The Public Infrastructure Ministry is gearing up to commence construction on the first phase of the Linden-Lethem Road Project, which will be funded by the Government of the United Kingdom through its UK Caribbean Infrastructure Partnership Fund (UKCIF) programme.In September 2015, former UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced a £300 million investment in vital new infrastructure such as roads, bridges and ports toConstruction works are to commence this year on the Linden-Lethem Roadhelp drive economic growth and development across the Caribbean region. Guyana was named among nine Caribbean states to benefit from the grant.According to the Public Infrastructure Ministry on Tuesday, construction for the first phase of the Linden-Lethem Road Project, which spans from Linden to Mabura, is expected to commence without a hitch as the Ministry will be working closely with the UK Government towards the success of the project.The first phase of the project covers approximately 122.5 kilometres of road from Linden and the construction of a bridge across the Essequibo River at Kurupukari River. This phase is currently in the design stage.As part of the collaboration with the UK Government, the Public Infrastructure Ministry said Government is seeking to engage a multi-discipline and transport sector-experienced consulting firm to assist in the preparation of a two-component capital project.The components for this capital project include the upgrade of approximately 122.5 km of road between Linden and Mabura Hill (including drainage) and construction of a new single or dual lane fixed bridge across the Essequibo River at the Kurupukari ferry crossing, which is approximately 600 metres long.While the proposed road upgrade applies only to one section of the Linden-Lethem road, the capital works on the remaining 331.5km of the laterite road will be undertaken through funding from other sources.The remaining capital works would fall under additional phases and the Public Infrastructure Ministry disclosed that it has already engaged the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) on possible funding for the stretch of road between Mabura Hill and Lethem.Earlier last week, Junior Public Infrastructure Minister Annette Ferguson met with officials from IsDB on the project and another team is slated to return to Guyana for further discussions.The final cost of Phase One of the project is not yet known but will be determined by the detailed design study being funded by the UKCIF. Meanwhile, the Infrastructure Ministry is optimistic about the success of the project. According to Chief Planning and Transport Officer, Patrick Thompson, the Ministry and the UK Government are working closely together to ensure that the project progresses smoothly.“We’ve received very favourable responses so far and we are feeling very optimistic about the progression of the first phase of this project,” Thompson noted, while adding that construction can commence in as soon as 18 months.Last month, during the 2017 Budget presentation, Finance Minister Winston Jordan speaking about “infrastructure for integration”, noted that an infrastructure network that can support rapid economic development requires huge capital investments.”This is especially true of Guyana with its sparsely populated town and village centres scattered over its 214,970 square kilometres,” he posited. To this end, Jordan noted that Government budgeted some $37.2 billion to narrow the infrastructure deficit in the country, while at the same time pursuing other financing options, including Public-Private Partnerships (P3s), for the large-scale transformative projects.“We have been waiting for over five decades to bridge the coastal and hinterland divide, and create national and hemispheric inter-connectivity via the Linden to Lethem corridor. A recent Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) market demand study has reinforced that this corridor is essential for creating a link between our road and sea transportation networks,” he added.According to the Finance Minister, Government intends to exploit the competitive advantage of the country’s strategic geo-physical and geo-political location on the South American mainland along the Atlantic Coast.