The fact that Guyana has an emerging private sector that lacks the capabilities and adequate capital to execute mega projects the likes of the Amaila Falls Hydroelectric Project, has not only rendered the recent calls by A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Shadow Finance Minister, Carl Greenidge, baseless but rather erroneous. This assertion was made by President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce, Clinton Urling, in an invited comment to this publication recently. Greenidge just last week threw out the challenge to the Private Sector to invest in the project “if it is that good…let them put their money where their mouth is.”
The project from its inception had not found favour with some factions of the society including the parliamentary opposition comprising the APNU and the Alliance for Change (AFC), a state of affairs which was reportedly link to the fact that the project was shrouded with some level of secrecy. However, not so long ago the AFC decided to reverse its stance towards the project leaving the APNU to stand alone in objection mode.However, the discord did nothing for the progression of the project as Sithe Global, the constructing firm through its President, Brian Kubeck, insisted that “a public-private partnership of this magnitude requires a national consensus in order for us to proceed further.”
In slamming the recent comments of Greenidge regarding the input of the private sector, Urling pointed out that the private sector (body) is one that seeks to cultivate an environment that is conducive to bringing in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and not an uncertain political environment. “We don’t need an environment where we are playing all of these political tit for tat and chasing away investors…So when we breakdown a lot of these political rhetoric…the politicians will always give their political view…and so I think Mr Greenidge is just being a politician.” “I am talking strictly from a professional standpoint I have no political interest,” insisted Urling, even as he disclosed that anything that Government seeks to invest in, the private sector is by extension involved.
Government has however insisted that the State would not incur any debt in the Amaila Falls project. But according to Urling even if in the worst case scenario Government has to repay it will in fact be the private sector that will be aiding such a process.
According to him a significant portion of taxpayers’ money comes from the private sector through corporate taxes, import duties, employees’ contributions and revenue from the gold industry, monies which represent close to 80 per cent of the taxpayers’ net.
However, since Guyana has an emerging private sector which when examined on a global scale is rather small and therefore incapable of investing in large infrastructural projects, efforts have been made to encourage FDI, insisted Urling. “If we could have invested directly we would have happily done so that is why we at the Chamber have seen the urgency for FDI like the BlackStone Group and Sithe Global…those are FDIs with the requisite capital and expertise to pursue such projects.”
In fact according to Urling countries around the world are seeking after FDIs, and investors in general to invest, therefore this need is not unique to Guyana. Urling explained too that when overseas investors invest, they by extension become part of the local private sector bringing with them skills and allowing for knowledge transfer.
However, Urling maintains that an independent inquiry by a reputable international firm into the hydroelectric project remains a necessity. He is adamant that efforts must be made by the inquiring firm to assess the project based on its merits and make relevant recommendations that both the Government and opposition sides could accept with a view of allowing for forward movement.