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Guyana, India Foreign Ministers meet on the way forward

first_imgSpecialty Hospital ProjectForeign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge recently had a meeting with his Indian counterpart regarding the future of the Specialty Hospital Project. The meeting comes at a time when the Guyana Government is unsure it will move ahead with the project.The meeting was held on the sidelines of the recently concluded 71st United Nations General Assembly in New York. This was confirmed by Indian High Commissioner to Guyana, Venkatachalam Mahalingham.An artist’s impression of the Specialty Hospital“I understand that the Foreign Minister of Guyana spoke to our Minister of State, that is Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in New York but we don’t know what the further developments (are)… but they talked about what is to be done,” the High Commissioner told Guyana Times on Sunday.Back in June, Minister of State Joseph Harmon had disclosed that the Government of India, which is funding the Project via an US$18 million Line of Credit, had indicated that it was ceasing worldwide business with Fedders Lloyd Corporation Limited, which was handpicked by the coalition Administration, after the company was blacklisted by the World Bank until 2020 over fraud and corruption practices.The donor country had also expressed preference for a fresh tendering process to be conducted to select a new Indian-base contractor to execute the project.At the time, the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government said that it wanted to make certain enquiries of the Indian Government before a definitive course of action was adopted on the Specialty Hospital Project, located at Lilendaal, Greater Georgetown.However, Public Health Minister, Dr George Norton told this newspaper last month that the project has been “shelved” and contact has not been made with the Indian Government.On Sunday, Norton confirmed that the project remains “shelved”.He had previously explained that Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge was supposed to take the lead in that process since making contact with another country falls under his purview.Meanwhile, in a previous interview the Public Health Minister had pointed out that the impending discussions with the Indian Government will determine whether Guyana will go ahead with the project using a new contractor or have it scrapped entirely, given all the troubles the project has faced.“There is a chance it might come off the table because that Hospital Project is not doing well with how it started and what’s supposed to be… The next step will now be for us to have direct contact with the Indian Government and decide whether it will continue with the loan or not,” Dr Norton had stated.Moreover, the Public Health Minister had said too on a different occasion that because of the overcrowding situation at the Georgetown Public Hospital, government is exploring ways of address the problems. One such solution that came up was the expansion of the city hospital and Dr Norton disclosed that they were looking at potential sites including the land of the Specialty Hospital.“I am personally thinking about a maternal child hospital or an enhancement or annex to the Georgetown Hospital… (but) we have to look for another area, and we’re contemplating using the foundation of the Specialty Hospital that was supposed to be built,” he told this publication back in July.On the other hand, last month the Minister was quoted in the State’s newspaper as saying that there are talks of constructing a Paediatric Hospital at the Specialty Hospital site and that the proposal was before Cabinet for consideration.While in opposition, both the APNU and AFC had strongly opposed the US$18 million Specialty Hospital Project and upon its assumption to office last year, decided to scrap the project, which had already expended some US$4 million on sme preliminary works.Government had said that the remaining $13.8 million would be better served if it is used to improve the country’s primary healthcare service by upgrading three hospitals across the country.However, the Indian Government subsequently indicated that Guyana should go ahead with the Specialty Hospital and it will provide a separate loan for the primary healthcare project. The process is currently ongoing for government to acquire the second loan.The three hospitals considered for upgrade are the Bartica Hospital, the West Demerara Regional Hospital and the Suddie Public Hospital. The project will see modernisation and rehabilitation at three major hospitals.In 2012, the contract for the Specialty Hospital Project was awarded to India-based Company, Surendra Engineering Corporation Limited, which was tasked with designing and building the state-of-the-art facility.However, citing instances of alleged fraud and delays, the Donald Ramotar Administration in 2014 announced that it had terminated the contract of the India-based Company and subsequently filed a lawsuit against it for failing to honour its obligations. Guyana is yet to recover close to $1 billion from the company.last_img read more