Differing “Blackouts – a leadership industry”

Dear Editor,
While I imagine that the editorial carried by one of the daily newspapers on May 02 under the caption, “Blackout – a leadership industry”, might have been written in a fit of great anger after a most aggravating loss of electricity supply (blackout), I must point out how wrong, inaccurate, and unhelpful that editorial is.
As the editorial speaks about successive PPP/C Governments and having been the Minister Responsible for Electricity from October 1992 to May 2015, I sense an obligation, and beg for an opportunity to say something reassuring to my fellow Guyanese people.
The editorial must have been written in such anger that memory, reason, and facts were thrown to the winds. Our GEC/GPL-grid electricity supply was tremendously improved over the 1992-to-2015 period: from about 75,000 families receiving electricity about 60% of the time to 175,000 families receiving electricity about 95% of the time. The PPP/C Administration was certainly not “a crooked cover under which there is the pretence of doing something better for Guyanese plagued by blackouts for decades”. The proportion of Guyanese households on the grid in the coastal grid area was increased from about 50% to about 90%. 100,000 of our Guyanese families received grid electricity for the first time, and all had supply improved to about 95% of the time.
That was truly a period of great improvement. Yes, the PPP/C carefully spent lots of money – millions of dollars – in bringing about the improvements above. It was money well spent in installing step by step new generation, transmission facilities, and abandoning or upgrading much of what we found, and in regular payments to purchase fuel.
I assure my fellow citizens that GPL was not “machinery, one of the many but one of the bigger ones through which the leaders of the country rob the people blind”.
There was no robbery. During the period, Guyana was in a World Bank/IMF monitoring programme. Most of the projects were financed through the IDB, which kept a continuous review of total management, including all spending from all sources.
We, PPP/C, have not been taking the Guyanese public for a ride. A quality electricity supply takes a lot of money and trust. When GEC/GPL was offered for privatisation, one attractive consortium which had been prequalified declined to submit a final proposal, saying that it had been mulling on, and was finally yielding to the observation that there are often social and political troubles in a society with a GDP less than US$3,000 in getting the citizens to pay the prices required for the good quality electrification they want.
In 1992 Guyana was just getting to a GDP of US$300, and we were at about US$41,000 at the time of the privatisation, October 1st, 1999.
We, PPP/C, from 1992 to 2015, put a lot of thought and time and work in getting as good electricity as we could for our Guyanese people, in our Guyanese circumstances of the day. The editor’s assertion about “blackout” being improved during the five years of the Coalition in office is an assertion that should be demonstrated. My recall is different, and the Coalition inherited a very much improved wicket anyway.
Allow me to refer to two news articles subsequent. The article telling of Giftland having generation problems and falling short of its publicised intended electricity deliveries to GPL shows what a real challenge it is. The report by the CEO of GPL, about an increase in the number of trips of the GPL grid caused by large infrastructure and other equipment coming into contact with GPL transmission and distribution and other equipment, is a good indication that things are taking off (not orderly enough) in our country. I have no doubt that with experience, improved communications, and awareness between GPL and all contractors and investments over the next two years, to increase the stability of the grid, such trips will be reduced. And we look further out, towards the coming on line of the Wales gas-generated electricity and Amaila hydro in the next four to seven years.
Editor, history, and fate have thrown to us Guyanese the challenge of knitting ourselves together as a nation. It is a challenge that most of us are accepting and are taking up, and we are making much progress. My concern is that your editorial “Blackouts – a leadership industry” (and other editorials), playing fast and loose with facts and feelings, even if driven by your understandable frustrations, would have unravelled billions of person-hours knitting ourselves together; undermining the confidence that we will make good of the recent fortunate strikes of oil off our shores. To use the words in that editorial – “That Editorial is the Greatest Robbery of Hope and Trust in our Guyana, in our People and Country. On my figuring, you owe our Nation an apology.

Samuel A A Hinds
Former Prime
Minister, Former
President, and
Former Minister
Responsible for GEC/