Tony Vieira's Comments
22 October 2017

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Regulation
(Aired 20 March 2003)

  On Saturday 15th March 2003 I was watching the usual Saturday afternoon lime at CNS Channel 6, present were the inevitable CN Sharma and Kendall but this week the panel consisted of Dr. Ramsahoye, always a pleasure to hear Walter's opinion on any matter, Ramon Gaskin and Joey Jagan.

   The subject being discussed was the current situation with Power and Light. The question seemed to revolve around who should own Power and Light and/or who should manage it. Gaskin's opinion was that we do not need any foreign company to manage it for us, nor do we need any foreign company to own it, Joey's position was that he was not satisfied that there were any Guyanese with enough money to own it or competent to run it, so for the time being it would be better to let foreign investors buy it over and let their technocrats manage it for us. Ramsahoye's position was why not compromise between these two positions. Allow private international investors to invest with us but we should maintain ownership and we must, if we do not have the necessary local skills, devise proper management contracts, not rapacious ones such as ESBI's, to manage these entities for us, the Booker Tate contract being an excellent example.

   Ramsahoye is of course right but the fact is that I don't care who owns it or who runs it, this is a monopoly public utility and MUST be regulated by the Public Utilities Commission made up of Guyanese nationals. 

    All of the ills of the electrical supply stem from the fact that GP&L were never required to be regulated by the PUC, in fact Mr. Hinds sought to change our laws to make them not accountable to the PUC.

    Since coming to power this government has sought to debilitate the PUC, to disallow any foreign investor to be subjected to regulation by them, because the foreign companies did not want to be accountable to any regulatory body whatsoever.   

   It is quite incredible that ESBI and Trent are both from the UK and HAVE to be subject to regulation by the British and Irish Governments respectively. But they want no regulation whatsoever when they take over similar utilities in our country, leaving the Guyanese people totally unprotected from their rapacious increases in rates. This is actively supported by officials of our own government who do not seem to understand their mandate on behalf of the Guyanese people.

    ESBI is an Irish company which is in a partnership with CDC, a Canadian company to invest in and to manage the electricity generation in this country, they asked for and obtained an astronomically expensive management contract to do so, Mr. Hinds agreed to pay them this 750 million annual management fee, but they managed the Guyana situation badly and in the end they were the only ones who made any profit out of this partnership, CDC and ESBI were also allowed to make a huge return on their investment but still claim that they lost heavily in this investment, how can anyone guaranteed to make OVER 20% of the total assets of any company a year, make a loss? No ladies and gentlemen the only losers here were the Guyanese people. It was a ridiculous deal and Mr. Hinds owes us an apology if not his resignation.

   But Baksh is doing it again, Guyana Water Inc. also apparently do not want to be regulated, but this time the Guyanese people having just experienced the fiasco of GP&L must demand that the rates of all public utilities, which are in fact monopolies, be regulated.

   The PUC act No.10 of 99 section 4 [C] makes specific provision for water to be regulated by the PUC, but the Minister has not made the order requiring water to be so regulated, in this country there is a legal instrument called a writ of mandamus, the Guyanese people should seek such a writ and mandate the Ministers concerned for both water and electricity to bring these utilities under the provisions and controls of the PUC act.  This is very important ladies and gentlemen, we are all the recipients of these unilateral increases in electricity and water rates without any guarantee whatsoever that the supply of either will be up to any significant standard and we just don't seem to have the knowledge or the will to fight these injustices.

    We must demand that our managers look after our best interest, that's all these Ministers are, ladies and gentlemen, they are our managers and they should manage in our interest, or they should get out. This is a very dangerous matter and I will tell you why.

   In 2003 a year long investigation by the International consortium of investigative journalists concluded that the World Bank and other International Financial Institutions have played no small part in the fact that 300 million people are now subservient to international water barons who control their water, since they link grant aid money to the privatisation of water systems worldwide. Over the past 13 years this tendency for the international water barons to take over the private water systems of countries, especially poor developing countries, have increased phenomenally, from 51 million people in 1990, to 300 million people in 2002 and they have become active in 56 countries whilst in 1990 they were active in only about a dozen countries.

   When cholera broke out in South Africa in August 2000, officials first thought that it was just another sporadic outbreak but as the epidemic spread it turned out to be a chronicle of death foretold by blind ideology.

  This is how it happened, in 1998 local councils in South Africa began taking steps to commercialise their waterworks by forcing residents to pay the full cost of drinking water, but many of the millions of  people living in the tin roof slums of the region couldn't afford the rates, so being cut off at the taps, they were forced to find water in streams, ponds and lakes polluted with manure and human waste, by January 2002 when the worst cholera attack in South Africa's history ended, it had infected a quarter of a million people, had killed 300 of them and had spread as far as Johannesburg 300 miles away.

   The seeds of this epidemic had been sown long before South Africa decided to take this deadly road to privatisation. The seeds were planted mainly by an aggressive group of utility companies, largely European, that are attempting to privatise the world's drinking water with the help of the World Bank and other financial institutions on a global scale.   

  In many developing countries water is a scarce and valuable commodity especially in Asia and Africa and is clearly a very profitable enterprise.

   People who are not required to pay for it, these International Water Barons tell us, don't treat water as a very precious resource, remember our Minister Baksh telling us that metering will, make us conserve water? In other words he is telling us exactly the same thing, that it is precious and that we are wasting it. This man is totally brainwashed by the international lending agencies and their rhetoric, and he obviously does not understand that the international lending agencies and the industrialised nations want to make us subservient to them, since they believe that by 2020 water will be as profitable as Oil. And he is allowing them to play this game with our lives, well no more Baksh, we have to protect ourselves from this stupidity, they will be regulated, or they will get out. Neither Severn Trent or you will ever set water rates in this country, Guyanese will, through the PUC.   

   We have a very weak and inept government ladies and gentlemen, it comes from lack of courage, lack of knowledge, lack of negotiating skills and not placing the best interest of the Guyanese people first, the Surinamese have discovered it, the Venezuelans have discovered it, the IDB and the World bank have discovered it, the British have discovered it, the Irish have discovered it and the criminals have discovered it.

   Finally there inevitably will be some moron who will write to the newspapers telling the public that Vieira is a hypocrite, that he has been fighting regulation in broadcasting but that he is advocating regulation in power and other utilities.

  I have never considered that this government wanted to regulate broadcasting ladies and gentlemen, they wanted to control it, to control what we say and do by having the Minister of Information hand select every member of the authority that will regulate the broadcasting landscape, UNESCO's Mordecai who was brought to Guyana to comment on Mr. Nagamootoo's broadcast drafts had this to say and I quote him, "merely saying that the authority will be autonomous will not make it so, the method of selection of its members must guarantee it, purely ministerial appointments will inevitably make the authority a creature of its political master" if this government had agreed that the broadcast authority will comprise members who will be selected by a 2/3 vote in the parliament we would have had one since 1996. Additionally ladies and gentlemen, another major difference is that broadcasting is a highly competitive business in this country, with far too many channels on the air given our poor economic situation as a nation to support them with our limited advertising money, but our electrical supply and our water supply are virtual monopolies being allowed to set their own rates regardless of the ability of the Guyanese people to pay.