President envisages Amaila project will end power woes in three to four years

Amidst the ebb and flow of the political controversy plaguing the Amaila Falls Hydroelectric Project, President Donald Ramotar believes that the worst of the country’s electricity woes could be over “within three to four years’ time” if the anticipated deal for the completion of the project is signed by the end of the year.

The President made the projection while speaking at an open day hosted by the Mahaica-Mahaicony-Abary/Agricultural Development Authority (MMA/ADA) on Wednesday last.

Government has been seeking to restore credibility to the previously highly touted project which has come under critical public and political scrutiny in the wake of revelations regarding the performance of Synergy Holdings Inc, the firm originally contracted to execute the approximately US$835 million contract.

In view of both public and private sector headaches over the country’s exorbitant fuel bill and the impact of high electricity costs on the country’s manufacturing sector, the completion of the Amaila Falls project has been linked to aggressive expansion of the country’s productive sector, as well as an end to power outages which have plagued both the domestic and business sector for decades.

President Donald Ramotar addressing the MMA/ADA Open Day on Wednesday

President Ramotar’s “three to four years” projection for the completion of the project assumes that there are no more unforeseen delays to pressing ahead with concluding a contract with Amaila Falls Hydro Inc (AFH) the local company set up specifically to ensure the completion of the 165-megawatt hydropower facility. AFH had said more than a month ago that it expected “financial closure during the second quarter of 2013” and that the access road project, one of the key areas of controversy with Synergy Holdings Inc, would commence thereafter. The timetable for the completion of the project as envisaged by AFH is reportedly three and a half years.

The hydropower project began amid controversy when the government awarded a US$15.4 million contract to Fip Motilall’s Synergy Holdings Inc to construct the access road. After delays, the government eventually cancelled the contract in January this year.

From the outset, the contract awarded by the Bharrat Jagdeo administration, had been the source of major controversy. It was argued that Motilall had never built roads of the type he was being awarded and that he should never have gotten the contract. Despite this, the contract was awarded and from the very start he fell behind contract deadlines.

Additionally, concerns have since been raised over the involvement of the Chinese company, China Railway First Group in the execution of the project.

President Ramotar alluded to the “direct and indirect” spinoffs which he says will flow from the completion of the Amaila Falls Project, the latter being an end to the protracted public disquiet associated with blackouts and the former being the channelling of funds currently expended on fuel into the productive sector including the agricultural sector.

Plagued for decades by high electricity costs, additional investments associated with the installation of on-site electricity generation facilities and the inability of the manufacturing sector to compete with those in some Caribbean territories on account of higher production costs, the local private sector had given the Amaila Falls Project its unequivocal backing and is now keen to see its completion.

Meanwhile, President Ramotar says he is backing the move by General Manager of the MMA/ADA Aubrey Charles to repossess leased state lands, which have been rented out by leaseholders.

Charles revealed that these state lands, situated aback of villages, were leased rent-free to more than 100 persons, who are currently residing outside of Guyana. These persons have, however, rented the lands to farmers, who are currently cultivating them. Charles said the MMA/ADA will be taking repossession initiatives in January 2013.

Stabroek Business understands that the leasing arrangements were put in place during the 1970s for periods of 25 years, though the authority has informed this newspaper that they now extend to 50 years.

The original lessees were granted several acres of state lands with the understanding that they would pursue agricultural projects. Those who have rented the land to other persons would be in breach of that arrangement.

Charles said the land will be repossessed and formally turned over to the current occupants under new arrangements.

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