PPP Wanted gridlock on Amaila to drum up Congress fever – Nagamootoo

PPP Wanted gridlock on Amaila to drum up Congress fever – Nagamootoo

Dear Editor

On July 18, during what I would describe as one of the “dumb” debates in which both Government and Opposition alternated to be silent, Minister Irfaan Ali confidently denied that the raising of the national debt ceiling from $1 billion to $150 billion, has nothing to do with the cash-strapped Guyana Power and Light (GPL). I was stunned by that display of such enormous ignorance!

The debt ceiling has everything to do with GPL, as the guarantee would open the gate to borrowing by GPL in connection with the Amaila Falls Hydro Project (AFHP).

When taken, the additional $150 billion would send up our national debt in nominal Guyana dollars to some $530 billion, more than double of what it has been under the PNC government, up to 1992.       

This government has already absorbed some $57 debt contracted by public corporations and companies, which has been charged to the Consolidated Fund, or simply put, has to be paid back by taxpayers, now and in the future, who would have to forego future happiness to meet debt servicing and re-payments.

In other words, taxpayers have to fetch the burdens of these money-losing state bodies, which are all, including GPL and Guysuco, huge inefficient state monopolies.

Both these “giants” live on hand-outs from taxpayers in the tune of several billion dollars. Last year we voted $6 billion for GPL and this year a further $5 billion. In a joint letter to the President of our Republic the combined Opposition parties requested a status report on the use of the 2012 “transfers” (I use this mild term instead of “bailout”, which the government dislikes).

The government would rather chose to treat this request in a cavalier fashion much the same way as it is approaching legitimate concerns over the estimated $170 billion Amaila Hydro project, that the Opposition is obstructionist and intent on undermining national development.

Any expression of patriotic concern over how we spend the people’s money would inevitably draw the same reaction from the President – that his critics are “jackass”, “anti-nationalist” and “terrorist”.

As Vice-Chairman of the Alliance for Change (AFC), who has had some 50 years of political experience, I say this: We will not be “cussed-out”, nor will we succumb to propaganda trash! To borrow the dictum of Cheddi Jagan: “we do not plan to dominate but we will not be dominated!”

The AFC is today rising as the conscience of the Guyanese people, as we say and do what is in their interest. We share the people’s heart-beat for affordable renewable energy security not only from hydro-power but from a portfolio of sources including ethanol, wind and solar power, and co-generation using bagasse and wood waste.

Therefore we have every reason to support the development of hydro-power in Guyana but with the clear caveat that it must be environmentally, socially and economically feasible.  We are not going to support any project that throws good money over the waterfalls.

The AFC leadership has had serious consultation which revealed that AFHP could satisfy the minimum requirements of the IDB’s Environmental and Social Management Report [environmental, hydrological, biotic, topographic, social management issues including the displacement and compensation of any community during and after construction, etc.]  We believed we have enough evidence to support the Hydro Electric Power (Amendment) Bill 2013 and remain committed to our principled position in favour of what I called this  “flora and fauna” bill, which has vital environmental safeguards for any and all hydro schemes anywhere in Guyana, and is not limited to Amaila, as the government wrongly brands it.

However, this does not mean that we must surrender our concerns that AFHP must be sound and good for Guyana. Our biggest concerns remain the key debt assumptions, the cost of finance, the lenders fee structure and advisory cost. We provided our word to the Government to respect the confidentiality of the details and thus professionally we cannot release those details in this letter, but the numbers do not add up to our satisfaction.  In this regard, we have made our position clear: our full support would be reserved until the IDB completes its  Economic Feasibility Technical Report (economic due diligence).  Nothing is wrong with this as the editorial of Stabroek News (22/7/13) so forcefully argued.

As regards the Motion on the Limit on amount outstanding under Guarantees given under the Guarantee of Loans (Public Corporations and Companies) Act, government has not convinced us that parliamentary approval is a pre-condition for the IDB to sign on to the Amaila project. Clearly, any loans to GPL could be guaranteed by its own revenue stream whose flow in 2012 amounted to US$ 160 million. Government is only interested that, as a back-up, any failure to re-pay the debt would be done by taxpayers.

So, why has the PPP government raised such hysteria that the Opposition had “killed” Amaila and, to use AG Nandall’s colourful but obscene language, we have given the people “hydro-seed”?

On July 18, the government wrongly tied the approval of four pieces of local government reform laws to passage, with opposition support, of the “flora & fauna” and the loans bills. The government refused to put the local government bills up for debate and approval, and hid behind parliamentary procedures. For us, of immediate concerns to our people who are tired of floods and garbage pile-up in their communities, local government elections are a priority.

I was in the last-minute talks with the Prime Minister, Ministers Ashni Singh and Ganga Persaud, and Chief Whip Gail Teixiera in the Speaker’s Chambers, and offered AFC’s support for the Hydro Electric Power (Amendment) Bill 2013. But the government team shut the door on any compromise with its “all or nothing” stance, which led me to the view that the government had intended that tragic outcome. It appears that the PPP cabal would use this grid-lock to stir up “congress fever” at what would otherwise be a damp-squib event, against the Opposition parties which would be blamed a la Animal Farm for all the blunders and failures of the tottering, corrupt regime.

The alternative is constructive engagement and compromise. Give us local government reforms and Public Procurement Commission and the PPP could run with Amaila all the way to the bank!

As Chris Ram said, there will be “no more free chowmein”.

 Moses V. Nagamootoo,   AFC Member of Parliament

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