Former Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran has called on President David Granger to hold a press conference and address inconsistencies in his government over the Norconsult report on the viability of the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project (AFHP) and other important issues.
In his column in yesterday’s Sunday Stabroek, Ramkarran noted that long before a year had passed of Mrs Janet Jagan’s presidency, there was an outcry over her failure to hold a press conference. She eventually held one about one year into her presidency. “The voices calling out Mrs Jagan in 1997-8 are still around, but have gone silent on President David Granger’s failure to hold a single press conference despite having been elected to office one-and-a-half years ago. The Norconsult Report on the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project (AFHP) is only one of the major issues of great importance facing the country and a serious and coherent response is yet to be had from the government”, Ramkarran said.
A member of the opposition PPP for nearly 50 years before he resigned, Ramkarran said that when the Norconsult Report was commissioned the clear signal was that the government would abide by its conclusions. In announcing the commissioning of the report in November 2015, Ramkarran pointed out that Finance Minister Winston Jordan had said that, “Norway seems keen to finance an independent review to, once and for all, pronounce on the viability of the project.”
Ramkarran noted that the Norconsult report has pronounced in favour of AFHP by stating that the “…only realistic path for Guyana towards an emission free electricity sector is by developing its hydropower potential.
“The fastest way forward is to maintain AFHP as the first major step for substituting its current oil fired generation … Compared to its domestic power demand, Guyana has large untapped sources of hydropower. Switching the bulk of its power generation to hydropower would be an effective main strategy, and probably the only realistic one, for transition of its power sector towards emission free generation.”
Ramkarran noted that the Report was greeted negatively by the APNU+AFC government. One statement from the Ministry of the Presidency, he contended, falsified the conclusions. It said: “It is the view of the Government that the Norconsult … provides supporting evidence that the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project would not be optimal in its current model and presents an unbalanced risk to the Government and People of Guyana.”
Ramkarran, a senior counsel, said this “obvious falsehood” was later corrected by Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson but still, his comments obfuscated the purpose of the Report and contradicted Jordan’s explanation. Ramkarran noted that the Stabroek News of January 5 reported: “He [Minister Patterson] said that the reason behind Norconsult doing the report did not stem from the feasibility of the AFHP and that `no one is questioning the viability of the project at Amaila…The question of Norconsult was a question of what happens to the US$80M which the people of Guyana would’ve earned (from the forest protection deal with Norway)….’”
Even if the question was “what happens to the US$S80 million which the people of Guyana would have earned,” the Report answered it – put the money in the AFHP, Ramkarran stated.
Guyana’s hydropower potential, Ramkarran argued, has been recognised since the 1960s when the then PPP government unsuccessfully sought financing to construct two small hydropower facilities. During the 1970s-80s, he pointed out that the then PNC government went to great lengths to obtain funding for the US$300 million Mazaruni hydropower plant and to prepare the groundwork for it. He added that more than 40 years later, the Guyana Power and Light has not been adequately upgraded to supply the electricity Guyana needs at competitive cost to households, much less to industrialize. “Does anyone seriously expect that the alternatives, sun, wind and thermal power, being pushed by the government, will do the job that AFHP and a second (hydropower) facility will?”, he asked.
“This issue is fundamental to the future of Guyana. A newspaper debate followed by a statement of the government’s decision are inadequate. The President should host a press conference to clarify government’s contradictory positions and a full parliamentary debate ought to take place – before a decision is taken. We must not postpone Guyana’s potential industrialization for yet another generation”, Ramkarran added.