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Lights Out For 5,400 ‘Can’T Pay’ Families

Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister.

Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister.

By RICARDO WELLS 

Tribune Staff Reporter

rwells@tribunemedia.net

WORKS Minister Desmond Bannister revealed yesterday that 5,412 households across the country are “off the grid,” as a result of not paying energy bills for 60 days or more and collectively owe Bahamas Power and Light more than $5m.

The revelation came as he clarified statements reported in the press that have been attributed to him over the last week.

Those reports, claimed the Carmichael MP, had suggested the number of disconnected consumers had maxed out at around 6,000, with a low point of 4,500.

However, addressing those figures again yesterday, Mr Bannister insisted the total was at 5,412 nationwide.

He said: “For the last 20 years or so, many of our brothers and sisters have been off the grid. And that is a challenge. That is a challenge whether it is 6,000 or whether it is one. One or two are off the grid is a concern for all of us.”

Mr Bannister also gave community specific reports for disconnection.

He said there are 4,639 households without power in New Providence.

As for the Family Islands, in Abaco, there are 58 consumers without electricity holding a combined balance of $64,822.10; 14 in Acklins with a combined balance of $36,353.35; 85 in Bimini with a combined balance $136,040.93; 66 in Cat Island with a combined balance of $34,342.43; six in Crooked Island with a combined balance of $13,265.25; 88 in Eleuthera with a combined balance of $113,778.75; 14 in Exuma with a combined balance of $8,108.05; 11 in Great Harbour Cay with a combined balance of $9,349.10; 52 in Inagua with a combined balance of $311,200.15; and 36 in San Salvador with a combined balance of $16,576.65.

Meanwhile, in North Andros there are 132 disconnected patrons holding a combined balance of $128,393; 116 in Central Andros holding a combined balance of $153,458.92; 19 in Mangrove Cay with a combine balance of $11,840.85 and 77 in South Andros holding a combined balance of $80,464.72.

In total, these accounts owe Bahamas Power and Light approximately $5,393,857.50.

His comments came during debate on an amendment to value added tax legislation to increase the VAT exemption on power bills from $200 to $300.

According to Mr Bannister, approximately 52,364 Bahamian household benefited from the exemption when it was offered to consumers who kept their bills at $200 or less.

That marked a cumulative relief of $4m nationwide.

Fuel Crisis

This comes as the government has faced major backlash over the rise in electrical bills in recent months.

Addressing those bill increases yesterday, Mr Bannister moved to explain the process by which BPL calculates its billings.

“BPL charges a base rate for every consumer, everyone,” he explained. “If you use zero to 200 kilowatt hours per month, you are charged based rate of 10.9 cents (kilowatt hours); from 201 to 800 kilowatt hours (kilowatt hours), you are charged 11.9 cents and over 800 kilowatt hours, you are charged 14.9 cents per kilowatt hours.

“What many of us don’t understand is that base rate does not relate to your fuel consumption. Base rate pays for the operations of the utility. So it pays salaries; it pays for things like installing metres; it pays for trimming trees; it pays for its infrastructure, installing poles and lines; it is for replacing lines; the vehicles that they use. (It pays for) everything except fuel related expenses.”

He added: “Now there is something called a fuel charge, that is referred to as a surcharge. It is not really a surcharge, it is really a fuel charge and that is what actually accounts for the fuel expenses. Your actual fuel use is paid for in that fuel charge. So, it is not a surcharge. What happens is that BPL takes the total cost of fuel that is burned…. and they divide that by the total kilowatts of power that you use throughout the Bahamas.”

As an example, Mr Bannister used October’s fuel and service rates, indicating that the $33,916,303.66 spent was divided by the 166,467,295 kilowatt hours used by consumers across the country - equalling a 21.76 cents charge per kilowatt hour.

He added: “So the fuel charge, based on the total consumption which you will see in December, would have been 21 cents. But BPL doesn’t pass the full amount on. They’ve capped that charge at 19.15 cents. And so, the charge that you actually see, what we call a fuel surcharge, is not a fuel surcharge, it is actually you paying for the fuel that is being used throughout the country.”

