Ramjattan’s heart is in the right place for the development of the country

Dear Editor,
I am amazed and disappointed at the negative responses from a lot of persons who seem to be crucifying AFC leader Mr Khemraj Ramjattan for his support of government in an attempt to save the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project (AFHP). Although I do not agree with his move and feel this is his first major blunder since partnering with Mr Trotman to establish this new party, I think his heart and concerns are in the right place for the development of the country.

As a matter of fact, as we move further away from that significant day/night in parliament and the more I look at it I get the impression that he might have placed himself on the right side of the argument and history. I am even more convinced that his deep concern for the development of Guyana is what is driving his strategy after reading the statement, “I am disappointed in the move by Sithe Global. The disappointment is huge… I am crestfallen knowing how difficult it is to find financing.”

Even though it can be technically said that Mr Ramjattan is on the right side of the argument, he got it wrong because in my interpretation of the implications of the Amaila project, there are two sides – government involvement apart and separate from Sithe Global. The general narrative coming out of all the media and lookers-on seems to be focusing on Sithe Global pulling out rather than on the side of government failing in their bid of blindsiding the masses.

Actually the answer, the remedy and a way forward out of this mess lie in another statement from Mr Ramjattan, “We have to remedy the situation to make investors feel comfortable with the country.” What’s the ‘situation’? Government involvement in business. Mr Ramjattan has to work with whoever will listen to ensure that government’s job is to create the climate for investment and limit their own investments. Stay clear and let the viability of the projects dictate investor interest. For instance, the airport
expansion and the Marriott should not be government-taxpayer sponsored projects. Taxpayer funds should be taken out and be replaced with private investment.

From the time Fip Motilall got a licence to pursue the Amaila project there are only two things to which I totally objected – the manner the government jumped in with the intent on using/misusing taxpayers’ money, and the underhand strategy used to assign the construction of the access road to the project to Mr Motilall. These two situations seem to present the opportunity for significant spinoffs and may have very well contributed to the final exorbitant price tag.

I am well aware of arguments that Mr Motilall was not qualified to be given the rights for this project. I have no such concern. From a point of view of business, he could have employed the relevant skills to do the project. Sithe Global, which seems to be taking the hit in this whole fiasco, has done nothing wrong.
They are business people willing to invest. The problem was that their hands were tied when government came on board.

It seems that unless reporters follow up on Sithe Global to get a clear picture of their confinement, the ordinary people will never know the extent of savings for the taxpayers. But Mr Ramjattan and the weak-kneed private sector body are wrong to feel that the investment climate and opportunities are dead. The problem is how they can make government take a more hands-off position in investment and development projects in Guyana.

The private sector should have made efforts to find private investors to partner with Sithe Global and insist that government get out of the way.
Ordinary Guyanese, through a banking structure should have been given the opportunity to pool resources and invest in the hydro project. The private sector should also look at finding partners to enhance their businesses.

The bottom line is that with government over borrowing on taxpayers’ behalf at exorbitant rates means that the taxpayers pay twice – for the projects and then for the service. With private investment the burden of the viability of the project is left on the investor. This should have been the narrative of Mr Ramjattan and those who objected to the structure of the project submitted for parliament’s approval.
The case of Mr Nigel Hughes is sad, but not the end of the world.

There was a lot of hope when Mr Hughes decided to fill the void left by Mr Trotman. Given this man’s powerhouse background, it was the feeling that he had the ability to move a considerable amount of people towards the vision and objective of the AFC.

But as things have played out he did not seem to have given much thought to the intricacies of politics and the fine line he had to straddle in contributing and developing a true multiracial party in a complex racial environment.

Further, he seemed to have had no intention of giving up on his lucrative income base. It was and is a terrible mistake, so terrible that I have to laugh at the naivety. It seems to be a basic lack of understanding of this person’s role in the party.

Okay, the objective is to win over the poor and the suffering, yet you create the optics of defending some persons who were alleged to have murdered the defenceless, poor and suffering. This is not to say the accused should not get adequate defence, but there are many other capable attorneys around to do that. Failing to see the implications cannot be excused.

I do not see Mr Hughes’ professional ties to Sithe Global and the Amaila project as unprofessional.

Sithe Global and the project as a concept were not the problem here. Yet a shrewd politician – and here Mr Ramjattan must come in for some blame – would have considered early disclosure to the public. Also those rants from the back of a truck in Kitty were terrible optics, extremely terrible.

Given the fickle minds and for good reason, the unwillingness to be gullible, the AFC party has to up their game.

They have to look critically and consider each path thrice before making a move. Party executives have to find ways to garner financing and mostly give up their everyday businesses, make sacrifices and concentrate fully on meeting the needs of their constituents. If they cannot do without the daily hustle, remain in the background.

Yours faithfully,
F Skinner

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