GUYANA and Suriname have agreed to embark on a new wave of cooperation that will see the bridging of the Corentyne River and engagements in several areas of mutual benefit to the nations through a new mechanism which will be overseen by the countries’ leaders to fast track implementation.
This was reported by President Bharrat Jagdeo and visiting President of Suriname Desi Bouterse at a press conference at the Office of the President in Georgetown yesterday.
President Jagdeo reported that the areas for cooperation discussed include bridging the Corentyne River, combating climate change, crime and security, health, information technology, natural resources, mining and minerals, fisheries, agriculture, energy and tertiary education.
“These are all very, very important areas where we can work together to advance the cause of our peoples,” President Jagdeo said. He added that the mechanism for cooperation is important and vital to making progress in these areas.
According to President Jagdeo, it has been found too many times in the past that the work on cooperation between the two states through the Joint Commission did not show itself to be the best of approaches. He said the commission did not have enough high-level political attention.
Mr. Jagdeo said that with the Office of the President of Suriname overseeing the process of cooperation and his office doing the same, the process will be accelerated.
He stated that no timeline was set for the commencement of the bilateral feasibility study for the bridge.
“[We agreed that] we should be effective, we should be concrete…there is urgency about this task,” he said. “We hope that the renewed mechanism that we put in place will get together, not like in the past where the Joint Commission met occasionally and the negotiations were mired in bureaucracy. They will meet soon to advance the technical work in all of these areas. And there is quite a bit of technical work to be done so we are looking for urgent movement in these areas but we don’t want to be accused of not doing the technical work.
“On the issue of financing, once the studies are done, I am sure with the contacts I have for [President Bouterse’s Office] we will be able to deal with that issue”.
Echoing President Jagdeo, President Bouterse said that at this point in time the political will is the most important element for bridging the Corentyne River and thus there is no timeline.
Further, he said that the technical and economic feasibility of the project must be taken into consideration and once the will is there and the ideas are clear, financing should not be the biggest problem or the “highest bridge” to cross.
He alluded to the building of bridges across the Suriname and Coppename rivers and said that in the initial stages, there was lack of will and negative comments about the need for those bridges. But he said that since those bridges have been built, there have been tremendous benefits.
Mr. Jagdeo said that for years Guyana has been engaged in discussions as part of the Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA) and the road from Lethem to Georgetown and the bridge across the Corentyne River are both projects that have been discussed under IIRSA as projects to network infrastructure throughout South America.
He said that while Guyana and Suriname need to work within that multilateral arrangement, “We recognize that it will take a very long time within the multilateral [framework] to get those projects done. So we agreed to have a feasibility study done through a bilateral process to see how we can advance those processes ahead of the IIRSA plans.”
He said that the reasons for the bridge are clear, noting the movement of people and goods and mentioning that a whole range of developmental impact could be gleaned from having the bridge and it is not just purely about financial feasibility.
Bouterse said bridging the Corentyne River is of vital importance and noted that Guyana and Suriname agreed that they should go the bilateral route while the multilateral efforts are ongoing.
“We are happy to welcome the distinguished President of Suriname and his delegation to Guyana. We have had some very important discussions and we are very captured by the approach by the President of Suriname and his desire to strengthen the relations between the two countries and the no nonsense approach that [he] brought to the discussions,” said President Jagdeo. “We hope that this will lead to an acceleration of the initiatives that we discussed this morning.”