Will legislators heed the many stakeholders’ plea for Amaila Hydro Power project?

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[GINA] – Guyana’s Parliament is approaching its statutory two-month recess with the much needed legislative support to the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project (AFHP) lagging behind and civil society stakeholders appealing for consensus.

The passage of the Hydro Electric Bill which seeks to establish a protected area for biodiversity conservation and the Guarantee of Loans (Public Corporations and Companies) Bill that seeks to lift the debt ceiling are crucial to the project’s realisation.

While some opposition politicians are withholding support on claims of transparency others are demanding that the government give in to their demands in the area of local government elections and procurement.

Alliance for Change Chairman Khemraj Ramjattan recently made a surprising disclosure in the media about supporting the hydro project, but on condition that the Government agrees to reduce the debt ceiling.

But with hydropower long overdue and the Board of Directors’ meeting of the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) fast approaching, civil society stakeholders are banking on politicians and legislators to reach consensus expeditiously.

Blackstone group, the parent company for Sithe Global and a premier global company in energy related investments has fully endorsed the project, but wants Parliamentarians to give unified consent.

Senior Managing Director, Blackstone Sean Klimczak who met with stakeholders recently for a public discussion on the AFHP said the project is one that the country should embrace.

“The construction cost of which represents 25 percent of GDP of the country is not one that we Blackstone or Sithe want to do without a coalition and a consensus agreement. This is a good thing for the country,” Klimczak assured.

Amidst speculation about the percentage of the tariffs that will be reduced and whether the burden of repaying for the project will be borne by taxpayers, the developers guaranteed that there is no taxpayers’ involvement other than the rates that will be charged on the consumption on the hydro electricity.

The Private Sector Commission (PSC) was stunned at the sudden rejection on the pre-requisite bills. As it appealed for unanimity, the PSC members were in disagreement with the way in which the dispensation in parliament was being used to broker agreement on such an important project.

The AFHP promises to save electricity consumers approximately US$3.5B over a period of 20 years and boost the operations of the local processing and manufacturing sectors.

The Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) regards the hydro project as the solution to the age old complaint about the cost of energy, which at present is “the single most debilitating factor inhibiting the incremental growth of Guyana’s manufacturing sector.”

As the GMSA appealed for an end to the tit for tat in the House, it listed the potential benefits of hydropower in Guyana.

“The most obvious being the creation of jobs in the electricity sector itself, the emergence of new downstream enterprises, and a healthier manufacturing sector, with entrepreneurs able to penetrate overseas markets farther than the Caribbean and North America, while satisfying customers and distributors with higher quality products in greater quantities,” GMSA stated in a release.

The Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) foresees about 35, 000 of its members who are employees in the public and private sectors being affected if their salaries and wages are consumed by increasing electricity costs.

“The FITUG bemoans the dreaded potential of higher electricity rates for the present and future generations, loss of employment from new investments and the untrustworthiness Guyana would now be characterised by, due to the Opposition’s parliamentary selfishness,” the coalition trade union body stated in a release.

FITUG, wants the joint Opposition to “put the working class citizens of Guyana first” as they debate the re-tabling of the Hydro Electric Power (Amendment Bill 2013) and the Guarantee of Loans (Public Corporations and Companies) Act.

Members of the Central Corentyne Chamber of Commerce (CCCC) also called on the parliamentarians to support the enactment of legislation relevant to the hydro project. The Chamber’s President Leekha Rambirich, stated that the   project will create higher paying jobs and will challenge Guyanese youth to be builders in every walk of life.

Meanwhile, the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana (CIOG) and the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha lent their support to the project.

The CIOG expressed concern over the Opposition’s position on the project, saying that, “As an organisation whose aim is to promote development in all its facets and to reduce poverty, the non-supporting of the Hydro-Electric Power Bill can have far-reaching negative effects on Guyana’s development,” the organisation said in a release.

The Sabha called on the leaders to put the people’s welfare first and to support the Amaila project that represents an opportunity for infrastructure modernisation and economic development.

Interactions with the man in the street revealed similar sentiments. While there were mixed reactions about the political opposition’s actions, they believe that the hydro project is long overdue, will reduce the cost of electricity, and improve the economy.

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