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AFC support was “lifeline” for Amaila Project – Ramjattan

AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan

The AFC says it voted for the Amaila Hydropower legislation in the National Assembly to ensure the project was not killed since the party supported Guyana’s hydropower ambitions.

During Wednesday’s 12 hour sitting which ran into Thursday the AFC voted along with the government to pass the Hydro-Electric Power (Amendment) Bill and a motion to up the debt ceiling from GUY$1B to GUY$50B. The government was seeking to increase it to $130B.

“We did this because we felt we had to more or less give a lifeline to the Amaila project because largely we’re supporters of hydroelectricity in Guyana. This deal of course has a lot of questions surrounding it, lots of concerns and so we’re still waiting on the IDB’s due diligence to give it that green light after we would have gotten the reports and the recommendations therein.

But at this stage we felt that the entire project would have been killed had we not done what we did last night,” AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan told reporters Thursday.

The party had ever since indicated that it was prepared to support the hydro-electric bill but had voted against it with the APNU on July 18 because the government had refused to delink it from the debt ceiling motion.

Addressing the support for the raised ceiling Ramjattan pointed out that it was a short term one since it would have to return to the National Assembly within three months for review. The increase is also linked specifically to the GPL Power Purchase Agreement with Amaila operator Sithe Global.

Ramjattan said if the IDB okayed the US$858M project and indicated the ceiling needed to be increased then the AFC would be in a better position to act.

“We think it is a very patriotic position; we’ve seen detractors and those who are experts, some validly so, being very critical of the project. We would like to respect all of their views and indeed we took consideration of them all in determining if to support or not support last night,” he said.

The AFC had previously said it would not support the motion before the IDB’s studies were completed. When asked what led to their new position Ramjattan said they were assured by the IDB last month that the bank would be getting all necessary information from the principals involved for its due diligence studies.

“We did not want to kill it before it reaches the IDB by blocking the IDB and also not giving at least some guarantee to the investors.”

The perceived inefficiency of GPL has been one of the contentions cited in the debate around the Amaila project but Ramjattan said the AFC believes that even with all of GPL’s problems the hydropower station would see the generation cost dropping from as high as 30 US cents to about 11 US cents, a position stated by the government.

Prime Minister Samuel Hinds told the House Wednesday night that the generation cost could drop to as low as 3 US cents when the hydro facility was handed over to the government in 20 years.

His pronouncements had prompted APNU MP Carl Greenidge to dub them “heroic” since the IDB was yet to complete its due diligence. Greenidge also contended that the government had failed to show how lower generation costs would lead to lower electricity rates for consumers.

According to the former finance minister, neither the IDB nor Sithe Global had been able to give them that assurance.