APNU MP Dr Rupert Roopnaraine says that Sithe Global’s insistence on parliamentary consensus on the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project was likely to ensure that the venture would proceed as agreed even if government changed hands.
Sithe’s representatives had signalled that the project was too large to move ahead with absent the consensus and warned they would pull out if the Hydro-Electric Power (Amendment) Bill and the Guarantee of Loans (Public Corporations and Companies) Act were not passed by consensus during the last sitting of the National Assembly. The main opposition APNU, however, after voting down the bill and motion on July 18, voted against them again last week but they were still passed after the AFC voted with the government for their passage.
As a result, Sithe made public its decision to pull out of the project.
Roopnaraine however, said that it was not the lack of consensus or national unity which caused Sithe to pull out, rather the political risks which they faced.
Such risks, although farfetched in Guyana’s democratic political system, includes the nationalisation of Amaila Falls Hydro Inc. (AFHI), the company which would have managed Amaila, once it was completed, Roopnaraine said.
Sithe’s contribution to the equity needed to finance the programme amounted to approximately US$157 million and if Roopnaraine is correct then Sithe was most likely attempting to ensure that its investment and subsequent financial benefits were secure.
Roopnaraine said, however, that the company’s need for such security was never communicated by the company to the opposition parties and he added that if this was the assurance the company was looking for it should have indicated as much.
In fact, Roopnaraine said, if this kind of consensus was so important, the company should have leaned harder on the government to address the many concerns of the opposition and civil society, particularly those financial in nature.
APNU MP Joseph Harmon, also at the press engagement yesterday, added that the ultimatum given by Sithe on the need for consensus was only linked to the July 18th deliberation which resulted in the defeat of the Amaila motion and bill. Harmon said that after the AFC and APNU voted against the bills, the government had argued that Amaila was “dead” and suggested that the company could have only used this defeat as reason for exiting the project.
He said, however, that the bill and motion were subsequently brought back and passed, thereby fulfilling the requirements for the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to proceed with the processes needed to complete its due diligence study and bring the project to its board on October 30th. APNU maintained that the bill and motion were passed by the majority of the house, as is the practice in Guyana, and Harmon said that Sithe cannot impose new requirements on the National Assembly for how such matters ought to be dealt with.
Noting the continuing bids by government to win APNU’s support for the project, Roopnaraine maintained that nothing short of “a complete reconfiguration of the project is needed if the project is to be salvaged.” This fact, he said, has been reiterated by qualified commentators, including analysts Christopher Ram and Ramon Gaskin.
Meanwhile, APNU’s Shadow Finance Minister Carl Greenidge told reporters that while the government continues to speak about its invitations to the opposition for talks, the nature of these engagements includes telling stakeholders how “wonderful” the project is and “cussing them out” if they refuse to give their support.
Greenidge said that if President Donald Ramotar, who up to yesterday morning called Leader of the Opposition David Granger to win APNU’s support for the project, wants help “he has to be respectful and ready to modify the agreement where issues have been identified.”
Similar to remarks made to Stabroek News yesterday, Greenidge yesterday said that the financial agreements for the project need to be re-packaged before APNU contemplates giving its support for its revival.
He made specific mention of the fact that the Government of Guyana would only hold 40% of AFHI as opposed to Sithe’s 60%, and said that this goes against what usually obtains in such arrangements. He also said that there must be assurances that Amaila will deliver lower tariff costs. This, he argued, has not yet been done.
Greenidge noted the arguments that Amaila will reduce Guyana’s generation cost by 40% but said that GPL’s inability to efficiently distribute the power to be supplied by AFHI will likely negate whatever reduction in tariffs that is expected.
In relation to the losses expected in light of these developments, Granger, summing up the coalition’s feelings, said that it has assessed the feelings of the Guyanese people and has concluded that the position taken was a “principled” one.
He added that APNU was confident that all of its supporters and members were firmly in support of the decision taken. Addressing the finances the country risks forgoing, Granger said that it is better to pull out now than risk the financial implications which threaten the Guyanese people if the project is proceeded with in its current form.
Meanwhile, Granger also said that the decision by the AFC to vote for the passage of the bill and motion has done nothing to damage the relationship between the two opposition parties. He told reporters yesterday that the AFC and APNU still meet to have discussions as they always have. Granger said that the AFC is not obligated to vote with APNU on every occasion and in instances, they chose to do just that. “We understand and respect their position,” Granger shared.