As Guyana now turns its attention towards capitalising on every aspect of the imminently booming oil and gas industry, Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson on Thursday revealed that studies have commenced towards the implementation of its proposed natural gas project.The Government is currently working at determining locations for the laying ofPublic Infrastructure Minister David Pattersonpipelines to transfer this by-product from the offshore oil reservoirs to strategic locations across the country, to be utilised as an alternative source of energy.Speaking at the Public Infrastructure Ministry’s year-end press conference, Patterson outlined plans for this initiative. He pointed out the regions in which the possibility of laying natural gas pipelines is currently being explored.“Right now, I think we are between Regions 3 and 4. At the moment, Region 6 still has not been eliminated,” Paterson relayed.The minister said, “The actual construction of the pipeline and procurement and those things like that have not been decided, and that’s why a location (must first be identified).”He explained, “If you decide to go in one position, the technical challenges are different from others. So we need to have a preferred location, so that we can do the studies.”At the moment, discussions are ongoing with ExxonMobil, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) and the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GL&SC), among other agencies, to ensure that the most feasible location is selected.Patterson highlighted the factors which would be taken into consideration during this process. He indicated, “The determination of where we’re going to go has several aspects, not only land availability, (but also include) the distance away from residence, environmental challenges….”Though the Guyana Government has reached out to the Inter-American Development Bank to further assess the project, the initial studies are currently being conducted by the Government of Japan. The findings are expected to be made public early next year.The minister has stressed that this undertaking goes beyond just providing a cheaper alternative energy source to Guyanese.Patterson added that Government is also looking to set up a Liquified Petroleum Gas Plant at the selected location as well.This is to be used as a source of fuel for many residential, commercial and agricultural operations, including cooking, hot water systems, and heating.
– but not before Opposition scrutinyA total sum of $4.7 billion was approved for Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) following an examination of the expenditure for the region in the Committee of Supply in the National Assembly on Wednesday.Current and capital expenditures were approved for regional administration and finance ($255.3 million); agriculture ($395.9 million); infrastructure ($197.4 million);Opposition MP, Colin Croaleducation delivery ($2.1 billion); and health services ($1 billion).However, Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Colin Croal highlighted a massive increase in security services from $28.8 million to $37.7 million, under the 2018 Budget for Region Two.Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan conceded that the increase was substantial but explained that it was due to an additional security at the State House annex in the region.In addition to that, it also caters for additional security at the residence of the Regional Executive Officer (REO) who has reportedly been in constant fights with elected regional officials.Minister Bulkan also told the Committee of Supply that several schools will now have full-time security services and that the newly contracted security firm offers an increased hourly rate of $350.The Minister emphasised that there is an increased need for security at regional facilities throughout the region, which is the main reason for the budgetary allocation in 2018.Opposition MP Cornell Damon also drilled the Minister on the procurement process used to hire a company to assist with the repairs of vehicles belonging to the region.Bulkan admitted that selective tendering was used to outsource a company to undertake this duty and the Opposition MP requested that the documents – as it relates to this transaction – be provided.Damon also zeroed in on the increases in clerical and office support staff, from 57 to 66; technical and craft skilled, from 304 to 321; as well as semi-skilled and unskilled staffers, from 204 to 265.Where there was a decrease in contract staff and an increase in the monies allocated, Bulkan explained that the increase was to cater for annualisation of salary increases.Meanwhile, Opposition MP Gail Teixeira also questioned Government’s spending. She pointed out that $15.8 million was spent on maintenance of buildings, when only $4.1 million was budgeted.The Opposition Chief Whip was quick to ask where the money came from. Bulkan responded by saying that t was taken from sums budgeted for education delivery, which Teixeira noted was highly irregular.Bulkan was again pressed to answer several pertinent questions in relation to medical supplies within the region, but this time by Opposition MP, Dr Vishwa Mahadeo, a former regional health official.Dr Mahadeo claimed that during visits to the region, there were always complaints about the shortage of essential drugs. He asked Bulkan whether the $186.1 million budgeted for drugs and medical supplies was spent.The Minister stated that $17 million is unspent. He told the Opposition MP that a reconciliation process is currently ongoing. A truck will be purchased by the region to uplift and transport drugs and medical supplies.Concerns were also raised about fuel being sourced for the support of generators which will provide standby electricity services to healthcare facilities, particularly at the Oscar Joseph and Suddie hospitals.The House was also told that $40 million will be expended for drainage and irrigation, construction and rehabilitation throughout the region.