Interviews and photos by Shabna Ullah
`Everybody agrees that Guyana is in need of hydropower. The Amaila Falls Hydro Project is the most viable solution for Guyana’s electricity needs. From all the reports that we have had from the experts, it is an economically viable project. We understand that the cost for electricity for consumers for the first seven years of the operation of the project would be down by 40%. And in the next 13 years, we understand it would be down by almost 70%. In addition to that there is one benefit where government subsidizes GPL every year and after the project that money can be put to other use. We also understand that it will be no indebtedness to the Guyanese people because GPL will be selling electricity to the consumers and the proceeds would pay the loans. All that the Guyana government would be doing is guaranteeing the repayment. There are just a few people from the opposition who are condemning the project and I think all their questions have been answered. Sithe Global had a condition where there must be political consensus that all the parties must agree to it. The experts have explained that in the next 20 years developed and undeveloped countries would be unable to purchase fossil fuel. They would find it difficult to maintain their economy unless they find alternative source of energy. From since in the 50s Guyana’s political leaders have agreed that Guyana needs hydropower.’
‘I think it is a good project, especially if it means cheaper electricity bill for the Guyanese people. The opposition should go ahead and support it seeing that everything was done under scrutiny. If the deal was done secretly then it would have been bad because secret is for personal gain where maybe just a few would benefit. I believe that Sithe Global went away because they probably acknowledged a set of (irregularities) within the contract. Instead of their name being tarnished as an international company they decide to pull out and I see nothing wrong with that. There are other companies that can come in and build the hydro project. All these secret deals that the government signed in the past, they need to review them and realize that the opposition has the majority in the house. They cannot go about and do as they feel especially like what happen to the Berbice River. The private companies invested a lot into it and they are gaining the benefit and the commuters losing. They have to know what they’re doing. We don’t need these multi-million dollar contracts to just run down the drain and in the future our children feeling the squeeze.’
`I feel the joint Opposition is playing politics with the nation’s future and has effectively pushed a spoke into the wheel of development of our beautiful country, Guyana. Amaila Falls Hydro in my opinion would have boosted development in our country by providing cheaper, reliable electricity to the manufacturing and processing sectors of our economy. Imagine rice millers having access to cheap reliable electricity to process farmers’ paddy resulting in lower production costs and an extra dollar for the farmers. Now the Opposition’s point on finance is that Amaila should not have been a stand alone project but a part of a cluster of hydros to use the same transmission lines. Funny the way these politicians think. This in my view should have been placed on the table while approving the project, like the AFC did with the Local Government bills. The WPA’s Dr. Clive Thomas posited that by 2019 Amaila would not be able to supply the demand for power for local consumption. Imagine that the surge in industries that would have come on stream by 2019 not to mention the jobs created. Come on, this should all have been placed on the table for discussion while giving approval for Amaila and the harnessing of others to form a cluster of hydros as reflected in the speech by the goodly Shadow Finance Minister recently. Let us put Guyana first above partisan politics and don’t oppose for the sake of opposing and cheap political kudos.’
`Everybody is glad for cheap electricity and I think that the opposition should support it. I heard that Sithe Global has pulled out but I think they should come back because they already invested their money. Besides, they understand all about the project. It has already gone far so why they want to stop it now?’
Clement Murray, security guard,
`I think government is doing a good thing but it is just time before they get it done. I strongly believe that it would be something good for the Guyanese people. And all of the political leaders who are against it should come together as one and support it. They need to come off of this foolishness and think about the benefit of the people. With regards to Sithe Global, I have no comments about that.’
Goswami Balkarran, pump operator at GuySuCo,
`I really feel that all of the politicians should support the project because it is not for our benefit alone but for the children coming up. What we are looking at is that if they go ahead with this project the electricity bills would be less and we wouldn’t find it a burden to pay. The cost of living is already high and we should look at it as a way of cutting our expenses. I think the other parties should support it. I cannot say anything about the company that walked off.’
`I think cheaper electricity would be better. Recently an economist was saying that the project might not be feasible. But even if it is just for a part of the country it would still be a plus. It would be better in the long run and I heard that it can have a lifespan of 50 to 100 years. It’s a positive investment for the country because one of the reasons why we are not getting enough industrialization in the country is because we don’t have a proper power source. So if you look at it in terms of development, then yes, cheaper electricity is the way to go. Guyana already has cheap labour so if we have cheap electricity we would have foreign investors. People would be re-migrating and starting their own businesses. I am not familiar about the issue with the Sithe Global.’
`The cost for electricity is already very high and it is not easy for persons to pay all that money every month. If they are earning a small salary and most if it has to go towards electricity, how would they live? Electricity is a basic need, not luxury. People have to use irons, fans, a fridge and now every home is getting a computer. These are not the days of going backwards. The project is a way of moving forward but some people are trying to pull it backwards. Because of the country moving forward, the children are now even accelerating in the academic fields and earning up to 20 subjects at the CSEC examination.’
`To my opinion, the project would not work out because private investors and the IDB would be putting money into it. When all of these private entities get involved they would automatically become shareholders. So if we have one megawatt for $10 they would have to sell it for like $40 and the $30 would go within the shareholders. So the public would know that would lead to confusion. If I was earning $6,000 per day with my old car and I sell it and take a loan to buy a new car and start and start earning $7,000 per day I would just be making $1000. But then I would have to pay installments and use from that to sustain myself. The hydro project is a good idea but it needs proper management. Look at the Skeldon Estate. That’s a white elephant – they are losing all the time. This is a similar situation with the hydro. If the project comes off, what would be the benefits of the consumers? If the electricity cost is lowered by 50% things would work out. If I am paying $10,000 per month light bill, and after the project we pay $9,000 that is not good enough. They have to pay staff, workers and maintenance. We privatize GPL but we are getting the same amount of blackouts. Same thing with the Berbice Bridge, commuters should have been paying $1,200 instead of $2,200. It is very hard for persons who are crossing daily.’
`I am living alone and my light bill is $7,000 and $8,000 per month although I do not even own a fan and I don’t use iron.
I went in to query [at GPL] and I even tell them that I don’t have a disco [music set]. I would go to my bed very early so I don’t even burn a lot of electricity. Some people would stay on the street and read the meter and then they would go and estimate the bill and charge you whatever they feel like. It is good that they are planning to provide cheaper electricity because the times are hard and everybody is looking to save a dollar.’
`If this is progress for the country, then what is the big fuss? Everyone should support it first word because many people are struggling with the little money they earn.
It is very hard for cheap rates that is still good. The country cannot move forward if the political leaders are going to fight like that. They need to co-operate and run the country for the benefit of everybody.’