President calls for national “buy in” on Amaila Falls project

Georgetown, GINA, July 25, 2013

President Donald Ramotar has dismissed as puerile, the argument that is currently being bandied around that the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project (AFHP) is too big an investment for Guyana. He was at the time addressing a wide cross-section of stakeholders at a consultation forum at the Guyana International Conference Center, Liliendaal.

The Head of State urged Guyanese to look to the future rather than just confining themselves to the present or allowing themselves to be shackled and kept in underdevelopment by the past.

President Donald Ramotar addressing stakeholders at the consultation forum on the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project at the Guyana International Conference Center (GICC), Liliendaal.

“We have to do everything we can to put this project back on stream. This is not the type of project with which we can bargain, its importance to the future development of this country must be recognised by all. All should buy-in to this,” the President urged.

He recalled that when the PPP/C Government assumed Office in 1992, the main focus at that time was fixing the social and physical infrastructure which was in a state of collapse. Today, this has been achieved to a very large extent; so much so, that Guyana is now described as a middle-income developing country.

However, there is need for new technologies and improved infrastructure if Guyana is to attain the status as a developed country, President Ramotar said.

 

“This has been mentioned in the manifestoes of other political parties as well, implying that there is the recognition for projects such as this,” he said.

Prime Minister Samuel Hinds who is also responsible for the energy sector, delivering his presentation on the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project consultation.

It was recognised as far back as the 1960s that the unavailability of cheap, reliable energy is one of the biggest inhibiting factor to Guyana’s development. At that time the PPP/C Government tried to harness the Tiger Hill Falls to generate electricity. Subsequently, in the 1970s, the then PNC Administration made a similar attempt with the Upper Mazaruni project, but this too did not get off the ground.

President Ramotar said that today, the country is very close to realising this dream of obtaining cheap electricity. This project, he said, will lead to the development of a strong manufacturing sector, will create thousands of jobs, improve the skills and educational capacity, enhance the delivery and quality of services, and facilitate the development of agro-processing industries and value-added.

The AFHP is expected to shift Guyana’s reliance on thermal generation to renewable energy, eliminate over 90% of the country’s energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, and provide energy production for approximately 90% of Guyana’s population. This 165MW hydropower generation facility has an overall cost of approximately US$840.  Guyana would be paying an average of US$100 million per annum over a 20-year period, after which the country will have complete ownership of the project.

 

Consultation with the Opposition

 

With regards to discussions with the Opposition, the President reminded that shortly after he took Office, he invited both the Alliance For Change (AFC) and the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) to be part of three organised briefings on the project. This was done so as to garner their input.

On July 18, the joint parliamentary opposition using their one-seat advantage voted down the AFHP bill and motion which has since evoked condemnation from sections of society. Government has had to reach out to key stakeholders on the project and is expected to sit down with them on the implications.

“This project should not be seen as a PPP/C project; it should be seen as a national project… we had profound consultations, the Opposition have as much information on this project as we ourselves have; we have shared almost everything,” President Ramotar said.

As it relates to comments on the debt that the country will incur as a result of this project, the Head of State reminded that in the past, debt oppressed the country, because the economy was miniscule. Today on the other hand, the economy is much bigger and has been growing continuously over the past eight years.

He also reminded that the savings that will result from the project will be enormous; noting that this project will broaden the base of the local economy, make the country more immune to financial crises, and develop and export more products.

“I believe that whatever our individual political conviction, this project is one that will touch the lives of all Guyanese in a positive way…this will be an enormous boost to our productive capacity and our revenue stream,” President Ramotar posited.

 

Economic sense

 

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Samuel Hinds reminded of the economic sense that the AFHP makes. At present, it costs about 25 cents per KWH to generate electricity using heavy fuel oil and about 30 -35 cents per KWH using diesel.

When the Amaila project comes on stream, electricity generation will cost a mere 12 cents per KWH. The Prime Minister added that, “this is what the country will lose if we do not go ahead with this project.”

Minister of Housing and Water, Irfaan Ali in his presentation said that there is no doubt of the national consensus on the AFHP, as every single past president and by extension, every Guyanese citizen recognises that the project is critical to Guyana’s development.

“Many people spoke of the economic viability of this project in terms of the positive outcomes that it will bring to Guyana…this project has built-in national consensus and support,” the Minister said.

He spoke of the International Monetary Fund’s report which projected that the Amaila project will save residential, commercial, and industrial GPL consumers approximately US $3.5B over a 20- year period.

It will also lead a dramatic 20-25 percent reduction in the country’s fuel importation bill; a saving of over US $90M. This, Minister Ali said, far outweighs the annual repayment of the project. Additionally, the project will add six percentage points to real GDP growth during the construction phase alone.

“This project is sustainable, viable and will add to the creation of national wealth…this is not a Government of Guyana investment, this is a private sector and foreign direct investment,” Minister Ali said.

 

Access road 67% completed

 

Meanwhile, during a media tour earlier this week to the AFHP access road in Region Eight, it was revealed that the road was 67 percent completed when work done on sections 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 is taken into consideration. The road works are on track thus far to meet the projected December 31, 2013, completion date.

 

Due to requirements by the funding agencies, which include the need to protect virgin forests, security checkpoints will be constructed to restrict access to the roadway, with only indigenous residents and project workers having free access.

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