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By Cyril Gare

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (September 23, 1998 - The National)--- Elcom chief Sev Maso last night said he could not guarantee uninterrupted power supply to the city for the foreseeable future.

Addressing a public forum organized by the Investment Promotion Authority at the Port Moresby Travelodge, Mr. Maso said financial constraints and lack of water at the Sirinumu Dam prevented him from giving the guarantee demanded by business houses.

"I have a natural disaster on hand," he said referring to the dwindling water level at the Sirinumu Dam.

"There is not enough water at Sirinumu Dam."

He said there were options which the Electricity Commission could look at including tapping the Vanapa and Brown river systems for future hydropower supply to meet the city's needs.

But Mr. Maso said that these options would never be realized unless the National Government committed funds now for such expansion.

Diesel generators were expensive compared with hydro-power systems, he said, adding that the newly-constructed Kanudi power plant operated by a Korean company would cost Elcom some K 21 million (US$ 9.1 million) a year in rental.

Asked if Elcom was adequately meeting the city's electricity demand, Mr. Maso replied: "Yes, we are meeting the power supply needs of the city."

IPA boss Joshua Kalinoe said last night's forum was organized on behalf of the business houses in the city to raise their concerns about the power interruptions.

Mr. Kalinoe said the forum had helped business houses get a better understanding of the power problems faced by the city.

Mr. Maso urged business houses to cooperate with him and come up with constructive ideas to rectify the problem instead of laying blame on any one person or institution.

He also said that under the kina based debt equity structure, the Kanudi power plant was the best option available.

Mr. Maso also told the forum that government departments and institutions owed Elcom a total K 8 million (US$ 3.496 million) as of September 15 in outstanding bills.

The bills had accumulated since March this year, he added.

"We have disconnected power to two of these departments," Mr. Maso said without naming them, or saying what other measures were being taken to recover the money.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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