The Private Sector Commission should not be supporting the Amaila project

Dear Editor,

On July 18, 2013 a friend called me and told me to tune into Channel 11, NCN TV and there was Ramesh Dookhoo, Gerry Gouveia and Kit Nascimento telling the public, on behalf of the Private Sector Commission, what villains the opposition were for throwing a huge spanner into the machinations of the PPP for the Amaila project. In other words, these three apologists for the government, parading as private sector functionaries of substance, were telling the public what now appear to be misrepresentations, exposed in subsequent revelations by Christopher Ram and Ramon Gaskin about this entire hydropower deal, that in fact will benefit no one.

How can we ever trust our Private Sector Commission when in fact they are seeking to take us down a very slippery slope which cannot benefit anyone, and in fact could cost the Guyanese people more than even the current very inflated US$840 million price tag, since the entire project is fraught with many dangers?

Messrs Gouveia and Dookhoo were even telling the public that Guyana can benefit from a Marriott Hotel! I have said it before, since 2001 there is not and will never be a substantial tourist industry in Guyana. And the people of Guyana will have to see their taxes go down the drain to pay to build this white elephant hotel. A casino is the best place to launder money especially in a country like Guyana which is now notorious for not enforcing its own laws.

Editor, this is how it works A man walks into a casino with two million Guyana dollars and he talks to the boss of the casino, he gives the boss $150,000 and the boss agrees to pay him $1.85 million in winnings without disclosing how many chips he bought; the man without even sitting at a table now has $1.85 million in clean money he won at this casino and he did not even have to play one game!  Even better is if the launderer owns the casino, then he can simply declare the drug money as profit and pay the taxes on it and it’s now legal money.

This is not the first time that the PSC has presented itself to us as having a very pro-government agenda. Before the last election Mr Dookhoo was openly supporting the government in everything he said or did in an election year; it showed the Private Sector Commission campaigning for the PPP which has by its policies of victimization and cronyism proved to be fundamentally non-private sector friendly.

The Private Sector Commission is not calling on the government to produce the Public Procurement Commission, or a non-corrupt legal system; they are not calling on the government to retender for the hydro project under a more transparent process; all they are saying is that they have called on the government to form the Public Procurement Commission. Whether they do so or not is irrelevant, no pressure must be brought to bear on them; we should just allow them to take their time to honour the Linden agreements, the agreements of the Dialogue, the Communiqué or the other legitimate requests of the now more powerful opposition which represents the majority of the people. They were telling the public in that TV show that they should go ahead and rubber stamp this ridiculous deal to build the hydropower project. Let’s forget that the PPP government has been condemned by every report of significance into the functioning of our system of governance by the international community for their level of illegality, incompetence and corruption. Including the fact that in the 2012 Transparency International index Guyana scored 28 points out of 100 and was listed as 133rd out of 174 counties as very corrupt! That is what our Private Sector Commission should be addressing, not rubberstamping the project, but fighting it.

How can we possibly agree to give such a government US$840 million to build a project which should in fact cost half that amount. This point has already been raised by the Kaieteur News of May 9 2010 in an article captioned ‘Hydroelectric project price questionable.’ The table they used told us that of 5 major hydro projects, 1.48 million US per megawatt was the average cost of construction.

Therefore to build a 150 megawatt hydro project should cost a total of US$222 million. The estimate given to the Economic Services Committee in 2009 by Mr Sam Hinds, Minister with responsibility for power; Mr Dindial, CEO of GPL; and Mr Winston Brassington, Chairman of GPL was US$180 million to build the dam and US$200 million to build the line plant to bring the electricity to the coast ‒ a total of US$380 million. Around one year later in May 2010 I saw with total amazement that the price to build the dam and line plant had escalated to US$840 million. The Hansard of the parliament’s Economic Services Committee is there to substantiate what I am saying. Nothing escalates in cost like this in one year.

Then we see in the Stabroek News of  July 25, 2013 captioned ‘Retender Amaila or scrap it,’ the following statement by Ramon Gaskin: “that while Guyana is expected to foot 82 per cent of the US$840M project cost, Guyanese ownership will only be 40 per cent.” He also noted that Sithe Global, the project contractors, will invest US$150 million and will own 60 per cent of the project, while collecting a whopping 16 per cent in interest.” Which country makes deals like this?

This coincides with the position of the opposition, and this is what we should do; there is much here that stinks and we have an obligation and a duty to stop it.

And I am forced to ask the question again: Why should we pay for hydropower when the Brazilians are begging us to allow them to build it for us for free as our partners?

I have been doing research on the Westminster system and it cannot work with a ‘no coalition after an election clause’ such as we have in our constitution. To form the government in this system, the winner/combination of winners must control the parliament. In other words any constitution which leads a country to a situation of gridlock such as we have now, where the minority is ruling the majority, would have to be thrown out. We should not have a constitution with such a fundamental flaw.

Finally isn’t it hilarious that the very PPP which condemned the 1980 constitution since they claimed that it resulted from a rigged referendum in 1978 is now embracing it? And if their accusation is true and the 1978 referendum was rigged, how can this constitution be legal?

Yours faithfully,
Tony Vieira

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