– Finance Minister debunks misinformation by AFC’s David Patterson
AS the 2023 National Budget debate came to a close on Friday last in the National Assembly, Prime Minister, Brigadier (Ret’d) Mark Phillips posited that there was evidence to prove that the Amaila Falls project, when originally tabled in 2013, was a viable one that would have garnered long-term benefits for Guyana.
The Prime Minister was at the time addressing statements made by former Minister and Opposition Member of Parliament (MP), David Patterson, who denied that the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) opposition was responsible for blocking the project.
Though he described the project as “stillborn,” Patterson said the opposition played no part in ‘killing’ the Amaila Falls hydro project.
Prime Minister Phillips, however, said that Patterson misrepresented the facts on the Amaila Falls project in the National Assembly.
“All the documents, all the evidence is there to show that the Amaila Falls was a viable project and had we continued along that development trajectory that was set out by the previous PPP government, we would have had 165 megawatts (MW) renewable energy delivered to the people of Guyana,” the Prime Minister stressed.
This, he added, would have benefitted the people of the country but more specifically, those in Linden and Bartica, had it been developed five years ago.
Meanwhile, delivering the closing presentation on the final day of the budget debate, Senior Minister with responsibility for Finance, Dr Ashni Singh, went into details in relation to the matters that led to the derailing of the hydropower project in 2013.
During that time, the People’s Progressive Party was a minority government.
And Dr Singh told the house, “The Amaila Falls [project] did not happen because of direct obstruction by the APNU+AFC.”
Providing evidence to the National Assembly on the matter, the Finance Minister cited several articles published back then, that detailed events which caused the project to be halted.
Sharing an article published on August 21, 2013, the Finance Minister cited a statement which was made at the time by the then President of the National Amerindian Development foundation; it noted that the APNU’s axing of the Amaila project was meant to cripple the government’s development strategy.
Prior to this, he noted that the government had received some insight into what would be transpiring as another report published stated that the APNU was not budging on the Amaila project.
He told the house, “The article said, ‘Despite a 7AM call to the then opposition leader by the then President (who was President Donald Ramotar at the time) on a Sunday morning that 7AM Sunday morning call failed to budge APNU’s decision not to support Amaila’.”
Sithe Global, the major investor for the project, walked away from it. The company’s president then reportedly said that the project was too large to continue without a national consensus or without the support of all three major parties in Parliament at the time.
Driving home his point, Dr Singh cited a Reuters article which was published in August 2013 as well.
This article stated that Sithe Global pulled out of the $858 million hydroelectric generation project in Guyana, “citing political wrangling that prevented it from obtaining financing.”
Also rebutting Patterson’s remarks, the Finance Minister said that while the main opposition party (APNU) did not support the project, the AFC, at the last minute, chose to support the project.
Dr Singh said, “… that entire history is conveniently forgotten by Mr Patterson who now comes conveniently forgetting the views expressed by his party at that time.”
And the Finance Minister, like Prime Minister Phillips, said the Amaila Falls project did not happen at that time as a direct consequence of the actions taken by the APNU+AFC in Parliament.
He added, “For Mr Patterson to now come and try to rewrite history, try to as if none of this happened, this is in the parliamentary record, it is in the media… As if none of this happened to come to say that APNU+AFC played no role in this at all, I fear that I could not adequately describe what he would have committed in that regard.”
While the programme was shelved following the APNU+AFC taking office in 2015, the PPP/C administration since entering office in 2020 has sought to breathe new life into the project as the party strives to achieve energy security through an energy mix.
The project was expected to commence construction in 2022 and be completed in 2025 to add 165 MW of energy to the national grid.
In 2022, Vice President, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo had said that construction of the hydropower station could possibly go back to tender as the executing company at the time was having difficulties honouring its commitment to the Build-Own-Operate-Transfer (BOOT) contract it had signed.