By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
FNM Leader Dr Hubert Minnis said yesterday he supports the government’s proposal to assist thousands of poor Bahamians who were unable to pay their electricity bills and were “taken off the grid.”
However, Dr Minnis told The Tribune that the government’s plan should be carefully scrutinized to ensure that those who need the help, get the help.
“Anything that can be done to assist the poor, I support, but this proposal should be analysed and reviewed. The entire situation needs to be looked at again, but poor people are entitled to the same quality of life as others. Finances should not be an obstacle in quality of life. I am the product of the poor, I came from the poor and I believe the poor should be given the same chances as those who have.”
On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works Phillip “Brave” Davis announced that the government is working on a series of operational agreements with Bahamas Power and Light to write off many of the corporation’s delinquent accounts, potentially returning some 3,000 users back to the grid.
Mr Davis, who has responsibility for BPL, told reporters that he has already approached BPL with hopes of getting them to forgive the debts of consumers who have been unable to settle balances for prolonged periods of time.
He said he has been informed that some 3,000 persons have fallen into this classification, insisting officials now have to look at these clients on a case-by-case basis to determine how best to resolve each matter. He said he personally knows consumers who have outstanding balances well beyond $5,000.
Mr Davis said the potential to forgive those outstanding balances remains just one aspect of ongoing discussions between the Christie administration and PowerSecure – BPL’s management company.
The Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) launched an electricity assistance programme in June 2013 in an effort to reconnect more than 7,000 delinquent residential customers.
BEC, which was renamed BPL earlier this year, ran another programme that month that offered residential customers in arrears who paid their outstanding bill in full a 10 per cent discount.
Residential customers who continued to pay their bills on time in June, July and August 2013 received a two per cent discount on each of those bills.
The two-tiered campaign was expected to provide relief to customers and help improve the corporation’s financial state.
At the time, then BEC Chairman Leslie Miller revealed that 90 per cent of BEC’s 65,000 residential customers were more than 90 days past due - with approximately $26 million in arrears.