Political blackmail and act of terrorism – President- on Opposition’s voting down of Amaila Bill, motion

Georgetown, GINA, July 19, 2013

Political blackmail was how President Donald Ramotar described the opposition’s vote against legislation relevant to the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project, (AFHP) in the National Assembly last evening.

There is still outrage from all quarters about the outcome of the July 18 sitting of the National Assembly and a feeling of despair about the prospect of Guyana transforming its electricity generation into a cheaper and more reliable source.

The Guarantee of Loans (Public Corporations and Companies) Act and the Hydro-Electric Power (Amendment) Bill 2013 were voted against after government took the stance that the  political opposition had sought to undermine its agenda by rearranging the order sequence of the sitting, bringing up four local government reform bills.

The Guarantee of Loans (Public Corporations and Companies) Act would have allowed the Government to secure a higher guarantee on the project while the “Hydro-Electric Power (Amendment) Bill 2013 sought to establish a protected area for biodiversity conservation.

“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,” President Ramotar said during an address to the nation today.

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. Yesterday (July 18), the opposition continued to hold the project hostage to other demands by voting down Amaila,” President Ramotar said.

It is now envisaged that the hydro electric project will likely face another delay by five years and it appears as though the calls that were coming from all quarters including the Private Sector Commission (PSC) for haste in the passage of the bills have fallen on deaf ears.

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, shattering  hopes that the new configuration of the parliament would have fostered unity in the interest of the populace.

The AFHP, a priority under the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) is Guyana’s the medium and long- term strategy electricity sector where cheap and reliable supply of energy will be sourced, for the benefit of the domestic and commercial consumers.

“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.

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% 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.”

With a lifespan of about 75 years, President Ramotar explained that that project is a build operate and transfer project that will belong to Guyana 20 years after operation.  “This means that at least for fifty – five 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 concluded.

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