Facing a threatened walkout by opposition party legislators, the National Assembly Tuesday suspended debate on Kirirom hydropower station legislation.
At issue is a guarantee the Chinese Electric Power Technology Import & Export Corporation seeks that the government cover any potential losses on the dam project, which would produce 12 megawatts of power for Phnom Penh.
“If we do not offer them the guarantee, the company can’t borrow any money from the central Chinese bank to start the project,” said Ith Prang, secretary of state for the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy.
Funcinpec lawmaker Keo Ramy disagreed. “Should we offer parliamentary guarantees to all foreign investors so they can borrow money?” he asked after the debate. “I suspect the government is doing something to put [the Assembly] into a trap so we would share the blame with them later if a problem happens.”
Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Cheam Channy also lambasted the legislation because it calls for CETIC to sell generated power to Electricite du Cambodge (EDC) for about $.07 per kilowatt-hour.
Noting that power in Laos costs only about $.02 to $.03 per kilowatt-hour for private users, Cheam Channy predicted EDC would sell the power to private users for more than $.07 per kilowatt-hour.
“We are doing this hydropower plant to give people cheap prices,” he said. “If we charge people high prices, what is the use of having it?”
Opposition lawmakers walked out of a debate on electricity last Wednesday, forcing the National Assembly to adjourn for lack of a quorum.
When it looked like the same situation would develop again Tuesday, National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh asked that the debate be delayed indefinitely until more supporting documents could be distributed to parliamentarians.
The National Assembly today is scheduled to vote on the appointment of three internal auditors who would monitor government budget operations.