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The Government’s announcement in January, through Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo, that it will construct a gas-to-shore project at the former Wales sugar estate continues to be met with skepticism. This is understandable given the government’s track record of projects built in the past, to the tune of hundreds of millions of United States dollars, as in the instance of the Skeldon sugar factory and became a white elephant. People want assurances and answers.
There are economic, environmental and health interests in the Wales project. It would be good to know whether the project will not compromise the quality of life of those residing in the surrounding communities and the ecosystem as a whole. Though oil and gas have been found in Guyana in commercial quantities, exploitation of these resources when the world is dealing with Climate Change and advocating a Green Economy, is bound to attract deserving attention.
The economic cost for the project’s construction is also a matter of serious concern. What is the cost and where will the money be sourced? If the money is being sourced externally, from whom, and at what rate of interest and repayment period? These answers the public would like to know. The government recently increased the debt ceiling, both domestic and foreign, to the tune of G$500 Billion and G$650 Billion respectively. Debts have to be repaid and it is important to ensure whenever such cost is incurred it is worthwhile and results in betterment for the people.
The Skeldon factory, which at the time cost Guyana over US$205 million, is a debt still to be repaid but the factory has never been functional. Lenders do not care if the project constructed by the borrower is operational, what they care about is the repayment. Poor Guyana can ill afford to throw good money behind bad projects. The economy and people simply cannot afford it.
The Wales project is no easy undertaking. All the nuts and bolts have to be identified and properly placed. It has already been said the project will cost billions of dollars. This is money the taxpayer will have to fund. There is understandably serious reservations whether Guyana could afford this project and at what cost to the people. Guyanese need to be assured the project is worthwhile and the return on investment for them will be a net profit not loss. People also want assurance the project will not be injurious to the environment and their health. These are reasonable expectations.
People have been calling on the Government to produce the feasibility study. Some have posited a feasibility study may have been done. But where is the evidence? And if such a study was done it needs not only be made public but also of importance is knowing who did the study. It is well known people/organisations could be recruited to produce any study, influenced by special interest, and would produce results to satisfy that interest. Ultimately taxpayers have to repay any loan taken to construct the project, and Guyanese would have to suffer any life consequences if the project later proves unsound for the environment and their health.The best interest here has to be Guyana and all Guyanese, at all times.