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The Forest Man

Since 1979, Jadav Payeng has been planting hundreds of trees on an Indian island threatened by erosion. In this film, photographer Jitu Kalita traverses Payeng’s home—the largest river island in the world—and reveals the touching story of how this modern-day Johnny Appleseed turned an eroding desert into a wondrous oasis.

It’s an amazing story of both environmental activism but also the impact of photography can have on a region and a person.  It was one of the best things I have seen in 2017.

This is how broke Guyana is

To even provide basic needs, it needs foreign aid from other countries.

Guyana’s president says India has pledged USD 60 million to help the South American country buy a large ferry and build a four-lane highway.

President Donald Ramotar says the highway is to connect Guyana’s main international airport to a large highway near the capital of Georgetown that runs to the coast.

He said late Thursday that USD 10 million of the amount pledged will be used to buy a passenger and cargo ferry that would operate between Port Georgetown and remote jungle communities near the border with Venezuela.

India and Guyana have collaborated on other projects in recent years, including a cricket stadium and a hospital.

About 44 per cent of the 736,000 people who live in Guyana are descendants of people from India who came as indentured workers.

About that hospital.  It isn’t going well.

Another controversy has erupted in relation to the design and construction of the Specialty Hospital at Turkeyen, East Coast Demerara. This time, the government announced its intention to terminate the contract with Surendra Engineering Corporation Ltd on the grounds that the contractor had submitted a fraudulent document purported to emanate from the Central Bank of Trinidad. The government has also asked the police to investigate the matter and is pursuing legal action to recover some US$4.3 million it paid to the contractor.

Surendra Engineering has, however, rejected the allegations and accused the government of seeking to back out of its commitments and of being responsible for the stoppage of work. The contractor also stated that it was entitled to recover from the government amounts expended on the project that it was committed to see through to completion.

Now it is getting worse.

The Indian contractor which was sacked by Government in early September over the US$18M Specialty Hospital is in liquidation.

This latest development would bring uncertainty into legal proceedings filed by the Government of Guyana to recover over US$4M.

According to information seen by Kaieteur News, the company which was incorporated on September 8, 2008, is an unlisted public company which has its registered office at Mumbai, Maharashtra. Its last reported annual general meeting, according to records, was held on September 28, 2012. The company has eight directors.

According to Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Khemraj Ramjattan, the Surendra contracts in Guyana have continued to raise shocking questions over the manner in which Government goes about its businesses. SECL was awarded the contract to build the US$12.5M sugar packaging plant at Enmore.

Government then, in 2011, turned around and awarded another contract to the company to supply 14 fixed and mobile drainage pump, for US$4M. That contract was under fire as SECL had no immediate history of dealing with pumps.

Under questionable circumstances again, Government awarded SECL the contract for the Indian-funded Specialty Hospital that is being built at Turkeyen, East Coast Demerara.

There were objections by another Indian firm over the award of the contract, with a complaint later filed with Indian parliamentarians.

“I want to go this far and say that the Bank in India is responsible in not screening the participants accessing its funding;  or doing at minimum a due diligence or minimum scrutiny of the awardee as recommended by these ‘Chatrees’ in Guyana.

“Even a fourth grader could find out the company’s activities from their web site.  It is so appalling to see monies getting misappropriated and images of the people and of the country, Guyana, getting tarnished.” The Parliamentarian made it clear that it will be nigh impossible for Guyana to recoup the monies it paid to SECL for the Specialty Hospital.

“Is it coincidence that the Surendra is in liquidation now? I am not sure what chance, if any, will this corrupt PPP Government or any future Government will have to recover the sum of US$4.5M that Surendra was paid upfront.”

I am not sure what to think.  Obviously Guyana has almost no engineering capacity in the country and that is exploited by either corrupt or incompetent companies overseas.   Of course spending some of that money to get a highly qualified engineer to help with these kinds of projects like cities all across the world do, might stop them from being exploited.  I hate to blame the victim but Guyana seems to be taken advantage of a lot.