I attended the open Stakeholders Meeting on the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project at the National Convention Centre on 31 July, described in the programme as ‘a collaboration between the Government of Guyana and Sithe Global.’
1. Mr Winston Brassington spoke from 3.30 to 4.05 pm, and then answered all the questions addressed to the Government of Guyana. It was impossible to establish from one sentence to the next on whose behalf Mr Brassington was speaking. In one sentence his ‘we’ referred to the Government of Guyana.
The following sentence suggested that he was speaking as Chairman of GPL. The third sentence suggested that he was speaking of Amaila Falls Hydro Inc, the special purpose joint venture vehicle (SPV) created by the Government of Guyana and Sithe Global to negotiate the loans to build the dam and access road. In all future presentations, the multi-talented Mr Brassington should disclose on whose behalf he is speaking at any one time so as to avoid any possible suggestion that he might be involved in conflicts of interest.
2. One of the Sithe Global’s slides on the benefits to Guyana from the EPC (I do not know what EPC stands for) contract with China Railway First Group included the following bulleted points:
‘Use reasonable efforts to use materials produced in Guyana.
‘Use reasonable efforts to hire individuals who are Guyanese citizens and residents.
‘Actively recruit local …
‘Provide adequate contractor supervisors,’ etc.
Loose, discretionary language of this variety is not enforceable in a court of law. Go-Invest should say that this kind of discretionary language does not match Guyana’s Investment Code of 1988. Neither the Ministry of Labour nor any other government ministry has issued any figures on employment of Guyanese, or benefits to the Guyana economy from PAYE and NIS payments from the Marriott or any of the other secretly negotiated investments with Chinese companies awarded large infrastructural projects in Guyana. All such contracts should comply with our Investment Code and with the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Com-panies.
3. The three hour session on 31 July was again marked with a variety of estimates of component costs, delivered without a backing handout on paper or DVD by the Sithe/Blackstone team and Mr Brassington. I would like to reiterate the suggestion I made at the consultation: AFHI would be a special purpose vehicle used to make the largest public investment to date in Guyana. Articles 13 and 146 of Guyana’s Constitution make a commitment to inclusionary democracy of any citizens and free disclosure of information. The Guyana Energy Agency should now compile and lay before Parliament through the responsible Minister a Green Paper that sets out objectively all the pros and cons of this proposed investment, based on the GEA’s own projections of demand for and supply of electricity for the next 20-30 years and including provision for a reformed management and loss reduction by Guyana Power & Light. That should provide an agreed set of figures that can be the basis of informed discussion. The GEA may need help with such a task, as it – the GEA – has been strangely absent from the recent public debate.
The National Assembly did not approve the proposal for funds for the Amaila Falls construction in the 2013 budget proposal of the Minister of Finance.
Although US$80 million is included in the government’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (4th edition, March 2013) for purchase of equity in the Amaila Falls SPV, no project concept note (PCN) has yet been published to secure that money from the GRIF. It would be appropriate for the Office of Climate Change to prepare and circulate a PCN to use some of the GRIF money to fund the preparation of such a Green Paper, including the cost of independent expert external advice, as it would not be appropriate to rely solely on the figures produced by the potential contractors – Sithe Global Power LLC, China Railway First Group, etc – or potential lenders such as the Inter-American Development Bank. Such use of Norwegian money is entirely within the spirit of the Norway-Guyana MoU of 2009, and the PCN need be no more complex than a couple of pages.