Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves holds the three-volume business plan for SVG’s geothermal power plant at the media launch in July. Gunnar Orn Gunnarsson, chief operating officer of Reykjavik Geothermal, is furthest right. (IWN photo)

Government senator Jomo Thomas and Leader of the opposition Arnhim Eustace were among lawmakers who expressed concern that the geothermal project being developed in St. Vincent and the Grenadines could expose the country to exploitation by the foreign investors.

In debating the Geothermal Resources Bill, Thomas said that there are no man-gods and government make mistake all the time.

He further said that big companies might set up the government without batting an eye, adding that profit is the primary concern of the private sector.

“And we have to go into any negotiation with these companies on the premise that they are here to make a profit,” he said.

Thomas, who is the ruling Unity Labour Party’s candidate for South Leeward in the next general elections, however, noted the need for public-private partnership, suggesting that there is no entity that would give the government the US$80 million to develop a geothermal power plant.

The power plant is being developed by Rekjavik Geothermal, an Icelandic firm, and Emera, both of which will own 75 per cent of the power plant, and the government will own the remainder.

Government Sen. Jomo Thomas. (IWN file photo)
Government Sen. Jomo Thomas. (IWN file photo)

“But I am a sceptic, Mr. Speaker, and believe that all of us should be sceptical until we are convinced and persuaded,” Thomas said.

He said that the fact that the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank and the Clinton Foundation endorses something, in his estimation, is not enough to lend blanket support.

“All of these institutions have been wrong before,” Thomas said.

He referenced the 2004 book “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”, in which John Perkins details how big companies, the World Bank, and the IMF draw countries into “projects that will inevitably place them in a debt-trap”.

“I am not saying that is happening here. But I am saying we need to be mindful of these things and we need not take the world of some major corporation or some United Nations body or world institution simply because they did the study.

“We need to do the investigation because more often than not, sometimes some of these things benefit the foreign private company rather than the people.”

Thomas noted that the geothermal project would cost around EC$216 million, which is in addition to more than EC$100 million that the government has spent on the Lowmans Bay Power Plant, which was commissioned in 2011.

He said the EC$216 million geothermal power project is intended “to reduce the cost of energy to consumers, to stop the outflow of foreign exchange through the purchase of fuel, to ultimately provide energy security, to reduce pollution … And these are the things we need to pay attention to and see.

“One of the big offshoot, Mr. Speaker, of this geothermal energy production is that we may well develop a cheaper form of energy, and once we do that, it makes our country, not only will consumers pay less, but we make our country more competitive, thus attracting businesses, thus creating more job, and that is the high point, that is the prize we have to look at.

“These are the things that are going to benefit all Vincentians once we realize all of these things which we are projecting to see as a result of geothermal energy projection,” Thomas said.

Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace. (IWN file photo)
Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace. (IWN file photo)

Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace also noted that most of the US$80 million for the project will be foreign investment.

“This is going to be an entity which is essentially owned by the private sector,” Eustace said.

He asked that the proper safeguard be put in place, saying that if that is not done, the nation may find itself “at a point in time in this process when it becomes outside of our control.

“We will find ourselves dealing with persons who really control the funds that are available and when we have the energy to sell to our utility, they can determine those prices based on a rate of return that has to be agreed with those investors who are involved in the project.”

Eustace noted that lawmakers do not as yet know the rate of return that the foreign firms are expecting.

“… but we know that they have been spending their money and will spend more.

“And in our fiscal situation in our country, we have been operating on deficits for the longest while, we have very little contribution to make, unless we seek some sort of external funding, whether grant or loan.

“That is what makes their (foreign investors’) financial position powerful. We don’t have the resources, the financial resources to put of any significance at this time. So we’ll be looking to them. I don’t like that,” Eustace said.

But Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, in his response, noted that the bill says the owners of the plant shall pay royalties to the crown.

He added that the ownership of the plant is different from ownership of the geothermal resource.

“So I want the people to hear. We own Soufriere mountain; we own the resource. What we are doing, we are having a partnership with Reykjavik geothermal and Emera to build a geothermal power plant which will exploit the resource which we own.

“And when that company, which includes the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Emera and Reykjavik Geothermal, that company will have a power purchase agreement with VINLEC. That is phase one of this project.”

He said phase two envisages exporting geothermal energy from SVG to St. Lucia and Barbados.

“And the letter of intent makes those things plain,” Gonsalves said, adding that the letter of intent is confidential, but that he has been lifting the “veil” on elements of it.

6 replies on “Gov’t, opposition MPs concerned that investors could exploit geothermal project”

  1. Jomo is the ULP’s loose cannon. He could do real damage to the party once the campaign starts. If the ULP wins again, he will quickly marginalized because the PM will see him as a threat to the family dynasty.

    1. […] he would be a loose cannon in either party.

