Why is the government silent on issues related to the Guyana-Norway Agreement?

Dear Editor,

The APNU+AFC regime has been conspicuously silent on the progress, or lack thereof, on issues related to the Guyana-Norway Agreement. Although this government has become notorious for its lack of openness and transparency, their reticence on this subject is especially surprising because this partnership is one of the most significant bilateral relationships in Guyana’s history, and one in which the Guyanese people have always been keenly interested.

Specifically, there are two main issues for which answers are needed namely, the status of payments earned under the partnership and the decision on the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project (AFHP).

In May 2015, just days before the elections, I announced that Guyana had earned a fifth payment of US$40 million which will be transferred to the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF). As a result, when the PPP/C left office in May 2015, Guyana had earned five payments that totalled US$190 million. Of this, it will be recalled that US$80 million was deposited in the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) as government’s equity in the AFHP. The remaining funds were to be held in the GRIF. The funds held in the GRIF were used to develop hinterland communities, promote micro and small business ownership and enhance drainage on the coast, among other projects.

Under my administration, the sixth and final performance assessment was scheduled to be conducted in September 2015. The successful completion of this process would have led to a payment valued up to US$25 million. Further, upon expiry of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the governments, I am confident that the PPP/C government could have secured a second phase of our Partnership with Norway.

From various press reports I have become aware that there has been a ‘no-cost extension’ to the MoU. This means that although the lifetime of the MoU has been extended beyond its expiry date of July 2015, there are no new opportunities for financing.

Worse yet, the actions of the APNU+AFC regime resulted in the fifth payment of US$40 million never being transferred to the GRIF and the US$80 million for the AFHP remains locked away in the IDB. Moreover, the assessment for the sixth and final payment of up to US$25 million has not taken place. Cumulatively, this amounts to US$145 million which this government has failed to access for Guyana’s development.

Unfortunately, the APNU+AFC coalition has allowed propaganda and vitriol from the campaign trail to dictate their statements and positions as the government. Arguably, in no instance is this truer than that of the AFHP.  When in opposition, the APNU+AFC coalition did their utmost to sabotage this important project; they shamelessly voted against it in Parliament and evidently, this practice has continued now that they are in government.

At present, almost nine months have passed since the Norconsult report, which presented an independent evaluation of the AFHP, was released. It must be recalled that the preparation of the report was a joint decision between the Governments of Guyana and Norway as Ministers Trotman and Jordan represented Guyana in these talks. The Norconsult report definitively stated “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 the AFHP as the first major step for substituting its current oil fired generation.”

Despite the report’s conclusions, the APNU+AFC government continues to sidestep the issue and still has not made a decision on whether the AFHP will move forward. In December 2015, the APNU+AFC government indicated to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that conditional upon the availability of resources, Guyana will transition to 100% of its power supply coming from renewable energy generation by 2025.

This is an impossibility without the AFHP. Moreover, if this goal is not reached, this regime cannot justifiably argue that financial resources were not available when US$80 million is sitting in the IDB!

This flip-flopping has had dire consequences not only for the country’s development but also for the Guyana-Norway Partnership. In an opinion piece published in March 2017 in the Guyana Chronicle, Per Pharo stated that Norway will be in a position to transfer the US$40 million to the GRIF and to put the US$80 million towards achieving Guyana’s energy transition goal only when the government announces “a plan for a concrete, realistic and cost effective transition to clean and renewable energy.”

The actions of the government to develop this plan are unknown. However, troubling signals are ever present as a recent announcement from Robert Badal, in his capacity as Chairman of the Board of the Guyana Power and Light (GPL), indicated that the government is investigating a transition of Guyana power supply to natural gas. This is completely at odds with the commitments Guyana has made to the international community.

The Guyanese people deserve answers. At the moment all that is clear is the incompetence of the regime. Their small-mindedness and vindictiveness is costing the Guyanese people some US$145 million. This sum could go a far way in securing our clean energy supply and to further develop small and medium size enterprises in our interior and on the coast.

The regime must provide that information now. President Granger should go to a press conference and address these issues.

Yours faithfully,

Donald Ramotar

Former President

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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