of both countries, using the expression of interest process to conduct feasibility studies including environmental, social impact assessment and cost estimate analysis.

Last June, the countries shortlisted eight of the 38 companies that submitted expressions of interest for construction of the bridge, which is expected to be completed by 2025. These eight companies are expected to submit their proposals on September 16, 2021 and a joint assessment committee will evaluate the bids. After the successful bidder is selected, the company will have a year to complete the feasibility study.

A public sector construction executive provided some context, “This project has been on the table since the early 2000s. It was originally part of the Latin American integration project to link all the countries in Latin America as Guyana and Suriname are still not properly integrated with the rest of the region due to a lack of infrastructure.”

“This project has been on the table since the early 2000s. It was originally part of the Latin American integration project.”

Construction executive, Guyana

A private sector bridge manager in Guyana was thrilled, “I’m really excited by this project. The bridge may become a political issue but I think the usage will be high, especially from the Guyanese visiting Suriname for shopping as many products are cheaper there.”

Bidding companies will face multiple challenges as contracting works will not be shared by the two countries. The construction executive confirmed, “There is still a long way to go. The environmental impact assessments, cost estimates and project plans are still to be completed and they will have to be agreed by both countries. I think we’re at least 5 – 7 years away from the bridge becoming operational, just look at the Demerara Bridge, that took the Guyanese government 10 years.”

“I think we’re at least 5 – 7 years away from the bridge becoming operational, just look at the Demerara Bridge, that took the Guyanese government 10 years.”

Construction executive, Guyana

Both Suriname and Guyana are problematic as the United Nations Development Programme considers corruption a systemic problem in both jurisdictions. The bridge manager agreed that care must be taken, “Corruption is always a problem with construction in both Guyana and Suriname, however, because both countries are involved in the tendering process, it lessens the options for corruption. Further down the supply chain, for the smaller works that are subcontracted, there is much less risk of corruption.”

The construction of the Corentyne Bridge is part of a larger plan between the two governments to bring their economies closer together. Thus, the bridge will facilitate the movement of people, goods, trade and border cooperation. At a local level, the president of the Central Corentyne Chamber of Commerce in Suriname is preparing to mobilise the local business community to examine adjacent investments, mainly in tourism and agribusiness.

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