LIMIT ON AMOUNT OUTSTANDING UNDER GUARANTEES GIVEN UNDER THE GUARANTEE OF LOANS (PUBLIC CORPORATIONS AND COMPANIES) ACT
Mr. Nadir: Thank you Mr. Speaker. Whether it is five minutes or fifteen minutes it is an honour for me to make a contribution on this very important motion to increase our debt limit for public corporation.
From this side we heard two very passionate, rational and very effective arguments about the soundness of the economics about building a hydro. We cannot divorce increasing the limits for borrowing for public corporations to this extent from building the hydro. As the Finance Minister mentions that we need to offer some guarantees. Nowhere does it say that a guarantee is bankrolling the construction of the hydro. The guarantee is not the bankrolling of.
Mr. Speaker, you have done many financing deals for your client, who may have had to put up some form of collateral to borrow money, it is not using that collateral to bankroll anything, but to offer some guarantees. I want to agree with the Attorney General that never have we been so close to the realisation of building a hydro-project in this country; never have we been so close. We will continue to talk synonymously about the increasing of the limit and building the hydro because as I said we cannot divorce them.
The first time I sat through a lengthy presentation about building a hydro, was in the early 90’s at the Bishops High School, when the Hon. Prime Minister held a public forum about building this hydro. Then the construction cost was just under US$300 million; the Prime Minister told us, at that particular time. Fuel was under US$20 a barrel. In fact, gasoline prices, at that time, were $164 at our pumps. Then we could not offer a guarantee because we had been in the grips of three important jaws of death, I would say.
One - it was the epic condition under which the People’s National Congress regime left us in. We could not do that because of that particular condition. Second – was the World Bank conditionality that we had before us. Third – there were immediate needs in this country, at that time, in the early 90’s for the rebuilding of the infrastructure. It took three and a half hours to travel from Timehri to Georgetown; four and a half hours from Supenaam to Charity; and from the Bank of Guyana to the Pegasus Hotel it took forty-five minutes. There were some immediate needs, but we were in the clutches of certain conditions.
As the Minister of Finance said prudence, good management of our economy and the restoration of credit worthiness to our country, has put us today in a much better position. A much better position where, with some amount of confidence and comfort, we can assure our people; we can assure the international financial institutions; we can assure investors that Guyana is sound financially and a good place to plant your investments, now more than ever.
The group that is associated with building the hydro, as the Minister of Finance mentioned, is an important, significant and a big player in providing financing all over the world, not only Guyana. This is not an institution or a company that came up overnight. This is a serious company that does its homework and, its history is, when it picks an investment it can assure itself that it is an investment that will give it good returns for its shareholders.
But outside of that company I think Minister Ali did lay the groundwork when he spoke of the US$3.5 billion of consumer surpluses that would be generated by a simple guarantee from the Government of US$750 million; just for our consumers alone.
Today, it is not the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or the World Bank that is imposing the conditions and handcuffing this Nation from achieving the development which it can, it is the Opposition with its one seat majority that is doing that. The Opposition is proud to say that we are going to tie issue after issue together because they have a political agenda, which is, to put the Government out of power. [Mrs. Lawrence: What is wrong with that?] Nothing is wrong with that. Nothing at all is wrong with that except one can understand the “saintism” in them that they are willing to sacrifice the 750,000 people in this country, just because they want political power. That is what is wrong with it.
We have to make some very bold decisions, as I said during the Budget Debate, so that the future generations can benefit; for the benefit of the future generations. I cast my mind back to Brazil in the early 70’s, during the fuel crisis. Today, Brazil gets praises and accolades for its Gasohol Programme, but after the first fuel crisis, the Brazilian politicians of all shades took a decision that they said, “Brazil will not be held hostage again by oil producing countries. In a particular period, Brazil will secure energy; it will have achieved energy security for itself and they had to do it 50 years ago. I see this debt ceiling increase and the building of the hydro similar to that – achieving energy security for our country, achieving less dependence on oil imports for Guyanese, outside of all the benefits which our previous speakers have adumbrated.
This has to be important for us and it cannot be a decision that has to be delayed. It has to be a decision that must be taken now.
Tomorrow the investors walk and we have to go through this cycle all over again and perhaps not at US$750 million, guarantee, but perhaps almost twice or thrice that. I was asking those involved in energy generation what has been the escalation of generation cost over the last 20 years and the Prime Minister is very aware of that. From the time we put down the first generator at Garden of Eden, the Wartzila Plant, it may have been $1 million a megawatt/p/m to have that installed. Today it is over US$1.5 million to have a megawatt; today. In the early 1990s the PM had a project of $300 million to build this ‘hydro’. 20 years later it has more than doubled and this is what we continue to do. Those same people who we are saying that we are representing and we want to hold this kleptomaniac of an administration responsible and to ensure that the people of Guyana get the best of our thinking, those are the very same people that tonight our Opposition Parties are putting in jeopardy. We are going to talk until we are blue in the face but there is only one goal that I see tonight that the opposition has and that is to depose anything which this Government proposes; nothing else. To ensure that whatever this Government is going to do to bring benefit to all the people they will oppose because there might be a slim chance in that the overwhelming majority of the people of this country will see that, as happened over the past 20 years, this PPP/C Government has been very good for Guyana. I have no hesitation whatsoever in giving full support to the motion of the Hon. Prime Minister and also while that has passed to also endorse the efforts of the Prime Minister to ensure that during his tenure Guyana will realise hydropower. [Applause]