Opposition awaiting meeting with GPL on restoring subsidy

APNU executive member Joe Harmon says that the main opposition wants a sit down with executives of the Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL) before it can decide on restoring any of the $5.2B subsidy that was slashed from its intended allocations for the year, while the AFC says that the company still has not provided adequate reasons for the party to consider restoring the amounts.

GPL CEO Bharat Dindyal has mandated that all Stabroek News questions be put through the company’s Public Relations Office (PRO) and therefore could not be directly contacted for a comment on the parties’ claims. The company’s PRO was not available for comment. Attempts to solicit a response from Winston Brassington, Chairman of GPL’s Board, were also unsuccessful as he said that he was out of the country and could not speak.

Earlier this year, APNU and the AFC decided to slash around half of the allocations proposed by government in its budget for GPL’s 2013 operations. The parties argued and continue to argue that their decision was justified since the government failed to adequately defend the amounts intended for the company, especially when one considers the significant losses that persist.

Immediately after the cuts were made, the company warned that fewer funds to carry out its operations could result in a tariff increase, the postponement of several projects, the reshuffling of resources or a combination of all three.

Dindyal had also said that the lack of funds may even lead to a reduction in the company’s staff.

In an attempt to negotiate a “middle ground,” government officials have since engaged the opposition on the restoration of the amounts on the company’s behalf.

The engagements are occurring against the backdrop of a proposal by GPL to increase tariff levels by 26.7%. President Donald Ramotar has since directed the company’s management to hold off on seeking the increase as the government looks at ways of restoring the subsidy. So far, the government has held several meetings with the opposition parties at which GPL issues have been raised, although Harmon says that none of the meetings held concerned GPL exclusively.

APNU and the AFC, however, both remain unconvinced and have criticised the company’s move for higher tariffs.

Harmon says that APNU is desirous of having engagements with members of GPL’s management, since they are the ones at the helm of the power company. He says that it is important for it to have a “face to face” with GPL’s managers so they can explain why they need the money which they are asking for. Despite several meetings with the government, the opposition has never met with the company officers on the matter.

According to Harmon, after such an engagement, the coalition may decide to restore some or the entire amount that was cut. There is also the possibility that it will decide against awarding any additional funding, he added.

Harmon also chastised the company’s attempts to criticise the work of the opposition. He said that the opposition is fulfilling its responsibility by scrutinising not just the funds intended for GPL, but for all other institutions and bodies which stand to receive finances at the expense of taxpayers. He said that instead of taking on a political role, the company should focus on explaining its position.

AFC leader Khemraj Ramjattan, on the other hand, said that neither the government nor GPL has done enough to convince the party to consider restoring some or the entire subsidy. In fact, Ramjattan said, there may be attempts to curtail efforts to cut losses the company has become well known for. Ramjattan, however, added that he needs to investigate the matter a bit more before he makes firmer pronouncements. He did say though that the AFC will continue to oppose any attempts to restore funding to GPL unless the company and the government prove that they have the will to seriously address the losses.

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