Government will continue with the upkeep of the Amaila Falls Access Road since it believes it is the link to the single most important infrastructural project needed for Guyana’s economic development – the Amaila Falls Hydroelectricity Project (AFHP), which it is working to make a reality.
“The Amaila road project it is not a road to nowhere. It is a road to everywhere in terms of our economic development,” Minister of Public Works Robeson Benn told Stabroek News in an interview when asked for the rationale behind millions still being spent on the road.
Benn said the road was “substantially complete” and will continue to be maintained by the state after the respective contractors’ six months’ maintenance period is over so as not to allow the investments placed in it to “go to waste.”
He explained, “For each respective section the contractor has the responsibility of maintaining the road for a period of six months, after its completion… we take on regular rehabilitation and upkeep,” he explained.
He said that pending weather conditions the road will be completed in about two months for a total of US$41.7 million.
Benn said that currently government was working, both at the Ministry of Finance and Office of the President level, to see the hydro project a reality and remains optimistic that soon an investor will be had and the project will kick off.
He believes that Guyana’s investment attraction limitations is constrained by the lack of cheap renewable indigenous power sources and supply.
President Donald Ramotar had stated earlier this year that the project was on the radar again. In March, the president told reporters that the controversial AFHP was once again being examined by the IDB board and they would hopefully be wrapping up soon.
He said he was also hopeful that the developers, Sithe Global, who withdrew, will be back on board.
Then in May, speaking at the 6th Summit of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), held in Mexico he announced that the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) was working with Guyana on the implementation of a major project on renewable energy. While he did not identify the project, it is likely the AFHP, which government had vowed to resuscitate after the developers walked away last year.
Benn led an emphatic defence for both the road and hydro project saying that not only will it be of immense monetary value but that the knowledge gained by personnel on this project can be used towards others. “Amaila will help us to pilot the knowledge, the expertise, and the experience with respect to advancing our country into being a major exporter of power in this part of South America and also make our country enormously attractive in terms of investment.
“With the expectation or the realization of Amaila many other investment and development projects will flow [that] hinge on the availability of cheap on-demand power…We will export the [power that we can’t use] and we will get money. We won’t be poor anymore,” he added.
“It is the most critical project in the country, everything else will fall into place. All the marbles will fall into their respective holes. You will see people light bill will be reduced they won’t have to steal power anymore.
Benn also took APNU’s shadow Minister of Finance Carl Geenidge to task for saying that Benn will face the consequences of advancing projects that did not get the approval of parliament. “I want to point out to Mr Greenidge that both big projects the airport and Amaila got the approval of the parliament in respect of their initiation,” he stated.
“Having started these projects we can’t just stop just like that somehow because there is another notion there. It does not work like that.”