THE morale of the residents of the Upper Berbice River community of Kwakwani is higher than before and their expressions of satisfaction over the many infrastructural projects that are being executed are proof that their community is no longer neglected and, as they put it, “they are no longer treated as Region 11.” Playing an integral role in this development is the National Industrial & Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL) with its state property renovation project, amongst other things.
Being a community that was managed by the bauxite company in the past, many of the buildings in Kwakwani are owned by the state and are therefore in the custody of NICIL. These buildings were neglected by the previous management of the organization and were in fact slated for demolition. These include the State House– the official property to be used by the President, Prime Minister or Ministers of Government, when they visit the community; the Management Centre which was the recreational facility used by the managers and staff of the bauxite company who resided in the community and a guest house for visiting staff and all residential buildings that formerly housed bauxite workers.
With these buildings being in a dilapidated state, there was much to be desired about the aesthetics of Kwakwani. The community looked gloomy and down trodden and this affected the morale of the people and the social and economical atmosphere.
Under the stewardship of NICIL’s Chief Executive Officer (ag), Colvin Heath-London, a decision was made not to demolish the many buildings, but to renovate them, thus returning them to their former glory. Millions of dollars have been expended in this renovation project and residents are very upbeat about the process. The State House and the Management Centre are now spanking new buildings, completely transformed, giving the area the face lift it deserves.
Not holding back her expressions of appreciation was the Chairman of the Kwakwani Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC), Elsie McPherson, who said that Kwakwani was filled with dilapidated buildings and this made the residents feel as though they were outcasts, since no attention was being paid to the community. “Previously, we believed that we were an outcast because people paid us no mind, everybody is happy and more so when you are creating jobs,” she said.
NICIL’s CEO, Heath-London explained that as the custodian of many of the state buildings countrywide which have been neglected, his reasoning is, if they are left in a state of disrepair, the value of the buildings will be reduced and the value of the organization will be reduced as well, so it is important that that these buildings be renovated for the longevity of NICIL. He also added that the buildings have unique architecture and were deemed modern during the era in which they were constructed. It is therefore important that they should be left for future generations to enjoy. “With me looking at it, I knew that we could have brought it back and preserve the history for this generation and future generations,” he posited. The renovations will also serve as a means of garnering funds for the community and the organization, since the Management Centre is a guesthouse, restaurant and bar, with amenities such as a swimming pool, tennis court, etc.
Kwakwani youth, Royston Downer, said that is a great boost for youth development since the Centre is open to the public. “I like that you can play the tennis there, it is more activities for the youths in the community, since there wasn’t much, youths can gravitate to activities that are constructive, rather than to lime and do things that can make them delinquent,” he said.
Other properties under NICIL’s care around Guyana are similarly being renovated. These include properties in Rosignol, Skeldon, West Bank Demerara, Georgetown, amongst others. In Linden, the renovation of the Watooka Guest House, which was also done by NICIL, is the talk of the town and has significantly boosted the hospitality sector.
Big plus for job creation
In addition to improvement in the community’s appearance and creating services, what residents are more grateful for is that the project is creating job opportunities in the community, not only through the construction by utilizing local content, but for permanent employment. “NICIL has done these works internally by utilizing local content. We have employed local artisans; we have insisted that local people carry out these jobs, so that the monies being spent can stay into the community. The jobs were supervised by the engineers, but to ensure the monies stay in the community, all other persons were employed from right there,” Heath-London explained.
In addition, he said that all permanent staff, including security, cooks, maids and auxiliary etc, will be employed from Kwakwani. NDC Chairman McDonald also stressed that with limited job opportunities in Kwakwani, she is very pleased that jobs will be created for the residents, especially young people.
Resident Ann Gilkes said, ” the renovation of State House and Management Centre it is a big boost for the community, it will benefit the community also with employment because eight guards alone will be employed; that is very, very good.”
NICIL has also embarked on regularizing the many acres of land on which residents have been living on for generations but have no legal documentation of ownership.
The surveying process has commenced and residents have been invited to submit the relevant documentation needed for regularization. While over 600 residents in Linden and other Region Ten communities, such as Coomacka, have already been regularized by NICIL, Heath-London said that it is necessary that Kwakwani residents enjoy the same benefit. “We are pushing ahead with the process; many persons were given lands, but the process of ownership has never been completed. NICIL has started to regularize in other areas and for these people to enjoy prosperity, there must be ownership; it is unfair, three generations lived and maintained these properties and do not have ownership,” he stressed. NICIL, he said, is working as fast as the other government agencies would allow for the process to be expedited. Residents have expressed optimism that the process will reach fruition and they soon will be presented with their titles. ” I am hoping and praying; I have confidence that the government will be victorious again, it will make me more independent. I always want a piece of land,” resident Middoln Dettaan said, adding, “it will empower me.”
NICIL is also contributing to business development in Kwakwani by providing entrepreneurial training for residents and technical support in an effort to enhance the standard of living of the community.
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