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Private sector to opposition: De-link Amaila hydro from other demands

Government and opposition MPs inspecting the road to the site of the Amaila Falls hydro-power station.

The Private Sector Commission (PSC) on Friday dismissed efforts by the political opposition to link approval for the Amaila Falls hydro power project to governance issues on grounds that the generation facility is a “national” matter.

Chairman of the PSC’s Communications sub-committee, Kit Nascimento said the umbrella business organisation wanted the opposition to detail aspects of the 165 megawatt facility that it found objectionable.

He described as “disconcerting” the posture being taken by A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC) that they would not support the project unless government approves a raft of local government laws that has returned from a parliamentary select committee. Nascimento said the PSC did not support horse trading on national issues and instead each project or issue should be addressed separately.

“What we’re not interested in is that they will only agree to it if the government agrees to some other things…There are some projects that we believe are extremely nationalist that are apolitical and non-political in nature and that the country should not be made to pay the consequences of losing them because they reach beyond political considerations,” he said.

The PSC instead wants the opposition parties to critique the project documents which have been provided to them by the Guyana government.

The PSC’s concerns came one day after the combined opposition Thursday voted against the Hydro-Electric Power (Amendment) Bill and a motion seeking to raise the government guarantee of loans from GUY$1B to GUY$150B. They are both integral to the US$840M Amaila Hydropower Project, the largest investment in Guyana’s history.

The opposition first wants government to support reforms to the local government laws, the establishment of a Public Procurement Commission (PPC) to fight corruption and the presidential assent of opposition-piloted bills.

The PSC spokesman assured that the business community was interested in seeing those other issues addressed separately. “We view very strongly that those issues should be also addressed on their own merits otherwise you’re going to get exactly what you’ve got- a non-functioning nation,” said Nascimento.

The PSC hopes that the political leaders will cease holding Guyana to ransom and allow the project to go forward so that the country can save at least 80 percent of its fossil fuel import bill.

The government and the PSC say that parliamentary approval of the Amaila Falls-related laws  is necessary before the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) can continue to consider the project. “The failure to pass this legislation and the project not being presented to the IDB’s Board in October will almost certainly result in collapse of the project,” the business organisation said in a statement.

The amendment to the Hydro-Electric Power Act seeks to meet the IDB’s environmental requirements by providing a Biodiversity Offset- an ecologically similar protected area- to compensate for the environmental impact of the project area and comply with the IDB’s Safeguard Policy.