We are beginning to get that sinking feeling, that unease in the pit of our stomach, that the prospect of cheaper energy for our suffering masses is nowhere in sight.
With Azurest-Cambridge effectively out of the runnings for the building of the proposed 360-megawatt power plant, and Energy World International (EWI) being discredited in the media, Jamaican sectoral groups continue to behave as if they do not know that the pickings are extremely slim.
The position taken by the coalition of sectoral interests, that the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) is incapable of handling the energy project and should hand it over to a private-public sector oversight group, is the latest cause for concern.
What that position essentially suggests to us is that, not just the OUR, but the international consultant — Mott McDonald — and the Cabinet of Jamaica, indeed, all the entities so far involved in the management of the bidding process, are not competent to bring us to the point of a successful energy project.
It is important to note that the OUR has been acting on the advice of the international consultant and with the approval of the Government of Jamaica, through the energy minister, Mr Phillip Paulwell.
We find it difficult to envision such a crucial project being handed over to a group of people with such varied interests and agendas. The kind of money involved — $7 billion — makes it attractive to all and sundry. Which interest and which agenda will assume leadership of this group? To whom will this oversight group be accountable? And should things go wrong, as they seem to have so far, who will be held responsible?
Which is where we find the continuing silence of Mr Paulwell quite suspicious and untenable. The energy minister cannot, like Pontius Pilate, wash his hands of the project or keep his head down while the OUR takes a battering. We just cannot do national business this way!
Our gut instincts tell us that projects like the proposed 360-megawatt power plant, with the inevitable financial intricacies involved and the overwhelming need for confidentiality in the negotiating process, cannot become a media circus.
We wonder which investor with that kind of money, looking on now at what is going on, would want to get involved.
What our local interests must bear in mind is that bottom line, the country needs a project that is going to reduce energy costs substantially below the current US$0.42 per kilowatt hour, that will allow us to grow the economy.
Let us hear, not so much the noise about who cannot finance the project, but rather who can. In our view, anyone who cannot offer a power plant that can bring in energy at no more than US$0.30 per kilowatt hour is likely to be wasting our time.
But we must hear from Mr Paulwell, whose job it is to lead. He cannot cede his responsibility to a loose coalition of interest groups. There is too much a stake. This is the Paulwell ultimatum.