Editorial

Be careful what you ask for, Mr Zacca

Sunday, May 11, 2014    

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Mr Chris Zacca and the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) which he leads, and whose intervention drove the final nail into the Energy World International (EWI) coffin, seems to have lost their way.

On CVM Television Friday night Mr Zacca roundly endorsed the resurrection of Dr Vin Lawrence as head of the enterprise committee appointed by the Government to restart the 381-megawatt energy project.

Perhaps it's a case of not heeding the old adage: Be careful what you ask for. You might just get it!

On May 3, 2014 the PSOJ, the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association (JMA) and the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) urged the Government to disband the Energy Monitoring Committee (EMC) and replace it with a public/private energy enterprise team to oversee the granting of a new licence.

The Portia Simpson Miller Cabinet obliged by revoking EWI's licence and appointing an enterprise committee to oversee the project. But there was a bitter sting in the tail — the second coming of Dr Lawrence.

Mr Zacca and his group would have been expected to reject this inappropriate appointment and we thought their silence for three days after was probably because they and the interests they represented were too busy celebrating the fact that the EWI project was in tatters.

The appointment of Dr Vin Lawrence is hardly something that the 16th president of the PSOJ should welcome, having experienced first-hand the trauma of dealing with the man who earned the moniker 'god' for the all-pervasive influence he wielded in the ruling party's kitchen cabinet during its previous tenure in office. In the end he mysteriously staged the biggest resignation in memory when he walked away from all his State appointments.

Mr Zacca was at Air Jamaica when Dr Lawrence was the Government's pointman on the board and with Gorstew Limited as part of the joint venture partnership that owned the Sandals Whitehouse hotel. At the time, Dr Lawrence was chairman of the Urban Development Corporation which built the controversy-hit hotel with overruns of US$43 million that taxpayers had to absorb. The Office of the Contractor General was rasping in its criticism of the project under Dr Lawrence.

Moreover, Mr Zacca knows the pain of the process of getting an energy project going in Jamaica and therefore ought to be more cautious.

He has never publicly explained why he left the state-run Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) Steering Committee which was a fundamental element of the Government's fuel source diversification. Importantly, LNG was the preferred fuel source for the 381-megawatt electricity generation plant and the bauxite/alumina industry.

Mr Zacca left the committee without meeting its 2012 deadline for completing its work that was to lead to the establishment of LNG infrastructure and supplies by 2014.

A reasonable question is how will Dr Lawrence fare this time with the contractor general, who has had reasons to criticise the handling of the current energy project? And why would Mr Zacca have hugged him up so tightly at this time?

If Jamaica is to realise the energy project -- assuming it can still attract investors after the recent fiasco -- the process must be marked by sobriety and inclusiveness. Dr Lawrence is dogged by controversy and is not the man to lead this process.

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