OPINION: Blackouts: bad decisions, bad results, bad times for Guyanese

Last Updated on Tuesday, 9 April 2024, 22:54 by Denis Chabrol

by GHK Lall

Blackouts are again in the spotlight, and Guyanese are again roused to wrath.  It is not easy to be operating in the dark, praying that the li’l food would stay healthy in the blistering heat.  While this is reality, there is that other one: once again, the PPP and PNC+AFC are working diligently to blacken the eye of each other.  It is the usual conflict about who did more, who did nothing, who wasted time and who wasted resources.  Somewhere in that haze there is who is more corrupt.  If there is something to be said, it is that the Coalition somehow held the pieces of the GPL together.  It was far from perfect.  But in that less than a half decade, the previous government can boast about the one rod that matters: how many blackouts there were, how long they lasted, and how frequently they recurred.

Speaking for myself, the GPL is a secondary source of energy.  But I could tell when there were blackouts and how often.  The generators in public buildings would make their music, and with that there cannot be argument or contradiction.  There were/are three of such buildings in my hood and their generators would usually all go on within seconds of each other.  One public institution is so large that it has more than one backup system, and they would all kick into gear.  A generator in full flow is a noise of a different kind.  Somebody-some home, some business, some family, some student-just had to adjust whatever they were doing to handle the situation. Conversing with others in different parts of Guyana, in all the directions that beefed up infrastructure takes, and the cries of anger and frustration (and fear) were heard loud and clear.  The fear was about appliances, what would happen with costly perishables, and the state of prepared meals.  Concerns about security were also part of individual considerations.

Now here is the experience of Guyanese during the 2015-20 interval relative to blackouts.  They were less.  Again: they were considerably less and often shorter.  And, if the slow at grasping that reality (or accepting of it), I do this a third time to ram home the point: there were blackouts, but they were fewer in number and shorter in span.  I skim past who did better with new generators and maintenance, who was more competent, and who fell down more on the job.  There is only one measurement: which government, PPP or PNC+AFC (et al) delivered less blackouts to energy famished Guyanese.  When all the arguments and denials are over, the PPP Government loses out on that question, and by a less than respectable margin.  Its own people, its own communities, have felt the squeeze just like many swaths of Guyana.  Who wants to bury their head in the sand is free to do so; it is pretty dark down there.  Thus, their difficulty in appreciating the difference between natural darkness and governance and management derived ones could be understood.  Understood, but not accepted.

On the issue of management, no government runs a national energy entity.  It makes decisions, as part of its governance wisdom, on what could or should yield the best results.  Personally speaking, I believe that it was a bad decision to bring back a disappointing executive, whose contributions as CEO failed to generate the required minimum level of brightness, i.e., less blackouts.  Second, it was a bad decision to get rid of Mr. Albert Gordon, the CEO who strung things together, held them together, and was the prime architect of the much sought after state of less blackouts.  To be frank, and to be fair, there is no expectation in this part of the local crowd for the PPP Government to deliver zero blackouts.  It would be lovely, but all Guyanese must be realistic.  They are; it is their patience that is drier than the current domestic drought conditions.  Still, blackouts cannot be so many and so often.  Before one blackout could be over, another one is rushing to fill its place.  This was what occurred recently, which prompted the GPL people to take out ads identifying the specifics of what was the equivalent of a dead car battery that sputters to life for a few minutes, only to collapse back into its corpselike sleep.

Now, I hear President Ali jumping around like some Bollywood performer, and Vice President Jagdeo pretending at Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers (both at once) as they go through their drills about public dressing down of management, pending management changes, and the usual childishness from these supposedly adult leaders.  Why were those changes made in the first place, gents?  I saw a full color document that identified who replaced whom and offer these positions.  When political appointments are shoved into spaces like the GPL they usually cannot perform.  When the institutional memory and collective skills and talents in several key areas are lost, then the GPL can only perform up to a point.  Blackouts become the norm.  New generators are good for a warm leadership speech, but only when they are guided by the right minds and right hands.  Knock out as many old heads as was done, and what is dead follows.  The trend in what took place at different management tiers at the GPL is being paralleled at the Guyana Police Force.  I regret to say that the quality of protection that ensues, the state of mind of citizens, and the morale in these two national organizations are not for the better.

Put the right people in place. Help them with resources.  Buy stuff that gives Guyanese the full value for their dollars.  Make the GPL a showcase of leadership wisdom and principles.  Corruption and gas-to-energy have been deliberately excluded, particularly that school of thought which insists that blackouts have intensified, so that the gas-to-energy project would be embraced as the shining knight running to the rescue.  Just do something with the GPL, so that it performs better, delivers more.  President Ali looks embarrassingly anemic and chief policymaker Jagdeo is getting better as a jester when the GPL is examined.  Over.