Huge China loan for GPL transmission system inked

Minister of Finance Dr Ashni Singh on Monday signed another agreement with the Chinese government for a US$39.6M loan that will be used on an Infrastructural Development Project for the Guyana Power and Light (GPL).

According to a Government Information Agency (GINA) press release Dr Singh signed the agreement with Chinese Ambassa-dor to Guyana Zhang Jungao for a concessional loan from the Export-Import Bank of China (China’s Eximbank) in Beijing. The loan will be provided at a low interest rate, GINA said. The precise figure was not disclosed. This loan has been spoken of for sometime now.

The Project will see significant investment in upgrading transmission lines from Kingston, Georgetown to Versailles, West Bank Demerara via submarine cables, Sophia to George-town, Sophia to Onverwagt, overhead cables from Versailles to Edinburgh, West Coast Demerara. It will also facilitate the construction of seven new substations at Georgetown, D’Urban Backlands, Diamond, Good Hope, Mahaica, Versailles, Edinburgh and upgrades to Onverwagt and Sophia.

Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, who is also the subject minister for the energy sector, said the agreement will allow “the maturing of our electricity sector.” Hinds said the sector has come a far way from providing “very poor service” to, over the last two decades, a greatly improved service. However, he said there was still “more to do.” He noted that while Guyana’s electricity system is still somewhat rudimentary when compared to other countries, government has remained consistent in its efforts to upgrade it.

The Prime Minister explained that government’s “prudent management” of the economy has allowed it to take steps to ensure that citizens benefit from an improved supply of electricity. “It wasn’t done before because we needed to take steps that are sound … so we are glad that we have been afforded this support in the form of a concessionary loan with no implications on electricity tariff as would have been the case in a commercial loan,” he said.

Hinds gave assurances that at the close of the project there should be a significant reduction in power outages and unstable voltages. He said government was grateful for the support and it was hopeful for additional support from China for the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project.

The Finance Minister said the project represents yet another manifestation of the strong bilateral relationship between Guyana and China, emphasising that Guyana is one of the first countries in Caricom to establish such relations with China. He said the Project will also support the installation of a fibre optic link, the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system, which will better enable communications and control of the system from a centralised location. “Once completed, we will have a more robust transmission and distribution network through the integrated coastal operations of GPL, which essentially extends from Skeldon to Parika,” he said.

Singh asserted that this upgrade to the network is a critical pre-requisite for the construction of the hydropower system and the import of power from that system onto the national grid. Additionally, the Project will also facilitate more efficient load distribution to regulate the current system where some parts of the grid experience surplus generation and other parts experience surplus demand. “This project will take us closer to achieving more efficient and more optimal load distribution,” Singh said.

According to GINA, the minister also said he was satisfied with the diligence with which both parties have worked to bring the Project to fruition and that it should be completed within 30 months.

Ambassador Jungao in brief remarks said that he is confident that the Chinese contractors will complete the Project to high standards and within the allotted time frame. He also announced that the third China-Caribbean Forum and the 11th Guyana-China Joint Committee on Economic and Trade Forum, which will be held later this year with the aim of enhancing and promoting further co-operation between the two countries, will lead to more social and economic developmental programmes for Guyana.

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