Tony Vieira's Comments
22 October 2017

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Bridges, Stadiums and other things
(Aired 9 March 2006)

    I have never pretended to be smarter than anyone else, in fact I believe that my success as a political commentator is based on four things that comes with age, wisdom, experience, institutional knowledge and an infinite patience for seeking information that will lead me to the truth. I also find it hilarious that some people tell me that my commentaries are too political; well I am sorry to have to be the one to break the bad news to those folks. These are political commentaries.

     A few days ago I was talking to one of the best civil engineers this country has ever produced, he wanted me to explain a few things about the cricket stadium to you. But before I begin that part of this commentary tonight, I want to tell you that during my conversation with him I said that purely from an economical perspective it seemed to me that building another floating bridge in Berbice was really not a good plan, since the Demerara harbour Bridge has out grown its usefulness.

   Since 1978 when it was commissioned more and more people who commute to Georgetown began living in the West Bank/West Coast of Demerara since the price and availability of land on the West Bank / West Coast is far, far cheaper than land in or around Georgetown and so inevitably the bridge is no longer capable of being opened for ships to pass, since any opening of the Deme harbour bridge at almost any time during the day even changing of shifts at 2 PM and 10 PM still leads to massive build up of traffic on the East Bank Highway, so in my humble opinion it is time we built a fixed bridge in the Demerara River to ease the congestion on the East Bank Highway, it has not escaped me that the new East Bank highway from the bridge to GT is a total disaster, its too narrow in some places, and mini busses and other vehicles but mainly mini buses are parking anywhere along it to take on passengers especially at Providence and the Agricola/Mc Doom area, also some of my Guyanese brothers and sisters believe that the white line in the middle of this two lane highway was put there for them to aim the middle of their car at and so they are driving down the middle of the road straddling both lanes at 20 miles per hour causing obstruction to traffic. Somebody should look into this, but let's return to my point, any closure of the Demerara Harbour Bridge leads to traffic jams on that road and the longer the interruption of the crossing of the bridge the more horrific the traffic jams are so I was telling this top of the line engineer who does not actually practice here that if I were in charge, I would build a fixed bridge in Demerara where there is enough traffic to warrant it and which can probably pay for itself and I would take this floating bridge from Demerara and put it in Berbice, he not only agreed with me but explained that one of the major contractors from Germany who had become interested in the building of the Berbice bridge had made this very suggestion to the government since the traffic on the Demerara Harbour Bridge was so great today that the tolls could make it economical, but the Berbice traffic is so small that even a floating bridge would be difficult to rationalise economically, I can only guess why this suggestion by this German company was not heeded, this is an election year and the PPP having promised the Berbicians a bridge in 1997 and 2001 and did not deliver, now have to hustle up and put in place mechanisms that will fool the Berbicians, again, that a bridge is coming soon, since they need their votes, in addition my Engineer friend says that building this bridge at the place they are building it, is bad engineering practice, the span is too wide at that point and the eastern part i.e the Canje side is not solid land but swampy foreshore land, and as if that is not bad enough it is too close to the mouth of the river and will cause siltation, now I asked myself why this was so why does the PPP insist on building this briodge there where is not the best most economical site, and the only explanation as to why they were building this bridge at that point instead of the place where the electrical cables cross the Berbice river about 5 or so miles south of Blairmont where the land is solid at both ends and the river is less than a half mile wide, and I have come to the conclusion that apparently they do not want to build this bridge at a place where you have to drive pass a village called Itica on the western side of the river or pass through a town called New Amsterdam on the eastern side of the river, if this is true, I find the action obscene, reprehensible and unforgivable. But as far as real life goes I for one who live in the West Demerara and who like my neighbours from regions one, two, three, and four will be forced to use this inconvenient and inefficient floating bridge forever because it would take another 5 years to build the fixed bridge in Demerara delaying the installation of the floating bridge in Berbice, I condemn any government who would do such a thing; i.e. to please the people in Region 6 they are playing with the well being and convenience of the people in Regions one, two, three and four.  

    Now I come to the stadium, the story is very simple this stadium will probably not be completed in the period March to October 2006 as was planned. Furthermore any Guyanese who thinks that they are going into that stadium to see world cup cricket for less than $50 to $150 US depending on where you are sitting, can think again. So anyone who is not prepared to fork out at least 10,000 Guyana dollars for a seat to see a match may as well forget it.  

   Now we come to the facts that leave the engineers of the Guyana Association of Professional Engineers GAPE concerned, since September last year members of GAPE had requested that they be allowed to visit the stadium site, since what they were seeing from the road as far as progress was concerned did not agree with what the government's official releases were regarding the progress in the construction of this stadium, they received a response in January 2006 that the heavy rains would not allow a site visit but that they can ask for a visit again when the rains ceased. The information that the engineers at GAPE have is that a total of 11 million US has been spent to date and that US$14 million is still to be spent to complete the project which is expected to cost a total of 25 million US dollars. no project according to the engineers at Gape can expect to construct at the rate of 0.5 million US a month and at this rate the stadium would require 28 months to complete [14 million /.5 million]  but the PPP are expecting to hand it over by October this year.

   Based on these figures, for the stadium to be completed there would have to be round the clock construction 24/7 between now and October compressing 28 months of construction into 7 months for the government to finish this stadium by October 2006 for this stadium to be completed on time, and what is of concern is public safety, if the rest of the stadium is to be completed at breakneck speed the public's safety will be compromised.

    One stadium in the Caribbean has already collapsed in a category 3 hurricane; an investigation carried out by a well known structural engineering firm from the UK indicated that it was a blessing that it collapsed during the hurricane, since it would have collapsed anyway if loaded with enough people.

    So the editorial in the GAPE newsletter recommends that a review of the structural engineering drawings and calculations for the stadium be done so that its members and the general public could be satisfied that the stadium is safe to accommodate the public.

    I want to add the following; this is probably going to be a rainy year as last year was and the may June rainy season is coming which will certainly cause further delays in the completion of this project. But the most revealing part of the equation has to be the promise of casino gambling license to anyone who builds a hotel for this world cup event, surely it is an indication that the widely touted tourist industry this Government has been telling us about, is, as I have said many times, a complete failure as is its minister Nadir and this is a public acknowledgment of that fact by the PPP.