GEORGETOWN, Guyana, CMC – President Donald Ramotar has described as “political blackmail” moves by the opposition legislators not to support measures aimed at raising the guarantee limit of loans for the development of hydro-electricity in the country.
Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh said that the passage of Hydro-Electric Power (Amendment) Bill as well as the accompanying motion to increase the guarantee limit of loans, from GUY$1 billion to $150 billion (One Guyana dollar = US$0.01 cents) was necessary to ensure the continued development of the country.
The Alliance for Change (AFC) and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) control 33 of the 65 seats in the National Assembly, and debate on the issue as well as the long-awaited reformed local government bills were deferred Thursday after the ruling People’s Progressive Party (PPP/Civic) government refused to proceed with the order voted for by the opposition.
The opposition first wants government to support reforms to the local government laws, the establishment of a Public Procurement Commission (PPC) to fight corruption and the presidential assent of opposition-piloted bills.
President Ramotar said the “government made it clear that support for the bill was a pre-condition to complete due diligence by the IDB (Inter American Development Bank). The legislative amendment was expected to be completed by the end of July”.
The IDB Board of Directors is scheduled to meet in October for consideration of the loan and President Ramotar had announced that there was little objection during the last environmental assessment on the project.
“Additionally, having met with the government on numerous occasions and being privy to all information including technical presentations, a tour of the access road and engagements with the IDB, Sithe Global and the private sponsor, the joint opposition’s vote against the bills relevant to the hydro project remains baffling.
“Moreover, despite no serous objections by the opposition in any of these fora, the Joint Opposition still voted against the bills. More troubling is that they fully understand the negative ramifications for Guyana’s development, Ramotar said in a nationwide broadcast, adding on July 18 “the opposition continued to hold the project hostage to other demands by voting down Amaila”.
The government is warning that the hydro electric project will likely face another delay by five years and it is the second such occasion that the political opposition has clearly demonstrated their intention to use their one seat combined majority advantage as a bargaining chip.
“Electricity is one of the most basic needs of a population. The need for and, impact of cheap electricity is not something that any reasonable person should think is open for debate… hydropower will bring greater benefits to every single Guyanese,” President Ramotar said.
He said the project holds the promise of significant reductions in blackouts and boosting operations of the processing and manufacturing sectors.
“It will bring down the cost of electricity to consumers by between 25 – 40 percent of what we pay now. It will also allow us to reduce our carbon footprint further and earn millions of US dollars in carbon credits. It will save our country billions from reducing the importation of fuel oil for the generation of electricity. Indeed at today’s price we would save as much as G$40 billion per annum.”
President Ramotar said with a lifespan of about 75 years, the project is a build operate and transfer one that will belong to Guyana 20 years after operation.
“This means that at least for 55 years the cost of generating electricity from that station would be just its operational cost. Hydro-power in Guyana is overdue by a generation,” the President stated.
“I want to assure you that this Government will continue to pursue options to bring cheap and reliable electricity to you the Guyanese people. We will not be swayed by narrow-minded political agendas looking to stymie our development thrust. We will persevere.
“We will continue to act in the best interest of our Guyanese people. I ask you to support your Government in this pursuit. As your President, my action will only be in your best interest and the progress of this nation,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Private Sector Commission (PSC) has described as “disconcerting” the posture being taken by the opposition that they would not support the project unless government approves a raft of local government laws.
Chairman of the PSC’s Communications sub-committee, Kit Nascimento is calling on the opposition to detail aspects of the 165 megawatt facility that it found objectionable.
“What we’re not interested in is that they will only agree to it if the government agrees to some other things…There are some projects that we believe are extremely nationalist that are apolitical and non-political in nature and that the country should not be made to pay the consequences of losing them because they reach beyond political considerations,” he said.