Glenn Tucker, GUEST COLUMNIST
Energy World International (EWI) has provided the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) with evidence it has secured the US$7.4 million to cover the required bid bond for the 360-megawatt project. EWI is now the preferred bidder for the project. In spite of this, there are numerous unanswered questions that are troubling thinking Jamaicans.
But I have other concerns. They have to do with our selection process when contracts are to be given to overseas entities. Let's confine ourselves to energy - our lifeblood.
For an extended period, the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) was on the market. Eventually, in 2001, Government announced that Mirant Corporation had purchased major shares in the JPS. Mirant, a United States (US)-based company, was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. But for reasons best known to the Government, it was chosen.
Three months later, Mirant was implicated in one of the biggest energy scandals in the US. In August 2004, California sued Mirant Corporation, alleging that the firm unjustly profited from rampant lying and fraud during the California energy crisis of 2000-2001. That drained billions of dollars from California's economy and rate payers. Bill Lockyer, California's attorney general, said "... Mirant profited by breaking the law and plundering the people of California ... . California paid dearly for Mirant's fraud".
In eight years, Jamaicans were bawling about light bills. But Mirant had done so well, it could get out of bankruptcy and sell JPS at a profit without doing anything for Jamaicans.
About this time, we entered into a strange oil-lifting arrangement with a company called Trafigura. If one attempts to do any research on this company, it's name is either 'prefixed' or 'suffixed' with the words 'scandal' or 'bribe'.
Now, another controversy is raging over the selection of EWI and the circumstances under which it came to be chosen.
A few months ago, when the Goat Islands matter surfaced, I wrote about the Chinese and their environmental record. Instead of examining the claims and their implications for our environment, we were told not to bash the Chinese who were coming with 'billions'.
Why, whenever we are to do business with an overseas company, does this Government wade through a sea of reputable, competent, well-financed companies to select companies that are shrouded in controversy? At the same time we were negotiating with Mirant, American media were screaming warnings to all who would listen. They were accused of doing to Californians exactly what they eventually did to us. Were we deaf?
EWI does not even have a website. It takes a journalist all the way in Australia to ask the questions we should be asking: What is wrong with us? Should we be suspicious?
I have stopped blaming politicians for our woes. I know enough about most of them to know that they are not fools. So why is this happening? I am blaming the rest of us in Jamaica, which is running on the spot while other nations are racing ahead.
Glenn Tucker is an educator and sociologist. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.