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Pressure on Paulwell - Private sector groups demand minister state position on disbanding EMC

Published:Monday | April 14, 2014 | 12:00 AM


ENERGY MINISTER Phillip Paulwell is facing demands that he state his position on the future of the Energy Monitoring Committee (EMC), which The Sunday Gleaner yesterday reported is to be disbanded.

Key private sector groupings such as the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC), and the Jamaica Manufacturers' Associa-tion (JMA) have reacted to the report with fury, stating that they "cannot understand why the minister would be considering disbanding this committee this early in the project".

The EMC was established by Cabinet as part of its mandate to monitor the bid process for the 360-megawatt generation facility, ensuring that it strictly adheres to the arrangements prescribed by the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR).

The committee is also charged with ensuring that at the end of the process, the price of electricity provided by the licensee to the Jamaica Public Service Company does not exceed the agreed price per kilowatt hour.

"We would very much appreciate hearing from the minister his reasons for not wanting the committee to pursue its mandate," the JMA and the JCC said in a joint media release.

The EMC is made up of nine members from the Government, the private sector, and the trade union movement.

The Sunday Gleaner quoted an unnamed source as saying: "It has served its purpose, and now it is time for us to move on and get this project going."

The report comes as Paulwell prepares to grant a licence for Energy World Interna-tional to undertake the base-load project.

But JMA president, Brian Pengelley, said he was unconvinced that the work of the committee was done.

"The mandate of this committee, whose terms of reference were approved by the Cabinet, is to ensure as an oversight committee that not just the bid process, but also the implementation of this project, is followed as prescribed by the OUR," Pengelley said. "We, therefore, strongly disagree that the job of the EMC is finished as this team is in place to ensure transparency through the life of the project, and that on completion, we can all say that this was a project that all Jamaicans can be proud of, and, of course, that we are able to receive electricity at the stipulated prices we were promised."

He expressed further concern over why the minister would be considering disbanding the committee this early in the project.

"We reiterate that we are extremely concerned by this statement as we cannot understand how the disbanding of the EMC would not serve the best interests of the country and provide, as was intended, as much transparency as possible for a project that has already been clouded in controversy," Pengelley said.

In another release, PSOJ president, Christopher Zacca, said: "We really hope this is not true as a move such as this by the Government would serve no good purpose and further damage the credibility of this generation project and would, in my opinion, set back in a significant way the progress we have made as a country in the social partnership and call into question the value of such a partnership."