President says he will continue working to bring cheaper energy –hopes opposition will put the interest of the people first

Georgetown, GINA, August 12, 2013

Amidst disappointment that a lack of unanimity caused prestigious international partners to walk away from the Amaila Falls Hydropower (AFHP) project, and that US$15M in preparatory works would have gone to waste, President Donald Ramotar remains hopeful.

In an address to the nation today, the Head of State reiterated that he will continue pursuing efforts to convince investors to reverse their decision and hopes that the political opposition, particularly, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) “put the interests of our people above narrow party lines and rise to the call to support this project.”

Still taken aback by lingering concerns about the hydro project taking a toll on the taxpayers’ dollar and media reports that miss certain indisputable facts, President Ramotar reiterated that the total public debt for Amaila Falls is nought.   The total cost to the taxpayer is US$100 million in equity, of which US$15million has already been spent and (US80 million) of the remainder is already deposited in the GRIF and is awaiting transfer.  The future cost to the taxpayer is limited to the outstanding amount needed for the access road.

The Head of state stressed that the total public debt for the project which is zero, has been lost the most in the majority of recent media coverage.

“The total savings to the taxpayer because of the removal of GPL’s subsidy will be at least US$30 million per year, or US $600 million over 20 years – far in excess of the US$100 million provided by the tax payer in equity. The total reductions to the consumer tariff will decrease because of Amaila Falls,” President Ramotar said.

Being at the forefront of the campaign for the AFHP since winning the 2011 General Elections, President Ramotar has maintained his determination to make the project a reality since the August 10 announcement by Sithe Global to withdraw.

The company, whose interest in the hydro project was also hinged on a unified consensus in Guyana, had cited the slashing of the debt ceiling guarantee from $130 billion to $50 billion as one of the main reasons for the decision to retreat.

The Hydroelectric Amendment bill and amended debt ceiling motion were voted down by APNU upon its return to the National Assembly on August 7, despite last minute support from the Alliance For Change (AFC).

“This is even after we acceded to their request to confine the debt ceiling to only the Amaila Falls Project. Unfortunately, the AFC did, too little too late.  Sithe Global and Blackstone wanted full Parliamentary support for this project because of the magnitude of their investment,” President Ramotar said.

With the coming of hydropower Guyana was within reach of growth rates of more than 10 percent per annum but due to the “short-sighted position and a clear reluctance or inability to rise above narrow political agendas” Guyana is in danger of losing much more money, President Ramotar said.

Transparency had been the political opposition’s main reservation about construction of the hydro project despite being privy to presentation from the experts a site visit and confidential documentations.

President Ramotar recalled the two opposition parties engaging the Government and Sithe Global and in Parliament, Prime Minister Samuel Hinds and the Minister of Finance Dr  Ashni Singh.

He also assured that they were fully up to date with the critical junctions and timelines to be met.

“I emphasised to the opposition leaders that their buy-in was critical to the success of this, the largest single transformative project ever undertaken in the history of our nation.  I mentioned that I did not want to taint this project in wild charges of corruption.   Finally, I made it clear that we were ready to answer any question and provide as much information as we could to satisfy their concerns,” President Ramotar said.

“At that same meeting, we offered to give them similar presentations on any of the other major projects we had on-going or in the pipeline – I asked them if they were interested to let me know.  I never heard from them on any of these projects,” he stated.

Other agreements that were commercially confidential were shared with the opposition, so that there could be full disclosure and clear understanding of the critical stages of the project.

“They were also advised on the two parliamentary interventions that would have to be submitted and supported in order to conclude the financing of this project.  Copies of the Hydro-Electric Power Bill and the motion on the increasing of the debt ceiling in order to guarantee the investment were shared with the opposition delegation.  Although the AFC was not present they too received the volumes of documents shared with the APNU,” he explained.

“I must also stress that labour and private sector bodies were active in discussing the merits of this project to Guyana and in meeting with the Parliamentary opposition parties calling on them to support the project.”

With respect to opposition’s claims that there was not full disclosure on the project, the president stated that, “the Opposition parties cannot say that there was not full disclosure or that they were not fully engaged on this project.  They were privy to exactly the same information that the Government had”.

Following the surprising rejection of the two important pieces of legislation, the Government, met National Stakeholders at a forum on July 25 where over 300 representatives from the labour movement, the business community, religious and faith based organisations, women, youth and Amerindians were in attendance.

The Forum concluded with a declaration calling on the opposition parties to support the project and was followed by a similar engagement in which Sithe Global and its parent company Blackstone met privately with the opposition parties and held a public consultation.

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