Corentyne River bridge will be built within 5 years – Suriname President

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Surinamese President Chan Santokhi (centre) during his visit to Nickerie (Photo by CDS)

A bridge across the Corentyne River, bridging Guyana and Suriname, has been a topic of discussion for years but has not progressed to actual construction.

Only recently, Surinamese President Chan Santokhi revealed that financiers are ready to back the bridge, while promising that it will be completed during his term in office.

Santokhi was quoted making this assertion by Suriname news agency Starnieuws on Sunday. He was at the time on an official visit with some of his Council of Ministers to Nickerie, a district in Suriname that faces Guyana’s coast, when he spoke about the Corentyne crossing.

The Surinamese President assured residents of Nickerie that the bridge will be built within his term, which is a five-year period.

According to Starnieuws, Santokhi also announced that the Surinamese have “firm agreements” with Guyana’s President Dr Irfaan Ali.

“There are financiers ready, but we have to prepare well and go through the file carefully, so that we do not make mistakes with matters that were agreed in the recent past,” Santokhi was quoted by Starnieuws as saying.

According to the Dutch newspaper, Santokhi believes that the construction of the bridge can be done together by the two countries and co-financed by the Private Sector, in a Public-Private Partnership (PPP). The newspaper also reported some of the benefits Santokhi believes will be derived from the bridge.

One such benefit is to increase cooperation between Guyana and Suriname, while improving the flow of passengers and goods traffic between borders. Another benefit is to decrease the opportunity for smuggling, illegal transportation and corruption. In fact, the news outlet also quoted the President as saying that “it will be completely free; we will all arrange and agree on that properly.”

Santokhi was also quoted by Starnieuws as saying that several working groups will be involved in the process. Among these are the Working Group on Persons and Goods Traffic between Suriname and Guyana.

During a recent interview with the media, President Ali had cited the bridge over the Corentyne river as one of several projects that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) intends to pursue now that they are in Government.

For some time, a bridge linking Guyana and Suriname has been teased, with the former PPP Government entering discussions with Suriname on the project. Following the change of Government in 2015, however, talks on the project petered out.

But Ali was optimistic that negotiations on the bridge will be advanced and the two countries can move forward with the project. And indeed, there have been opportunities for discussions between the two leaders, with President Santokhi visiting Guyana in August, soon after President Ali was sworn in.