Photo: Larry Luxner
The headquarters of the 15-member Caribbean Community (Caricom) in Georgetown was built by Vikab Engineering Consultants Ltd., one of the Caribbean’s leading consulting firms.
Private Sector Continued from Page 15 plant imported from India, which enables BK to build asphalt-surfaced roads 40 percent more cheaply than before. In 2009 — in partnership with K. Nauth Consortium — BK rehabilitated 40 kilometers of the Berbice Highway to Moleson Creek at a cost of $15 million. At present, BK is rehabilitating a number of important highways in Guyana, including Georgetown’s new access road to Cheddi Jagan International Airport. Courtney Benn
BK Quarries, a unit of the parent company, owns the largest quarry facility in the Caribbean, supplying 75 percent of Guyana’s construction stone needs at half the cost of imported lower-quality stone and saving the country millions of dollars in foreign exchange. BK Quarries currently supplies 60,000 blocks of concrete per month for construction of the Marriott Hotel rising within sight of Tiwarie’s office. BK Marine, meanwhile, ranks as the
largest shipping company in Guyana, with a fleet of tugs, barges and cargo vessels that transport rice, plywood, fuel, cement, steel and other basic commodities throughout the Caribbean and South America. The Courtney Benn Group of Companies is another major Guyanese privately owned family business — and an important player in con struction, engineering, shipbuilding, infrastructure and real estate. Founded in 1983 by Courtney and Brenda Benn, the company has $10 million in annual revenues and has completed more than 400 projects — many of them relating to the state sector, where competitive bidding is the norm. CEO Courtney Benn started out as a welder working for Bookers Shipping. The company has built everything from ships for the Guyana Defence Force to the radar tower at Cheddi Jagan International Airport. Two years after its founding, the group spun off its first subsidiary, Brenco Shipping & Trading Co. Ltd., to handle sourcing and import of ship spares and other supplies. It acquired the M.V. Brenco to transport sugar from various estates in Berbice to the Demerara Sugar Terminal in Georgetown. Benn’s Compustruct Engineering Inc. unit, established in 1996 to provide computer services and undertake construction projects valued at less than $1.5 million, has completed 78 such contracts in road building, water supply, bridges, culverts and electrical jobs. And Benn’s newest subsidiary, Cumberland Developers Inc., was established in 2011 and focuses on residential real estate sales and development. It has secured 50 acres of land at Providence on East Bank
Demerara — a 15-minute drive from Georgetown — where it plans a gated community of 200 luxury and high-end homes. “We’re now finishing an 18-month road-building project on the east coast that involved the driving of 1,100 piles,” said Benn, whose share of the contract was worth $5 million. That project was financed by the Barbadosbased Caribbean Development Bank. A regional player is Vikab Engineering Consultants Ltd., one of the Caribbean’s leading consulting firms that services clients from its main office in Port of Spain, Trinidad. The company, owned by Managing Director Hardutt Punwasee, a member of Guyana’s Diaspora, specializes in architectural design, quantity surveying and project management as well as civil, structural, mechanical and electrical engineering. Vikab is best known for having planned and supervised construction of the impressive headquarters of the 15-member Caribbean Community (Caricom) in Georgetown, as well as the arrivals terminal at Cheddi Jagan International Airport. “Our success is based on first-hand knowledge of our operating environment, gained through extensive consultation with stakeholders, with respect for the culture and customers of the countries in which we work,” says Punwasee. Vikab’s long list of major projects also includes the headquarters of Guyana’s New Building Society Ltd., the National Public Health Reference Laboratory, the Geddes Grant warehouse, the Berbice campus of the University of Guyana, and various schools, hospitals, clinics and other public buildings throughout the country.
The company has also supervised the construction of hotels across the Caribbean, including Tobago’s Grafton Beach Resort and two properties in St. Lucia: the Wyndham Morgan Bay Beach Resort and La Jalousie Plantation Resort, now the Hilton. It has substantial experience working with projects financed by the World Bank, European Union, Inter-American Development Bank, Caribbean Development Bank and the Canadian International Development Agency. Another private sector success story is Demerara Distillers Ltd., which ranks as one of Guyana’s largest private companies. With annual sales of $70 million, Demerara Distillers is the country’s leading bottled and bulk rum exporter. The award-winning company, which traces its roots to 1670, is chaired by Yesu Persaud, who joined Demerara Distillers in 1975. Today, the Georgetown distillery is owned by 9,200 shareholders that include all 1,000 of its employees as well as European and Canadian investors. “We have gone through some hard, difficult times but we’ve survived, and today we’re a very diverse company,” said Persaud. “We’re now in shipping and convenience stores. We do PepsiCola, 7 Up and Slice, and we have a Tetra Pak plant producing fruit juice.” Persaud, at 77, is an icon of Guyana’s business community. He said that while the country has tremendous potential, there is room for improvement. “The government has to be more pro-active. This is a huge country with huge resources, but it’s underde veloped,” he said. “We can transform Guyana into not only the breadbasket of the Caribbean, but suppliers to the world at large.”
April • May 2013