President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Clinton Urling is urging the government and the opposition to end the stalemate over the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project by having independent surveys and analysis done by an international firm.
At the Berbice Expo on Friday, Urling said “I humbly suggest the appointment of an independent and credible international firm, acceptable to both government and opposition, to do a current survey and assessment of the project’s economic viability. This will settle once and for all this issue and ensure national buy-in. A small price to pay to end the current stalemate.”
Voicing his support for the project, Urling noted that since the opposition did not have “confidence in the current studies and presentations to date concerning the viability and feasibility there could be no progress. Urling noted that both sides had to come to an agreement and this could be reached by having a third party assess the AFHP’s economic viability which had no stakeholder share in the project.
“At least one Opposition political party have said at one point that their support for the project will depend on IDB’s assessment and (for) others it is contingent on voting on local government elections bills and the establishment of the Procurement Commission. This to me is saying that we believe in the soundness of the project but our support is contingent on certain conditions,” Urling stated. He acknowledged that various critics have stated that the project is “shrouded in secrecy” but further said that “yet they still seem to have sufficient information to pronounce on the demerits of the project.”
Urling said that the opposition’s stance making support for Amaila contingent on various conditions such as the passing of the four local government bills and the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission needed to re-adjusted. “I say, if you genuinely believe the project is sound support it without conditions and if you believe it is flawed, oppose it with or without conditions,” Urling stated.
He noted that Guyanese firms could not compete on a global level because of the high cost of electricity. Urling urged that partisan differences be put aside to allow for what he termed “the actualization of this national development project.
Meanwhile, President Donald Ramotar stated at the Berbice Expo that an independent evaluation could increase the cost of the AFHP. The already high projected cost of US$840 million has been one of the major issues critics have had with the project with comparable projects in Uganda and Pakistan costing half the amount projected for the AFHP.
The President argued that the project could deliver on cheap energy and that “we must try to grasp this opportunity and move on with it.”
However financial experts Christopher Ram and Ramon Gaskin have noted that nowhere in the Amaila Falls Project document were there actual studies stating how the AFHP will reduce the electrical cost per kilowatt considering that GPL would have to adjust tariffs annually to cover additional costs of the project.
Gaskin had also said at a previous press conference that the true cost of the project inclusive of the high interest rates for both Sithe Global and the China Development Bank could actually see the project costing over US2.2 billion over the course of the next 20 years at which time Guyana’s demand will also exceed the energy production of the AFHP’s 165 megawatts.