President’s criticisms of APNU’s position on Amaila are erroneous

Dear Editor,

President Ramotar’s most recent criticisms of APNU’s position on Amaila, relative to the employment of Guyanese and other matters are baseless, misleading, erroneous, and intellectually dishonest. The President posits that the Amaila Falls Hydro Power Project was destroyed by APNU. Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact AFHP was destroyed by the PPP/C officials who conceived and attempted to implement a fundamentally flawed concept.

There is no question that Guyana needs an alternative to fossil fuel energy but this must be better than what we have now, not worse for Guyanese, as Amaila clearly would have been. Fortunately for us, the concerns pertaining to Amaila are coming to light as the PPP/C engineered wall of secrecy crumbles under the pressure of impartial scrutiny.  These concerns, questions and issues have been extensively reported by the press and need not be rehashed here.

President Ramotar stated that the AFHP would have provided construction jobs for Guyana’s youth. Editor, the question of direct employment was answered during the government sponsored stakeholders’ forum on July 31, 2013. China Railway, the company contracted to build the Amaila road had not hired one single Guyanese. Moreover, the company categorically stated that it had no intention of hiring Guyanese.

An examination of the contract with Sithe Global exposed the fact that the contractor was not obliged to hire any Guyanese in the construction of the generating facility. The language of the contract gave Sithe the right to bring in foreign labour to the exclusion of local workers. A situation that is identical to the one at the Marriott, now being constructed without any Guyanese labour, in spite of similar PPP/C promises before construction started.

Mr Brian Kubeck, President of Sithe, acknowledged at the forum that his company had no obligation to hire Guyanese. The PPP/C government approved and signed this contract. Therefore, Guyana’s young workers had no jobs to expect.

The President stated that Amaila would generate new economic activities, yet he gave no specifics. Responsible Guyanese cannot approve of such major expenditure without details of the benefits that would accrue. We cannot just accept vague promises and empty assurances in the absence of concrete answers to the hard questions.

If it is true, as the President said, that Guyana is incurring no debt from the project, then why did the PPP/C go to parliament to raise the debt ceiling from $1,000,000,000 to $150,000,000,000?

Whether the country borrows directly or agrees to guarantee a debt, is a technicality. The fact is, the Guyanese taxpayer would have to pay for it. Does President Ramotar expect us to believe that a foreign company would come to Guyana, spend a billion US dollars to build a hydro-electric station for us and then leave with nothing? Guyanese are not that gullible. We and our children will have to pay for it.

The President said that Guyana will not have to subsidise GPL any more. Of course not. Sithe made sure that the contract forbids the government to help GPL. Why did they do this? The answer is simple: so they get full control over all the money passing through GPL.

Since the government would be forbidden to subsidise GPL, our light bills will have to increase for GPL to pay the enormous debt, and meet expenses such as maintenance and administrative costs.

Sithe even stipulated that one of their people will actually sit in GPL to watch all the money collected by GPL through light bills. Just imagine that. And the PPP/C agreed to that!

As for a reduction in our light bill: In July, the President said the tariff will reduce by 50%. The Prime Minister said, 25%. Now, the President is saying 20%. Clearly, even the top men in the PPP/C government do not know.

It should be noted that world recognised accounting and economic analysts Chris Ram, Ramon Gaskin, Clive Thomas and others, said the tariff might actually go up.

In conclusion, The President’s remarks were nothing but rhetoric; he was gaffing. He made unsubstantiated assertions without any facts to back them up.  On the other side of the coin, there are plenty of facts, figures, studies, analysts and experts that can back up the one single fact that matters: Amaila would have been terrible for Guyana.

It is time to move on. It is time to come up with a good hydro-electric programme that will truly benefit all Guyanese.

Yours faithfully,
Mark DaCosta

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