Added to that, he explained that consumers in New Providence are currently subsidising a large percentage of the fuel cost being levied on Family Island consumers.

He also spoke about changing oil prices on the international markets and their effect locally.

Mr Bannister insisted that it would be irresponsible for anyone to blame the government for these current global trends.

Mr Bannister also referred to the legacy issues plaguing BPL.

“Since about 2004/2005, BPL has been (saddled) with a legacy debt. That legacy debt has reached $500m. 

“The reality is, this is a company that has been saddled with huge debt,” Mr Bannister said.

According to the Carmichael MP, it has been a tradition by successive administrations for respective ministries to not pay BPL in a timely manner.

Mr Bannister said BPL has normally been left in arrears from anywhere between $90 and $100m annually due to business practices. That in addition to the longstanding sums of millions owed by consumers.

To date, Mr Bannister revealed that BPL had balances in receivables of $91,796,126.

Comments

monkeyflip 1 year, 8 months ago

So let me get this right... We are paying for the electricity generated by the fuel used as a main charge... Thea actual fuel itself (100% customs on top), even in amounts that doesn't correspond to us alone, as a surcharge... And to cherry it on top - we pay VAT for bills over $300, which is a government tax on non-government institutions, towards A government institution, on all of the above combined? Bahamas is a very interesting place...

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DonAnthony 1 year, 8 months ago

Wait until they refinance that 500 million legacy debt. That will be an added charge on your bill, then you will be paying Vat on top of that. All to pay for chronic mismanagement and the most entitled, generously paid union in the country. BPL must be privatized or there is no hope for relief.

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DWW 1 year, 8 months ago

And all the political elite who dont have to pay their bill

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The_Oracle 1 year, 8 months ago

BEC/BPL is a classic and irrefutable example of self Governance failed. Zero long term planning, kickbacks, political meter and billing tampering, Environmental disaster, fuel pilfering, Hazardous site conditions, fires Crap service with frequent outages for the last 30+ years, decaying infrastructure. Another point: those may be the numbers at this point, but how often have similar stats existed in the past that have been written off?(political re-connections and legacy debt "bundling"?) It is sad, incredibly sad that GOVERNMENT FAILURE for decades has produced a BAHAMAS that BAHAMIANS cannot afford to live in. Also Incredibly sad how we have been trained to live for today and ignore bills and recurring expenses, and not live within our means. Quite the perfect storm of collective abandonment of responsibility, both personal and professional. But then, what do I know, I have always paid my bills first.

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joeblow 1 year, 8 months ago

Can't pay the bill, but can use electricity and want to keep using it? How many of the 5,400 have smartphones?

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stillwaters 1 year, 8 months ago

Weave, nails, grass, beedi, etc. Spend less on those items and go pay their damn light bill!!!!

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TalRussell 1 year, 8 months ago

Obverserves governing Imperial reds does has see Comrade "Poor People Lights Cut Off" (PPLCO) Desmond, as first member Imperial crown to have had his scope ministerial power publicly reigned in by PM Minnis..... now having been in front PeoplePublic - the very first substantive crown member to have been demoted down the status a junior member crown...... seems the PM may have lasting sour taste for the 'no show' PPLCO from atop Mount Fitzwilliam's red crown's swearing-in ceremony, by the Peoples Her Excellency Margurite.
( No making up PPLCO Desmond is first and only member red crown have been all in front PeoplePublic - threatened by the PM with a probe dig deep into going on's BPL/BEC ).

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 year, 8 months ago

What Bannister conveniently avoids disclosing is the fact that BPL/BEC is owed many many millions of dollars by departments and agencies of the government and government owned enterprises. The amounts he mentions here for publicity sake and political grandstanding is a mere pittance in comparison to the government's indebtedness to BPL/BEC. LMAO

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DDK 1 year, 8 months ago

....and the government buildings do not conserve energy, rather it is run 24/7 at the lowest possible setting. Most employees wear jackets and cardigans in the middle of the summer.

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TheMadHatter 1 year, 8 months ago

Bahamians don't need power no how. We done use to power cut off all the time - pay or no pay. I say shut down the power plants across the country - and we all just have no power. None. Zero. Zilch.

