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AFC wants debt ceiling motion tied specifically to Amaila Project

AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan (L) and executive Moses Nagamootoo

The Alliance For Change (AFC) says it is ready to support the hydro-electric bill but is calling for the motion to increase the debt ceiling to be tied specifically to the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project (AFHP) in order to avoid giving the government a blank slate to go borrow.

The AFC and APNU two weeks ago 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 potential financier the IDB’s environmental policies while the motion would raise the government guarantee on borrowing from GUY$1B to GUY$150B.

The government has said that both are critical to the US$858M Amaila Project and that the opposition’s action has thrown it into jeopardy.

“We have gone through the hydro amendments as proffered a couple days ago and we are very satisfied with those amendments and we have indicated collectively that we are supportive of that bill,” AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan told reporters on Friday.

But he said they believed that the motion was too “sweeping.” Government has argued that the increase is necessary to ensure the Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL) could honour its Power Purchase Agreement with Sithe Global which will be operating the hydropower station for 20 years before turning it over to the locals.

Ramjattan said that at a meeting with Sithe Global representatives on Wednesday they were told that the company wanted to ensure that any shortfall in GPL’s payments in any year would be met under the government’s guarantee.

“We can understand their position but that now cannot mean GPL will have to go borrow $150B, that is too much and we have a huge concern there. It has to be less sweeping, that motion, it has to be pinned on GPL and secondly that big number has to come down,” Ramjattan stated.

Party executive Moses Nagamootoo reiterated their previously stated position that they would await the due diligence report from the IDB – a potential financier – before passing the motion because  the party does not have the technical know-how. He added that they remained flexible to ensure Guyana gets the best hydropower deal.

“We want a motion that clearly says should GPL default in any payment under the Power Purchase Agreement with the Amaila Falls Hydro Inc., if it defaults, only to that amount shall the government guarantee and match it with a guarantee from the Consolidated Fund,” he added.  

Ramjattan also tied the passage of the four local government bills as amended to any deal to pass the bill and an amended debt ceiling motion though it is unclear when the Amaila legislation will return to the House.

The parties had reshuffled the sitting’s Order Paper two weeks ago to bring the bills ahead of the Amaila legislation saying that they feared the government would not pass two of the bills with which they had concerns if they had already received support for the hydropower legislation.

The government subsequently refused to put the bills to debate at that sitting and waived its entire agenda at the next sitting saying it was not ready to debate them.

The four bills will reform the local government system and are viewed as necessary for the holding of local government elections which the opposition, civil society representatives and the diplomatic community have been calling for to be held this year.

They are listed on the Order Paper for next Wednesday’s sitting with the Assembly set to go to recess on August 10.