Brazil/Guyana fibre optic cable project collapses

Brazil/Guyana fibre optic cable project collapses

December 10, 2014 | By |
File Photo: Cable being laid at Kuru Kuru, Soesdyke/Linden Highway, in 2011.

Photo: Cable being laid at Kuru Kuru, Soesdyke/Linden Highway, in 2011

More than four years after an agreement was signed between Guyana and Brazil for a fibre optic cable to link Government facilities, the project appears to have collapsed because of technical issues. It would appear certain now that billions of dollars have gone down the drain, unless Government finds a way to rescue the venture.

According to a Government source close to the project, continuous breakage to the cable has left the project in limbo. Time and again the deadlines have been pushed back. The cable passes through difficult terrain along the Linden/Lethem trail. Logistics have reportedly caused major headaches for contractors.

It was indicated that initially little thought went into the project as Government itself reported that cables not of the correct lengths were ordered. Independent supervisors hired to monitor the project were reportedly fired.
Physical works for the laying of 560 kilometres of cable began in April 2011. Poor weather conditions and the absence of appropriate equipment were cited for the slothfulness of contractors. Several of them were fired.

Government had even reportedly resorted to foreign help in moving the cable project forward.
On the Brazil side, Globonet, a sidsidiary of Oi, the largest telephone company of that neighbouring country, had landed the fibre optic cable.

Under the agreement, Guyana was reportedly paying US$150,000 annually for internet connectivity. It is unclear what is happening to these fees now that the project remains incomplete.

The more-than-US$32M project is headed by Alexei Ramotar, son of the country’s President. There has not been any update coming from the project director in recent times.

The E-Government project was touted to feature a data centre, a transmission network and data network. The data centre, or control centre, is to be housed in the compound of Castellani House, in the same building that is used for the Central Intelligence Agency.

Under the US$32M project to link Government offices and facilities, the transmission network stretches from Moleson Creek on the Corentyne Coast to Charity on the Essequibo Coast, reportedly using fibre optic cable of the Guyana Power and Light Inc.  The Brazil cable is part of the network too. Some 54 towers have already been built.
By way of the access network, all major Government facilities in the coverage areas are intended to be connected via fibre optic and/or 4G wireless Cellular services.

Government had announced that the connection would have allowed for, in addition to connectivity, a range of services such as “E-Health” allowing for video consultation, movement of information from one health centre to another and tracking disease outbreaks.

Regarding security, the project would allow quick transmission of information including video and data between police stations.

In education, the project would set up an “E-library” which would allow for access to textbooks and other teaching aids that can be used by students and schools, thereby lowering cost.

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  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On 12/10/2014 at 1:40 pm

    Another case of government corruption?

  • Ron Bridgelall  On 12/10/2014 at 4:09 pm

    You can’t have morons managing these projects.

  • guyaneseonline  On 12/11/2014 at 6:00 am

    December 11, 2014 | By KNews | Columnists, Peeping Tom

    The problems that are being encountered in the project involving the laying of a fibre optic cable from Brazil should not surprise anyone. From day one, the publisher of this newspaper, Mr. Glenn Lall, had predicted that this project was another dubious scheme foisted on the Guyanese people.
    Lall has not said it but we all know that he would be absolutely correct in saying, “I told you so!” There are confirmed reports that the project is in dire straits. Even though the government says that the problems being encountered are not irredeemable, there is a strongly held view that the future of this project is uncertain and that billions of dollars may have gone down the drain.
    This project was mired in controversy. The financing arrangements were suspect. The rationale for the project was questionable. And the capacity of the government to manage a project of this scale and technical complexity was always doubtful.
    The funds for this seven billion dollars project came from the sale of the shares held by the State in the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company. These shares represented 20% of the total shareholding of the company which was formed under the PNC. When the issue of the sale of these shares arose, the PNCR asked the government to sell the shares to the workers of the utility.
    While it is doubtful that the workers or their unions could have raised the necessary funds, the government could have at least offered to sell these shares to the workers and if the workers could not have raised the necessary funding, then the shares could have been sold to private sources. Better yet, the government could have gifted the shares to the workers as a demonstration of their commitment to the working class. There are many who feel that the terms under which the shares were eventually sold to a foreign interest represented a giveaway. That issue was ventilated in a series entitled The Heist of Guyana published in this newspaper and presently viewable on its online edition.
    The entire financing arrangement for this fiber optic cable was therefore shrouded on controversy. For a project of this size it is difficult to understand why the government, which in the past sought international funding for almost anything, did not seek external financing for the project.
    The second problem with the project was its rationale. There was and remains no justification for the government getting into a project of this nature. The government in justifying the Marriott Hotel project had indicated that the financing for the hotel was outside of the reach of the private sector and the government needed to catalyze the investment.
    In the case of the fibre optic cable the same excuse could not have been used to justify Government investment because GT&T was interested in making such an investment. In fact, if needs be Digicel is capable of making such an investment. What therefore was the rationale for the government investing in a venture which should have been left to the private sector?
    The main reason given by the Jagdeo administration is that the existing service provided by GT&T was not up to standard and the government therefore needed to make the investment. It was most unconvincing argument because another private operator has since been offering internet services that are superior in speed and cost to that provided by GT&T.
    Therefore, the private sector had the financial capacity and the technical means to provide the very services that the government was opting to provide under the fiber optic cable. The rationale of the government in undertaking this investment was therefore questionable.
    Finally, it was always doubtful that government could have managed a project of this scale and technical complexity. It was always going to be a high risk for a government to be undertaking a project of this scale out of the Office of the President when such a project requires a full-fledged, well- resourced and incorporated project implementation unit.
    It is not known how many of those persons involved in administering this project had ever undertaken a project of this scale. It is not known if any of them had ever undertaken work on a project of such technical complexity. But even if there was the experience and technical expertise, operating with funds from the Budget was always going to make the administration of a project of this nature very challenging.
    The government in undertaking this project entered into a high stakes gambit. The project is now on the verge of collapse. As predicted by Glenn Lall.

  • N.Augustus  On 12/12/2014 at 5:18 pm

    “Finally, it was always doubtful that government could have managed a project of this scale and technical complexity.” There is little evidence that the govdernment have the wherwithall to manage any significant projects. Despite the call for the use of local workers and contractors in these projects, time and again, the contractors selected on the lowest bid and not competency and track record have failed to produce the desired results. They lack logistical capability, techniclal skills and adequate finances, which is compounded by poor government oversight and management. Here is another area that the opposition have failed the nation by not investigating these problems. Too many delays, and poor workmanship have beeen allowed to continue without better and faster action by government to rectify these issues. Incompetency,corruption and mismanagement rule in Guyana. So it goes in Guyana,

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