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Vote against Amaila Project legislation threatens national consensus – PPP

PPP Central Committee Member and Gov’t Minister Irfaan Ali

The ruling People’s Progressive Party says the opposition’s vote against the Amaila Hydroproject legislation has threatened efforts aimed at building national consensus.

This was relayed by Central Committee member Irfaan Ali at a party news conference on Monday.

“These unfounded attacks make a fool of the dialogue process and put to shame the engagement by the Government in seeking to build consensus with the Opposition on important national projects,” he said.

The AFC and APNU on Thursday voted against the Hydro-Electric Power (Amendment) Bill 2013 and a motion to increase guarantees under the Guarantee of Loans (Public Corporations and Companies) Act. The bill would have brought the local law into conformity with the IDB’s environmental policies while the motion would raise the government guarantee on borrowing from GUY$1B to GUY$150B.

The parties tied passage of the legislation to that of the four local government bills which they brought forward in the sitting before the Amaila legislation. They have since sought to justify the unprecedented move by saying they had indications that the government would not have passed them all had they secured the opposition’s support for the Amaila legislation.

But Ali said there was no justification for the actions of the opposition which would result in denying the people the benefits of the US$840M project.

“Based on an estimated 20 percent reduction in electricity tariff from the commencement residential consumers would have saved approximately $208.7 million monthly or $2.5 billion annually.

A family paying a $5,000 per month for electricity would see a minimum of $1,000 reduction in their electricity bill per month as a result of the hydro project,” Ali said.

Cheap and reliable power has long been the bane of the local manufacturing sector and the acting Tourism, Industry and Commerce Minister said commercial entities would save some $1.1B annually.

“An average small business family spends $15,000 per month on electricity. As a result of hydro project, this small business family would save a minimum of $3,000 per month. Industrial consumers would have saved $84.1 million monthly or $1 billion annually.”

 According to Ali, it is estimated that the Amaila Hydropower Project could see a reduction in electricity rates by as much as 40 percent while the fuel import bill could drop between 20 and 25 percent.

“Would you have believed that any rational thinking Guyanese person or organisation would set out to shoot down this project, no one could have envisioned such a position. All the discussions that we’ve had, all the presentations, all the understandings that we’ve had without going to specifics indicated that this project would have been supported in parliament,” Works Minister Robeson Benn said.

He added that they had a “general understanding” that the project would have been supported.

Asked what hopes were there of getting the legislation back on track the PPP official called on Leader of the Opposition David Granger to return the legislation to the House in keeping with his commitment to support such a move.

A position on the likelihood of that happening should be clearer in the coming days as the National Assembly is set to meet on Thursday with the local government bills on the agenda.  Ali said the president and his finance and legal affairs minister as well as his governance advisor were looking at the options available to them.

Both the APNU and the AFC have indicated that they were prepared to vote for the bill but the latter has said it wants the IDB’s green light on the feasibility of the project before it supports raising guarantee ceiling. The APNU meanwhile says it needs more assurances that the project does not go the way of the struggling Skeldon Sugar Factory.