Reports of an economic downturn were personified by a group of truck operators who travelled from the interior to Georgetown on Friday to complain about the economic woes gripping Guyana’s interior, and about the poor state of infrastructure.
On a good run, the group, part of Guyana’s services sector, transport containers of fuel, ration, and other important items from Georgetown to various interior locations for various clients.
However, lack of work and deplorable roads have caused many to reconsider their multi-million-dollar investments in their heavy duty vehicles, and to downsize their operations.
They made their grievances known at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition on Church Street, Georgetown.
Their concerns included a dip in the amount of work they formerly had, the poor state of the Kurupung road in Region Seven, and the extensive bureaucratic process when dealing with regulatory agencies.
Richard Adams, who operates Global Exchange Trucking Service, affirmed that he is up-to-date on his taxes and has all his compliance papers in place. But he spoke of the pressure he is facing to make ends meet, while the lack of work bites down on his finances.
“It takes three months before you can get compliance, and in my case it lasts for 28 days. Now, for me to apply for Government contracts, I have to have a compliance. But look at all these bills I’m paying and I’m getting no jobs,” he lamented.
“Apart from that, the interior road (which) we traverse is in a deplorable state, and we’re trying to ask the relevant authorities to look into it for us,” Adams said. “Because it is impossible to earn a living with the state of the interior roads,” he added.
He noted that while the Government did do some maintenance work, that work was done from Itaballi to Puruni Landing.
Adams estimated the distance from Puruni Landing to Olive Creek to be at least 60 miles. According to Adams, some of the trips that once took two days are taking more than triple that time to complete.
“It’s so deplorable (that) some of the trips we are taking 15 to 20 days to complete a round trip when we’re used to doing it in two days,” Adams lamented. The trucker also spoke about the toll he has to pay to pass through Linden. “Apart from that is the Linden toll. I don’t know why it is (that expensive). In my case, I’m paying $5000 at a toll, less than two miles later, I’m paying another $5000 to pass through Linden. And this is per trip! If we were coming out back from the interior with a load, they would ask for another $5000,” he explained.
The trucker claimed that having once owned five trucks, he is now down to his last truck. Adams spoke of the astronomical cost just to maintain that truck after almost every trip, and intimated that he may come out of the business altogether. Adams said initial unsuccessful attempts to approach the Public Infrastructure Ministry prompted him to bring his grievances to the Opposition Leader.
Adams revealed that he is solvent and has paid off all debts for ownership of his truck. However, there are some who still have to pay off vehicle loans while at the same time suffering financial drain from repairing and maintaining their heavy duty vehicles.
Other truckers who were present with Adams spoke of experiencing similar trouble.
According to Damon Motilall, the owner of one truck, he has been transporting fuel and ration for gold miners in the interior. But while mining is one of the biggest sectors in the country, the untenable condition of the road is a major concern.
“I and my family and colleagues are very affected by this. I can’t get to work — also my colleagues can’t get to work — because the road is not accessible so that we can do our jobs comfortable and earn a decent salary to maintain our families and pay our bills. We need the Government to look into our matter, to see how best they can make these roads accessible,” he declared.
Robert Henry, another trucker, is in a position of having to pay vehicle installments while having to fork up astronomical sums of money to maintain his vehicle.
“Last Thursday, I left to make a trip to Puruni, (and) only yesterday (Thursday) I returned,” Henry lamented. “The expense that it cost me, I can’t afford to maintain the truck with the deplorable condition of the road. I still owe for my truck, and I cannot maintain my family (under the prevailing) situation. So I am asking the Government if they can maintain the road and make it accessible,” he explained.