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By Enid JoaquinLindeners had of course envisaged a ‘leap’ start (or restart) and advancement in the Town’s economic standing, with LEAP’s intervention; unfortunately they were sorely disappointed! LEAP LaunchedThe Linden Economic Advancement Programme (LEAP) was launched in 2002 with only three million Euros out of the proposed 10m Euros for the execution of the project over a seven year period.The Egbert Benjamin centre adorns the Spieghtland landscape and nearby riverfront.A Government of Guyana and European Union initiative, the programme was established with the aim of supporting and encouraging residents of Region 10 to become involved in entrepreneurship, following the continued decline of the bauxite industry, which had resulted in severe economic hardships and massive unemployment.The whole objective was to expand the Region’s economic base through diversification and ultimately move away from the “traditional bauxite dependency.”There was much excitement with the advent of LEAP, but that did not last for long, as most people were of the opinion that LEAP would establish industries and thus provide employment. That was a great misconception that would eventually turn to disillusionment.The disillusionment of course would stem from the fact that most people did not understand LEAP’s role, which was essentially for technical support, while their sister organization LEAF (Linden Economic Advancement Fund) was established to finance economic projects.But LEAF was not established until almost two years after LEAP’s launching, by which time many persons who were waiting for financial support for their projects had become disenchanted.LEAP of course had been touted as a pilot project that would have been replicated in other areas, as it was the first programme of its kind to be established in Guyana.This however did not happen, and the consensus was that the programme was a failure.But the general view of those ‘in the know’ was that for one thing, most Lindeners did not understand LEAP’s role, and on the other hand, with the mining Town mentality which nurtured dependency (for employment etc.) people were for the most part ill-prepared to venture out as entrepreneurs.However, despite the negativity with which LEAP was perceived, the organization was able to plug several millions into various projects, including the rehabilitation of the Linden/ Georgetown bus park along with booths for vendors and the building of the popular Egbert Benjamin Hall at Spieghtland, which was named after Linden’s first Mayor.That famous edifice purportedly cost some $45mil.Another project financed by LEAP was The River Front (enhancement) project, which was conceptualized and designed by popular Linden engineer and environmental awareness enthusiast Samuel Wright. Several persons had envisioned such an undertaking, but it was Wright who would present his proposal to LEAP for consideration and approval. Its establishment ostensibly cost LEAP $18mil.The River front development required the removal of several vendors on Coop Cresent who had used the sidewalk of the popular thoroughfare to hustle their goods from ugly makeshift stalls.After much persuasion, and later coercion, the vendors would finally occupy stalls which were erected on the nearby wharf, while their ugly stalls were being demolished.Those new and improved stalls were also financed with LEAP funds.The clearing of the Coop Crescent thoroughfare was like a breadth of fresh air, and people were elated when the River Front area was finally completed, with rip-rap boulders adorning the water’s edge, which had hitherto been congested with piles of garbage.Guard rails and concrete walkways, were also erected, and concrete benches strategically installed.The new and improved river front soon became the new hangout spot for Lindeners, and with the establishment of Church’s Chicken nearby,Cheap Jerseys USA, it was the place to be on weekends.There would be several weekend limes and barbeques, on the “riverwall’, but what had started out as a novelty, is now slowly becoming a nightmare, because slowly but surely our beautiful Riverfront is degenerating to its former state.Broken bottles, empty beer cans and styrofoam boxes now lay interspersed amongst the rocks, and have become an eyesore.Cleaning the area is a challenge because of the boulders.However, while cleaning the river front is a work by itself, getting residents to desist from littering the area is an even bigger challenge.Today, Wright said he is appalled at the way the Riverfront is being treated by both the Linden Municipality and RDC and by extension the general populace.He noted that both the Municipality and RDC should have put systems in place for the maintenance of the riverfront, and residents ought not to be littering in the indiscriminate manner that they have been doing.LEAP’s role in agriculture.Leap would also pump money into a Demonstration Farm at Moblissa, which was managed by a farmer by the name of Baljit (only name given).Baljit is one of the more prominent farmers in Linden. Based on that and the fact that he had the available space, the Demonstration Farm was established on his plot.The idea behind the Demonstration Farm was to develop and promote new farming techniques, which would be passed on to other farmers in the community.One of the techniques developed there was the drip irrigation technique, which involved the running of water hoses parallel to plant beds and with holes placed strategically at plant roots, which irrigated the plants by ‘dripping’ continually. Additionally, some farmers were granted land clearing assistance.LEAP would also pump money into canals and kokers for the irrigation and drainage of farmlands at West Watooka. But despite all that, farmers in this mostly farming community still suffer from severe flooding.The flooding of course is recurrent because of the irregularity with which the canals are desilted, and the issue remains a bone of contention among residents.There would be other smaller projects that LEAP would finance during its tenure, but yet unfortunately, it was generally felt that considering the economic state of the community, enough was not done.LEAP would eventually close up shop in 2009 and hand over the reins to the Linden Economic Enterprise (LEN).Now the blame has shifted, but where LEAP was accused of not doing enough, LEN is now accused of doing nothing.But it has been conceded that there is presently very little that LEN can do, when after four years, no Board of Directors has been established to direct and monitor its affairs.At a recent media conference in Linden IMC Chairman Orrin Gordon in his presentation on the State of the Linden Community, said that one year after President Donald Ramotar had promised to have a Board established for LEN’s management, nothing has been done.In the meanwhile Linden remains in limbo! (To be continued next week)Correction:In part three of this series, due to a typographical error it was inadvertently stated that MINPROC, an Australian mining company had taken  over the reins from Guymine in 1977; the year of the take over was actually 1992.
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