      His criticism of his own party polices — without even having been elected by the people to represent them — reminds me of the loose cannon remarks, recently and in the past, of Anatol Scott (Jerry’s Canadian brother) in regard to the policies and leadership of both parties.

      Many years ago, Anatol, an unsuccessful Ph.D. candidate at the University of Alberta, was very critical of the NDP, including the alleged enrichment of his brother, Jerry, who he claimed (on an old Internet chat room called CaribTalk) had acquired three houses while Minister of Public Works.

      For years up to last week, he was very critical of the ULP under the leadership of Ralph Gonsalves, going so far as to say that he would go all out to make sure that the same Jomo would never be elected in his brother’s old seat.

      Suddenly, he has now turned against Eustace saying he will go all out to remove him as leader of the NDP and that he can live with Ralph Gonsalves, after roundly vilifying him for years.

      Truly, we have entered the silly season — or better still, the foolish or crazy season — of Vincentian politics.

      1. David, I am appalled and saddened and disappointed by the behaviour and uttering’s by Anatol.

        So what if Arnhim Eustace doesn’t want to talk to him, there must be a good reason, and Anatol has shown us by his turncoat behaviour that Eustace was right not to talk to him.
        Mr Scott you cannot demand to make NDP policy, you may think you are someone very special but perhaps you are the only person to believe so.

        To talk about now throwing your self supposed weight behind Gonsalves is a childish foot stomping action. But worse than that it is traitorous, anyone who could behave in such a way should be shunned and rejected by Vincentian society.

    2. Jomo currently has more morals than any member of the Gonsalves /Francis dynasty. I believe David you are spot on right, he does spell danger to the dynasty because he dislikes such dynasties as much as we do.

      He is fully aware that a dynasty stops the future progress of any ULP member of parliament, other than to be a yes boy and supporter of the dynasty and with no personal future political future. Certainly no prospect for any MP of ever becoming the Prime Minister unless he is of the dynasty.

      But having said that, I believe Jomo has the capability of becoming another Gonsalves if he had the opportunity.

      Sir John Dalberg-Acton, Baronet. Best known for the remark, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” He in fact recognised that most political leaders have the ability of being scumbags. To which I would add “especially if they have Marxist leanings”.

  2. “C”, judging from your comments, apparently you have not listened to Jomo’s presentation in Parliament, have you? Understandably so, you’re simply reacting to what was written in this article. If you had found some time to listen, you might, I repeat, “might” have responded differently. However, I’m sure the writer achieved his “objective” in at least getting “you” to respond accordingly, which served “the/his” purpose.

  3. Mr Kenton Chance, having listened to Senator Thomas’s presentation myself, it is plain as daylight that what I am reading here, is NOT, I repeat NOT an accurate representation of Mr Thomas’s presentation on the geothermal debate in Parliament. What we have here, is an attempt by the writer of this article, to drive a wedge between the fellowship of Jomo Thomas, PM Gonsalves and the ULP, by insinuating in the headline above, that Government Senator Jomo Thomas, like opposition leader Arnhim Eustace,… “is concerned that investors could exploit geothermal project”, but that is not the case, and I have to agree with Mr Thomas when he said during his presentation, that …”One of the most frustrating things about living in St Vincent, is the regrettable expectation that every policy issue, no matter how critical it is to national development, breaks down along political lines… and always seems “to go down the narrow road of partisan politics”, as is the case with this article.
    For those of us who have listened to Jomo’s presentation in its entirety, will, and must realize that you’ve misconstrued his statements, taking things out of context, and adding your own selfish spin therein, with the sole purpose of misleading the readers into believing that Jomo Thomas shares the same concerns, the same highfalutin beliefs as the NDP on this matter, acting in full support of the NDP’s position, that is, in opposition to the geothermal bill. That is certainly not the case, not according to what Mr Thomas said in his presentation or his position on the geothermal matter, and that of the Governments position. Kenton, this is a blatant misrepresentation of the facts at hand, of the tenets of “professional journalism” and its five (5) core principles, (Truth and Accuracy, Independence, Fairness and Impartiality, Humanity and Accountability),and of Jomo’s position on the geothermal matter, and a disservice not only to Senator Jomo Thomas, PM Ralph Gonsalves and the ULP for that matter, but to the Nation itself. Accordingly in the case of the once looming friendship “On Voices” between “yourself” and Jomo Thomas, Senator Francis once said something to this effect, that, …’Jomo needs to be careful about Kenton, needs to watch his back’, etc, and now we get to realize that, this was, is, a prophetic statement by Senator Francis. And I’m sure you haven’t forgotten how upset you were, when Caddy King referred to you as an NDP “lapdog”, which got you so upset you sought to remind us in writing, that …“ for as long as I remain a journalist, I plan to be absolutely true to the tenets of the profession and my training in the field. I am not and will not be a lapdog”. Oh yeah? OK! If you say so! Well?

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