September 25, 2008

Guinean Premier Says Plans Under Way to Deal With Power Outage Problems

Text of report by French state-funded public broadcaster Radio France Internationale on 25 September

[Presenter] Water shortage, power outages. Guineans in Conakry are getting impatient. They have not seen any improvement for many years. Elections are close and that does not change anything for the time being.

Our guest today is Guinean Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Souare, a close ally of [President] Lansana Conte. At the end of May, he replaced Lansana Kouyate who was sacked by the Guinean head of state.

Ahmed Tidiane Souare is attending the UN General Assembly in New York, USA, where he is fielding questions from our special correspondent Jean-Karim Fall.

[Fall] Mr Prime Minister, good morning.

[Souare] Good morning.

[Fall] There is a lot of talk about the financial crisis in New York. Do you fear the consequences of the financial crisis on your country?

[Souare] I held talks with the director general of the International Monetary Fund in Washington. He said that it was true that the current financial crisis in the USA will not have a direct impact on our economies thus we have other worries.

[Fall] Don't you fear that the financial crisis will have repercussions on the amount allocated for development aid?

[Souare] I don't believe that there is a direct connection between the amount invested internally in the US economy and the amount to be allocated for development aid.

[Fall] Regarding the World Bank, I would like to ask you how you received in your capacity as prime minister the accusations levelled by the World Bank against Guinea and particularly against its mining sector where the World Bank condemned corruption in the sector.

[Souare] I have to say that I was very surprised by the World Bank's judgment passed on Guinea's mining sector because we have been working together for at least two or three years to amend the mining contracts and, to the best of my knowledge, there hasn't been any new contract. We are currently amending the current contracts so I was particularly surprised by the accusation.

[Fall] When you say amending mining contracts this implies that the contracts were not drawn up in a transparent manner.

[Souare] You know, mining contracts were negotiated in given circumstances. The world is evolving as are the circumstances. The issue of reviewing all these agreements is in order to try and increase Guinea's mining revenue. Of course, as an expert in the field - keeping in mind that I was the minister of mines and geology - some contracts passed through my hands. I do not have the frame of mind to review them according to [word indistinct] while avoiding the other trap which is meant to discourage mining investments in Guinea.

[Fall] Talking about mining investments, what is the status of the huge investment that the Rio Tinto group plans to carry out on a iron ore mine. Will the contract be reviewed?

[Souare] We have been a bit upset with Rio Tinto lately. We feel that the firm did not respect all the pledges made within the framework of the contract. We even feel that they have proceeded to - what we have agreed to term as the freezing of resources which has led us to negotiations with this company for clarification on the rules of the game.

[Fall] Mr Prime Minister, the Guinean people, and in particular those of Conakry, are impatient. There is no electricity, there is no water in some neighbourhoods. In concrete terms, what can you do in that sector?

[Souare] I fully understand the city dwellers' impatience and with them I feel that it is unacceptable that in this day and age, considering this country's resources, that there is no lighting in the capital and the people have no access to drinking water. These problems have been dragging on for several years and to resolve them we must have a strong plan of action, notably in matters of finance.

[Fall] Are you in a position to set a timetable?

[Souare] A timetable, well, let's say an approximate timetable. We are saying that for now it is a question of finding sufficient oil to run the generators which we already have in the capital. This will allow us to significantly improve the (?desert). It will not meet our needs, that is certain, but as part of the second phase we will go on to construct a geothermal plant. We have already entered into negotiations with China. We have received the funding for this and the construction should start within the next few weeks.

[Fall] But Mr Prime Minister, the elections which are scheduled to be organized in your country. Will the timetable be respected?

[Souare] A further delay is an issue for which all the actors are answerable. What I can do in the next few days is to organize a meeting grouping all the players to a mid-project evaluation of what has already been achieved in the organization, and in connection with this set the definitive timetable for the holding of the elections. What is important is for each and every person to take part.

[Fall] A last question, perhaps a more personal: for some years now, the life expectancy - quote and quote - in office for a prime minister in Guinea has not exceeded 18 months. Do you believe that, taking into account your relationship with President Conte, that you will be able to beat this record?

[Souare] That is not a concern for me. What is important for me is that for every day passing day I am the holder of the premiership I do something to build Guinea.

[Fall] Thank you Mr Prime Minister.

Originally published by Radio France Internationale, Paris, in French 0730 25 Sep 08.

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