Sat | Mar 23, 2019

World Bank willing to assist with energy project

Published:Wednesday | May 7, 2014 | 12:00 AM
World Bank country director for the Caribbean, Sophie Sirtaine (left), addresses a round-table meeting with journalists at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel yesterday. Also pictured are Christelle Chapoy, World Bank senior communications officer for the Caribbean; World Bank representative Giorgio Valentini (second right); and Rajeev Gopal, World Bank resident representative for Jamaica and Belize. - Colin Hamilton/Freelance Photographer

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

The World Bank signalled yesterday that it was eyeing with keen interest the latest developments in the proposed 381-megawatt facility and that the multilateral organisation stands prepared to extend a helping hand in the revamped process.

"Now that we are in a new environment with regard to the project, the World Bank stands ready to work with the Government to see how we can help in different ways," said Sophie Sirtaine, the country director for the Caribbean countries in Latin America and Caribbean.

The Government on Monday decided to revoke the licence it had granted to Energy World International to construct the multibillion-dollar facility that had generated a lot of controversy among local stakeholders.

Sirtaine, speaking with The Gleaner yesterday, hinted that the World Bank was in support of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)'s decision to turn down a loan application to finance the bulk of the project.

In her position as director for the Caribbean region, Sirtaine is responsible for maintaining a strong partnership with the governments of Caribbean countries in order to address their development and financial challenges.

Sirtaine pointed to a new country-partnership strategy approved by the World Bank that proposes a lending programme of US$510 million over the next four years, which forms part of an ambitious package with the support of the international community, including the International Monetary Fund and the IDB.

"We have a project situation facility that should be tapped to recruit an advisory body that should possibly look at the 381-megawatt deal again," said Sirtaine.

Asked whether it was prudent for the procurement process to be restarted from scratch, Sirtaine said: "I think that is what the Government has decided on already."

INT'L BEST STANDARDS

She said this would facilitate a move towards accommodating international best standards.

"Jamaica needs to demonstrate that it and the private-public partnership (PPP) are ready to sit around the table to forge the best path forward."

Asked how concerned the World Bank was, Sirtaine replied: "The concern is not about getting a deal … but to enter a competitive process so that Jamaica can demonstrate that PPPs are attractive for investments in Jamaica."

She suggested that if this deal goes well, it could pave the way for many others.

"It is one deal continuing with another," said Sirtaine, a Belgian who is in charge of 14 countries in the hemisphere.

Sirtaine was supported by Rajeev Gopal, the resident representative for Jamaica and Belize.

Gopal stressed that the focus on the World Bank was not so much the energy source as the success of an energy-generating plant.

"Every country has a different situation, and sometimes hydro is the right solution and sometimes it's gas, so we have to go by what works best for the specific country," he said.

Gopal reiterated that as has been the case in the past, the World Bank is waiting to be of assistance to Jamaica.

"We will look at how we forge ahead in the future and we are very definitely open to financing other energy projects."

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com