I refer to a number of allegations contained in a Ministry of Finance press release and carried in the Guyana Chronicle dated August 28th.
Dr Singh, the Minister of Finance, was reported to have said in effect that the due diligence that was being conducted by the Inter-American Develop-ment Bank (IDB) for the Amaila Falls Hydro Electric Project has now ceased, and without it, the public review of the project cannot take place.
First, the IDB was undertaking the due diligence of the Amaila HP as a result of a request by the Government of Guyana (GoG) for a loan of which Sithe was to be the client.
With the withdrawal of Sithe, unless there is a replacement or alternative arrangement, the IDB would cease work on the project. What is more, in July Ms Sophie Makonnen, the Head of the IDB office in Guyana, had informed the Stabroek News that the due diligence study, which was supposed to have been completed by the Bank by 31st July 2013, had been delayed.
The report made reference to failure to complete the access road being a key condition to the process.
Secondly, I note that Dr Singh volunteered that the last step to finalising Amaila should have seen the politicians take a back seat, while the people of Guyana calmly spent six weeks to go through the details of what was proposed, as part of the GRIF review process.
This is totally untrue.
From whence did the politics come? Who would strip away the politics? And, since when can a process and review apparently agreed between the GoG with the Norwegians supplant the right of the Assembly to approve public expenditure?
The allegation is doubly ridiculous because the PPP regime has this year alone already organized two of the so-called stakeholder fora which were intended to outflank parliamentary oversight. The first issued a statement in support of the project. The second announced by Dr Singh on July 29th and held on the following Wednesday was addressed by the Sithe officials and, presumably due to the presence of Messrs Ram and Gaskin, whose study had been released just prior to that event, the Chairman was instructed by Mr Edgehill not to permit questions. But for the growing outcry, they would have treated that forum as sufficient public endorsement. Dr Singh’s problem therefore was not the absence of opportunity for a public airing or review, but the fact that critics not only turned up but voiced views contrary to those of the PPP.
I should like to remind readers that it was not APNU which called for a national consensus by August 7th, but rather the PPP! Our calls for a consensus prior to proceeding with the submission of the project were actually ignored. If this deadline did not permit sufficient time for a proper examination of the details, Dr Singh should have discussed the matter with Mr Brian Kubeck. Mr Kubeck is not employed by APNU. APNU had no CEC members on the Sithe Global Board nor MPs retained by that company. The ultimatum and subsequent statement of withdrawal that brought the process to a halt was issued in public by Mr Brian Kubeck of Sithe, so Dr Singh, Dr Luncheon and the PPP cabal should stop their childish, distasteful and petulant display over milk their ally spilt. Having miscalculated they now seek to audaciously employ 1984-type double speak, even before events have dimmed in the public memory.
Furthermore, the views of the public are reflected in a variety of ways and in many fora, including letter-writing. The PPP has not, until now, been averse to using public funds to have their views represented in the very letter columns the Minister now dismisses. In truth the PPP has a difficulty not with publicly-aired views but with the airing of views contrary to the PPP’s, hence the relentless drive to silence independent TV and radio stations.
Dr Singh is reported to have said that, “Once politics was stripped away, the people could have had access to factual information, and had time to digest the details, rather than having politicians or letter-writers claim to speak for them… But APNU worked to prevent all this.”
Information can be meaningless to members of the public unless it is properly contextualized, interpreted and /or tested against other relevant data. Most of the issues raised and information exposed during the debate on Amaila would have never been understood or made known to the public and certainly not before the agreement was in place. In fact up to now information still remains to be provided. On July 17th a number of questions put to the IDB and the GoG could not be answered. Only three days ago the Kaieteur News revealed that rather than a cost of US$858M the project was expected to cost $915M. Rather than dealing with these matters the GoG has sought to attack those asking questions. The unparalleled torrent of abuse from the PPP and officials of NICIL and GPL could never be a basis for reasoned debate. To suggest therefore that the information made available by the government would have alone been a good basis for public decision-making is derisible and deserves no further comment.
The suggestion that up now the government had indicated that the process had several steps, one of which was to have a six week public review (presumably before the parliament pronounced on the matter?) is patently untrue. Which six weeks? Let Dr Singh point to one single piece of correspondence or public statement from the President or himself that makes mention of this agreed public review, the absence of which he laments. There is no mention of it in the President’s press release of either August 16th in which he made mention of a “triple lock” or his statement which preceded it. APNU has never been notified by either the GoG or the IDB of the intention of having a public review which would be dependent on APNU support for the project. What sense would such a condition have made?
Let me make it clear. This option is a product of Dr Sigh’s imagination and as such it is unbecoming. It is an insult to all observers and the Guyanese public.
On August 7th the government laid before the Assembly, two items vaguely related to Amaila, one a bill on land set aside and the other, a motion on the lifting of the ceiling governing loans guaranteed by the government. Prior and subsequent to that session, the President called on the opposition to support the two items which APNU has always pointed out do not constitute an acceptable presentation on a project of such magnitude and importance. APNU was never asked to pronounce on nor did it prevent or seek to prevent an unannounced public review.
Dr Singh said that APNU was, “being asked to join a consensus which would have let the six week public review of the Amaila Falls Hydro project take place – as part of transferring the bulk of Guyana’s equity contribution from the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF).”
It seems that he is planning to have these instant crowds supplant the work of the Assembly.
These claims are so ridiculous that I am forced to conclude that Dr Singh is trying to goad the parliament into an argument over the ‘final step’ that never existed. The government may be trying to convince the Norwegians to disburse the US$100M in spite of the withdrawal of Sithe. When the opposition correctly says, “We were not aware that such a step was part of the plan,” the government would respond, “OK, forget the misunderstanding, let us organize the public debate.”
It wouldn’t work!
Only someone unfamiliar with the PPP’s behaviour would fall for that silly ruse. We have seen the instant crowds that the PPP mobilises under the aegis of the LCDS as well as those aimed at deflecting complaints of the indigenous people about mining concessions illegally granted as part of sweetheart deals to PPP-affiliated businessmen by getting Indigenous in other areas to call for the removal of miners elsewhere believed to be unsympathetic or indifferent to the PPP. Perhaps the Norwegians could fall for that. We have seen the rent-a-crowd efforts aimed at criticizing the EPA, which Mr Jagdeo had approved only a few weeks prior to that fake stakeholder forum.
In conclusion, we are concerned about Dr Singh’s fabrications. We are not in the least interested in his views of APNU, especially as they apply to the national interest. He and the PPP have more than their own share of questions to answer to the public in that regard, and not only arising from Amaila. Everyone who has been attacked by this government as unpatriotic for not agreeing with its action would have reflected on Samuel Johnson’s quip that, “patriotism is the last resort of a scoundrel.” In our case we prefer to find comfort in Thomas Paine who has presciently observed that at times, “The duty of a patriot is to protect his country from its government.”
Carl B Greenidge