Consortium committed to GEC deal - Aldridge
By Gitanjali Singh
August 14, 1999
A key negotiator for the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC)/ESBI, says the consortium remains committed to the GEC deal and says he never meant to imply that any member of the government negotiating team was compromised in a recent fax to the CDC regional office.
The fax, obtained by the opposition PNC, was released to the media with a call for Head of the Privatisation Unit, Winston Brassington, to explain whether he may have been compromised in any way. Language such as Brassington having been "got at" and him being relied on to keep GEC people "in line" as well as holding the government's feet "to the fire" were used by Aldridge in the fax to the CDC regional office.
"No comments I have made in any communications are meant to imply that head of the Privatisation Unit or others negotiating in Guyana have been compromised or have behaved outside acceptable norms. They have not," Aldridge said in a CDC statement, the first since the opposition has come out against the government's refusal to release the proposed agreements to conclude the transaction.
And Brassington, sharing a media briefing with Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, yesterday stated: "I have in no way been compromised." He conceded that the language used in the fax is "unusual" but said that internal correspondence is not written with the intention of it being made public.
Jim Romanos of the CDC is scheduled to arrive in Guyana on Monday to further the process, so that the privatisation of the Guyana Electricity Corporation (GEC) will be completed before month end. Brassington said that the CDC has confirmed that settling a US$1.7 million debt owed by the government, via the External Payments Deposit Scheme (EPDS) is not part of the deal.
And the CDC yesterday assured that it is firmly committed to the GEC transaction.
Aldridge sees the criticisms of the government over its failure to release documents relating to the proposed GEC privatisation deal as a "political issue".
"And we are not about to get involved in a political dispute. We are negotiating with the government as the elected representative of the people," said Aldridge.
He said he recognised that the government had a difficult choice to make; either release hundreds of pages of legal and technical documents or provide interested parties with a detailed summary of the deal. He said that the choice to go with the deal summary was made with the support of local and foreign advisers and the CDC respected the choice.
Aldridge stated that the release of hundreds of pages of documents "could easily lead to more confusion than clarity" and would have facilitated criticisms of the deal as being one-sided without acknowledging other elements of the deal which provided for a balanced interest.
The CDC official said this was why it was standard practice around the world for such commercial negotiations to remain confidential until concluded.
"We are pleased that in due course [the Guyana] government will lay before Parliament the agreements they sign [with us]," Aldridge stated.
After the decision not to release the documents, People's National Congress (PNC) leader, Desmond Hoyte had warned CDC/ESBI that it should "assess the situation, take heed and quitely fade away unless they want to buy a bundle of political and industrial problems and lose their investment in the process".
Aldridge also noted that the CDC/ESBI has availed itself to answer the queries of the media in Guyana and noted that many people leave conversations with greater confidence that the CDC/ESBI team members were the "right people" to run the power company in Guyana.
The CDC senior executive also spoke on claims that the consortium had departed from the terms of the original bid, pointing out that the initial bid was contemplating a 25% increase in rates last year. However, he noted the position of the social partners which led to the formation of the Quadripartite Committee.
"We negotiated long and hard on the new structure and frankly we have created something which is truly innovative," said Aldridge.
CDC/ESBI will be phasing in the US$23.45 million over three years to keep the pressure of rate of return and its impact on tariffs down. The full investment is supported by a Letter of Credit from an international bank.
Aldridge assures that government ministers and officials in Guyana have negotiated strenuously to ensure that the deal meets the best interests of Guyana. Fourteen expatriate managers are to take control of the Guyana Power and Light Inc, the new company to be created. He added that the transaction is scheduled for conclusion soon "as all the final legal and commercial processes in Guyana are completed".
The CDC release said the consortium has already begun to develop detailed plans for the turnaround and subsequent expansion of the utility.
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