May 14, 2011 Editorial
With the rising fuel cost Guyana Power and Light says that the consumer is not going to see a reduction in energy charges anytime soon. A few years ago the power company was complaining about energy losses and line losses. The energy losses resulted from people stealing power thus forcing legitimate consumers to pay for them.
The stated promise was that when the number of consumer increases then the cost to the consumer would be lowered. It turns out that there are numerous other factors that would influence the cost. And one of these is beyond the control of the power company. It is the cost of the heavy fuel oil that powers the generators.
As the country now recognises, the future rests with hydroelectric power. There can be no doubt that everyone welcomes the efforts to establish a hydroelectric facility. For one, the people are aware that as a country that proposes measures to reduce carbon emissions and so avert what most believe would be climate change that could be catastrophic, there is need for a reduction in the use of fossil fuel.
Indeed, the construction of the hydro dam and the subsequent flooding of the reservoir will see the destruction of some trees. These trees are considered critical to the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere but their removal will not have a significant impact on the forest cover that Guyana provides. The nation eagerly awaits hydroelectricity.
Yet for all this there is acrimony. The government is angry that sections of the media are asking questions about the hydroelectric project. The media for their part are saying that they have a right to ask questions because they must act in the interest of the people. What makes the situation hostile is the fact that the government, in the face of hard questions, immediately accuses those media that ask questions of being anti-development and anti-national.
On Wednesday, senior Sithe Global executives met with the wider society to explain aspects of the hydroelectric project. They recognised that there were problems and questions because not too much has been said about the project in recent months. The media learnt by the way that the government had travelled to China to sign aspects of the project financing.
From the government side, they learnt that the cost of the project would have been about US$500 million. The contractors later placed the cost at between US$650 million and US$700 million. Immediately there was confusion given that there is the perception that many in the government are corrupt.
No government likes to have its integrity questioned so it issued statements clarifying situations, then it launched an offensive against the media. Perhaps it was decided by the government’s public relations people that attack was the best form of defence.
Of course, it goes without saying that the object of the attack would be the messengers who bring news that conflict with what the government wants the public to have.
But what the government needs to recognise is that its spokesmen are saying precious little and where there is a vacuum the people fill in the blanks, sometimes on information provided by people not close to the action.
And so we look at the latest source of antagonism. It has to do with the sale or transfer of the licence from Synergy Holdings to Sithe Global. This would have been a non-issue if the information was readily available. It was not. The government claims that the transfer of the licence was on the Prime Minister’s website.
Be that as it may, the first inkling the nation had that Sithe Global had the licence was when Chartered Accountant Christopher Ram asked about it. The Sithe Global Vice President himself may be the source of the confusion. He said that he bought the licence. This was found to be in contravention of the regulations.
It is this that must have angered the government but instead of taking out that anger on the media the government
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