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
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
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
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.