The transformation of the Lethem Aerodrome into a regional hub is closer to realisation, as the Ministry of Public Works commissioned the $185 million new and extended runway on Friday.
The construction of the new runway, which was done by H. Nauth and Sons Civil Engineering, will allow larger aircraft to land at the Lethem Airport.
Speaking at the commissioning ceremony, Minister of Public Works, Hon. Juan Edghill said the new runway would facilitate a new wave of development in Lethem and Region Nine as a whole.
The Minister said Guyana is strategically placed as a link between the Caribbean and South America, and therefore, the intention is to upgrade the Lethem Airport into a regional hub.
The next phase will see the construction of the terminal building, where passengers transfer between ground transportation and the facilities that allow them to board and disembark aircraft.
“This will bring the next wave of development. You are not just landing now, but you can have international check-in of passports, proper customs, flights coming from South America and going to South America,” he said.
This will complement the construction of the Linden to Mabura Road for which over $32 billion (US$160 million) was earmarked. Minister Edghill said the Government is engaging the private sector for the construction of a bridge across the Kurupukari River.
“This means that you will have 24-hour traffic in and out of the Region, but people must be able to get from here into Northern Brazil, deeper Brazil and other parts of South America. The traffic and the potential are great. With that, the hotel capacity in Lethem would soon be outgrown and so, we will have to have new investments in terms of hoteling,” the Minister added.
These developments will also contribute to the expansion of other sectors, including tourism, agriculture and communication.
Director-General of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Lieutenant Colonel (ret’d) Egbert Field, Chief Executive Officer of GO-Invest, Mr. Peter Ramsaroop, Regional Chairman, Mr. Brian Allicock and Mayor of Lethem, Mr. John Macedo also attended the commissioning.
The GCAA head said aviation plays a critical role in commerce and the development of the country. Recognising this, he said, the Government has begun upgrades and expansion of runways at airports across the country.
“Listening to some of the complaints and comments of not only the pilots who continuously send their remarks to the Civil Aviation Authority about the runway not being as good as it should, but they heard the complaints from the residents wanting to have a good runway, so that they can traverse to and from Georgetown.
With this programme bring undertaken, and I would say excellently and perfectly done by H. Nauth and Sons, the Government has answered and has delivered,” he said.
At the level of the GCAA, he said air traffic controllers are already being trained for the Lethem aerodrome.
Meanwhile, the GO-Invest CEO said this is the first step of President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali’s commitment of an international hub in Region Nine. Mr. Ramsaroop said he would be returning to the Region to engage the private sector on investment opportunities, incentives that are available and how the Government can partner with them to further develop the region.