Technical experts studied Ansa McAl proposal

MoU not secret, government says

The government has denied that the bio-fuel Memoran-dum of Understanding (MoU) signed with Ansa McAl was “secret” and said that the Trinidadian conglomerate was selected after their proposal was scrutinized by technical experts in the field of bio-energy.

“To suggest this was a secret deal is not only misleading but a gross misrepresentation of the reality and part of the continued campaign to cast aspersions on the PPP/C Government,” the statement issued through the Government Information Agency said. The signing of the MoU, which was done on September 30 last year, was never announced publicly here and it was only last week reported on by the Trinidad Guardian following on a statement issued by Ansa McAl.

Opposition leader David Granger has said that the agreement is another that should be added to the list for review. The opposition parties have expressed concern about the secret signings of commercial deals in the previous Bharrat Jagdeo administration, particularly in the waning days of his term in office and they have raised the issue in tripartite talks with the Donald Ramotar administration. They have asked that a task force be set up to review these deals. Not enough information is in the public domain, Granger told Stabroek News on Saturday.

In its statement, the government said that it rejects the “continued misrepresentation” of the “various government projects and initiatives which seek to transform the country,” the latest being the MoU between the Govern-ment of Guyana (GoG) and Ansa Mcal Group on exploring the possibility of ethanol production in Guyana.

The statement said that the government has recognized the importance of energy security and took the initiative of hosting the Caribbean’s first forum on expanding Bio Energy Opportunities in the Caribbean of August 2007. This forum resulted in the Inter American Development Bank partnering with the GoG through technical cooperation to expand bio- energy opportunities in Guyana.

According to the statement, in July 2010, the GoG through public tendering awarded a contract to NUMARK Associates Inc of the United States for the Service Consultancy to expand bio-energy opportunities in Guyana.  As part of the Terms of Reference, NUMARK was tasked with compiling a list of potential bio-energy investors who may be interested in investing in Guyana.

“Based on the NUMARK’s report and the proposals received from investors, ANSA McAl was selected after their proposal was scrutinized by technical experts in the field of Bio Energy, which was subsequently approved and signed on September 30, 2011 and witnessed by representatives of the Government and ANSA McAL,” the statement said.

It added that similar accusations were made in relation to the impending project to modernize and expand the airport, the plan to construct the Marriot Hotel and the ongoing One Laptop per Family project. “In all of these cases, the accusation of lack of transparency was refuted. All of these projects were developed through a public procurement process. The Government challenges any publication or political group to show where these projects were done in secret and not consistent with our various laws and regulations,” the statement said.

The secret signing of a deal in Jamaica for a Chinese company to undertake the construction of a new terminal at the Cheddi Jagan Inter-national Airport, Timehri and the expansion of its runway only came to light after it was reported in the Jamaican media. No announcement was made here. The political parties and various members of society have also expressed concern at the manner in which other projects have been awarded and undertaken.

The proposed biofuels project is to be undertaken on lands in the Canje Basin. According to the Guardian report, the ethanol plant is projected to have a capacity to process up to 2,000,000 tons of sugarcane per year and produce up to 40 million gallons (nameplate capacity) of ethanol per year. The agro-energy industrial project will be built on 110,000 hectares of virgin land.

Back in 2009, Jagdeo had said that the cost of infrastructure in the East Canje Reservoir Scheme is high, thus making the project’s economics “a little bit on the low side.” He had said that funds arising out of engagements with Norway and others could catalyze larger scale investment. He explained that small investments of about $10M or $20M in infrastructure can catalyze larger investments in projects.

Jagdeo, at the time, indicated that in the development of a local bio-fuel sector, Guyana will likely pursue next-generation bio-fuels, which are not made from food crops. For a decade or so, bio-fuel has been on the agenda but the Guyana government has made little progress on a deal until the announcement with Ansa.