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Disquiet over reports of EMC's disbandment

Published:Sunday | April 13, 2014 | 4:52 PM

The island's main business groups have reacted with dismay to reports that the Energy Monitoring Committee (EMC) that was set up to monitor the proposed 360-megawatt power generation facility is to be disbanded.



The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) and the Jamaica Manufacturers Association (JMA)today all said they were extremely concerned by the report of the EMC's disbandment.



The Sunday Gleaner today quoted sources who say the government would be disbanding the EMC this week since the mandate of the group, which comprises members from both the private and public sectors, has been fulfilled.



However, this comes amid recent indications from the EMC's co-chair, Peter Melhado, that the work of the group was not yet over as the committee felt there were still many questions lingering about the ability of the successful bidder to meet the stipulations of the contract to build the facility.



This also comes as Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell is reportedly preparing to approve and issue a licence to EWI to build the new power generation plant scheduled for completion in 2016.



"It (the EMC) has served its purpose and now it is time for us to move on and get this project going," declared a Sunday Gleaner source.



But in a release to the media this afternoon, 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 partnership.”



In arguing against the disbandment, JMA President Brian Pengelley pointed out that the work of the EMC extended beyond monitoring of the bid process to the implementation phase.



"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," Pengelley said via a release to the media by the JMA this afternoon.



Consequently, the business organisations questioned of the energy minister whether the licence has been signed and issued to EWI, the ability of EWI to pay over the requisite 5 per cent performance bond and the effective date of the licence.



"If indeed this report is correct, then we urge the minister to explain to the nation what benefits he expects from the disbanding of the EMC and them not having a monitoring committee in place," Pengelley added.



The central mandate of the EMC, whose terms of reference was approved by the Cabinet, was to ensure that the bid process was followed in the manner prescribed by the OUR, and that at the culmination of the process, the price of electricity provided to the Jamaica Public Service Company does not exceed US$0.1288 per kilowatt-hour.



The government has reportedly now delegated that task to the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), which is the agency of the state that regulates the utilities sector.



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