We don't need it. We is island people. To hell with all them modern tings from foreign.

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DDK 1 year, 8 months ago

If the fuel surcharge is a fuel consumption charge, why is it called a fuel surcharge? These politicians can sure run on. Don't see anything about the appalling service or government and union corruption in his revelations.

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sealice 1 year, 8 months ago

Sounds like Andros is really missing the PLP and not having to pay der lite bills....

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birdiestrachan 1 year, 8 months ago

Mr Miller asked Mr: Banister to leave the lights on until after Christmas. But he decided\ to turn the lights off just before Christmas. "Its the peoples Time" Banister. they voted for the FNM overwhelming. and you all can do as you like and act as you please.

I have no problem with it. I just laugh at those who were duped.

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joeblow 1 year, 8 months ago

Why should Bannister do that? If people paid their bills there would be no need for Miller to ask! Not forgetting that he (Miller) was one of the worst offenders!

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ThisIsOurs 1 year, 8 months ago

"As an example, Mr Bannister used October’s fuel and service rates, indicating that the $33,916,303.66 spent was divided by the 166,467,295 kilowatt hours used by consumers across the country - equalling a 21.76 cents charge per kilowatt hour."

That don't make no sense, why I paying for Bahamar to keep lights on in an empty hotel?

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ThisIsOurs 1 year, 8 months ago

And all that foolishness Moxey and Heastie was running on with about check your usage and turn off a few lights was kaka...and they knew it. You could live in darkness and still get charged

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Seaman 1 year, 8 months ago

Mr Bannister, You forgot to mention all the millions that are paid out just to transport the fuel in Abaco........ Someone in the FNM getting big kick back.....Damn I want to run next election.

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sheeprunner12 1 year, 8 months ago

As for the Family Islands, in Abaco, there are 58 consumers without electricity holding a combined balance of $64,822.10; 14 in Acklins with a combined balance of $36,353.35; 85 in Bimini with a combined balance $136,040.93; 66 in Cat Island with a combined balance of $34,342.43; six in Crooked Island with a combined balance of $13,265.25; 88 in Eleuthera with a combined balance of $113,778.75; 14 in Exuma with a combined balance of $8,108.05; 11 in Great Harbour Cay with a combined balance of $9,349.10; 52 in Inagua with a combined balance of $311,200.15; and 36 in San Salvador with a combined balance of $16,576.65.

Meanwhile, in North Andros there are 132 disconnected patrons holding a combined balance of $128,393; 116 in Central Andros holding a combined balance of $153,458.92; 19 in Mangrove Cay with a combine balance of $11,840.85 and 77 in South Andros holding a combined balance of $80,464.72.

What?????????? .................... No one owes BPL past due bills in Long Island???????

Notice where people who do not like to pay bills live ........... hint, hint.

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Naughtydread 1 year, 8 months ago

LOOOOOOL, boy them PLP's in Andros really crying now. They actually have to pay for electricity now. These people literally can't see further than whats for lunch or who they gonna grind next. Buncha lazy bums.

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bogart 1 year, 8 months ago

..ARE ...ALL......DESE.......ELECTRICAL.....METERS.....FUNCTIONING CORRECTLY....Perfectly .... ????????........'SPECIALLY...OVER DA YEARS....like.since Sir Linden Pindling been in power......ALL DAT ....CUTTING....ON...off...on...off.....ELECTRICITY OFF.....ELECTROCITY.....ON.....ELECTRICITY...POWER SURGE....AFFECTING....COMPUTERS....FRIDGE...STOVE.....EVEN SOME LECTROCITY TRANSFORMERS...OUTSIDE.......LIKE HAS TO GET SWITCH BACK ON......?????????.....IF LECTRICTITY Devices OUTSIDE HOUSE .....AN INSIDE HOISE OS AFFECTED.....HOW COME METER RIGHT IN ....MIDDLE ....IS NOT .....OVER ALL DA YEARS......????????........name any man made machine whichinin is perfect.....??????...say dis though...thank goodness fer Bannister...he gats more action dan mout...!!!

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