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Stand your ground, Minister Paulwell!

MARK WIGNALL

Sunday, May 04, 2014    

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In what has to be one of the most concerted attempts to divert attention from the real problems in the matter concerning Energy World International (EWI) and Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell, there has been a massive eruption of volcanic hypocrisy, oligarchs making their small numbers felt nationally and academics and 'waggonists' creeping and crawling out and bawling for the energy minister's scalp.

The hypocrisy can be written off as those who indulge in it not wanting to be seen 'on the wrong side' of whatever matter is of public import, even if they have intimate knowledge of the issues. Basically they are weak people and cannot help being so.

Oligarchs can hardly be blamed. Their interests are plainly to themselves first, and damn the country and its poor, ignorant people who exist only to feed the oligarchs' energies for trailer loads of cash, additional power and a large reserve of labour to ensure that 'living' and 'surviving' are not too far apart from each other.

As for the academics, they too can be forgiven for the simple reason that many of them were mis-educated at the UWI. 'Waggonists' like Opposition Leader Andrew Holness and some in the media do what they usually do -- stick a wet finger in the wind and eagerly go with the breeze.

But it doesn't end there. Right inside the People's National Party (PNP) Cabinet are those who have been intimately apprised of the matter. But, because they have friends in big business who share the fundamental belief that no 'outsider' investor should have a presence in the lucrative energy market, plus, Paulwell as a likely future leader of the PNP is a threat to them, they too have drawn their long knives and are creeping up smiling before the minister. Oh, how they would love to see the end of him.

What are the true issues?

Those in the closed-shop big business community who believe that they have a God-given right to eat better than everyone else have not been telling the country the plain truth: the local consortium that wants to go to the front of the line in any new bidding has already proven, by what went before in the previous bidding process, that they would cost the people of this country more in light bills when compared with what Energy World proposed.

That the minister is focused on the people of the country and the closed-shop bosses are only concerned about their bottom lines have escaped many because we are driven by hype, not studied matter and careful thought.

While the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) enjoyed favourability with the citizens of the country, the harsh truth is, the OCG is mainly made up of pencil-pushing lawyers who have absolutely no head for, nor knowledge of, how business operates in the real world.

It is my sincere belief that if the OCG stopped every single attempt at investment, local or foreign, over a span of say, five years, it would pat itself on the back and conclude that it did its job. 'We stopped them, boys.'

In 2010, the OCG derailed the Exmar consortium attempt to bring reality to the LNG project. A weak and perennially vacillating Prime Minister Bruce Golding, ever wary of his electoral delicacies, bowed and sounded the death knell on Exmar.

Four years later, this idiotic country is again attempting to send another message to potential investors that Jamaica is not ready for the big time because we like to dabble in local inanities. Do we honestly believe that there will be a third chance?

As far as I am aware, the bond of US$37.8 million posted by Energy World at HSBC in Hong Kong is being processed because the bank had the most unfortunate experience some time ago of 'rushing through' a transaction -- of which it handles many hundreds per day -- something went wrong and funds which originated in Mexico were found to have been not what the bank was hoping they would have been.

In that instance the bank was fined by the regulatory authorities nearly US$3 billion!

I hold no brief for Energy World, but if the local noise-makers really have this country's interests at heart, let them tell us why they should hog the cash cow that they so desperately want, and why it should cost this country $29 billion more per year than what Energy World has proposed.

In light of what they have said about Energy World, let them tell us where they will source their LNG. Let them tell us about the big projects they have worked on before.

The Inter-American Development Bank took its cue from the pencil-pushing lawyers in the OCG, and Minister Paulwell had every right to 'move outside the box' and question the arrangement. In principle, I am moved to support him, not because I have seen any hard proof beyond what Energy World principals have related to me about their capabilities, but I know that the minister is on the side of giving the people of this country cheaper rates of energy.

Stand your ground, minister! Noise makes for news, but your action, if successful, could lead to much better days for the taxpayers of this country.

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