If the public was hoping for reassurance from yesterday’s BPL press conference, there was little to be found.
The company’s CEO painted a nightmare scenario with BPL described as “on the edge everyday” and no promises to be found over an end to the load shedding that has plagued the country.
It’s hard to imagine given the situation described why officials have been playing down the situation and saying that it isn’t a crisis. Plainly, it is.
Mr Heastie said: “There is no guarantee that there will not be load shedding.”
Those are words that would send a shiver down the spine of every Bahamian if we weren’t all sweating in the heat from the power being out.
People wanted fairly simple answers – how long do we have to put up with this? How has it come to this? What kind of compensation will people receive for a service not being provided? None of those answers were provided satisfactorily.
The situation is this – BPL is not generating enough power to cover the peak demand, three generators are out of action with the age of the machinery being blamed, and no one will get compensated as BPL says there’s no money over and above its costs to provide it.
At the same time, questions asked about fires that wiped out one engine and damaged infrastructure at the Clifton Pier Power Plant last September were batted away, with still no sign of the report into that incident being publicly released.
In short, this was a collective shrug. This is it. This is what we’ve got to put up with. And there’s no promises that other machines aren’t going to go out of service at any moment.
Mr Heastie went on to say that there would be no attempt to blame anyone for the current state of affairs. Well, why not? The nation is on its knees. That seems like the kind of thing that demands an explanation, and for the blame to fall where it may.
Besides, his words about not issuing blame didn’t even last the length of the press conference, with chairman Donovan Moxey saying decisions in the past that would have made a difference were not made, and the representative from engine maker Wartsila saying there hadn’t been an energy plan for nine years, putting the blame essentially on both the Ingraham and Christie administrations.
So here we are, with a power provider that can’t provide enough power, is “in the hole every month” financially and that can’t promise when the current situation will end.
If anyone tries to tell you this isn’t a crisis, ask them what a crisis looks like.
Two generators at Blue Hill are being repaired that could make up the power shortfall required. That’s our best hope. After that, this team tells us that we have to cross our fingers and hope nothing breaks while we wait for the new engines.
That’s not good enough. Perhaps it is time for a Commission of Inquiry on the failings of BPL.
This needs to look at the current situation – knowing the age of the equipment they were dealing with, could BPL have done more to plan to avoid the catastrophe we have faced? Now that we have found ourselves in this situation, could preparations have been made to rent more generators to cover the shortfall?
But we all know that the problems faced by BPL and its predecessor, BEC, go back years. Decades, even. Our recent coverage of newspapers from 50 years ago show BEC grappling with problems to supply the nation back then. A Commission of Inquiry must examine the underinvestment that has left us with ancient, creaking machinery, and the decisions made that led us to where we are now. An official today said the past two administrations had no plan for energy infrastructure, a commission can show the truth of such claims, and let the Bahamian people know one thing above all else: the truth.
Let’s find out where the blame lies, and make sure there’s no room for this to happen again.
Devil in the details
The unemployment figures sound like very good news – but a closer look shows they aren’t quite as hopeful as at first glance.
The Department of Statistics say that the unemployment rate is down from 10.7 percent in November to 9.5 percent in May, an impressive-sounding difference of 1.2 percent.
Of course, though, the employment market can be very seasonal – the market in November can be very different from May. So let’s look back at May of last year, comparing like for like. That shows us a drop still, but from 10 percent to 9.5 percent.
The number of discouraged workers also fell by a remarkable 5.4 percent – last May that was at 7.3 percent in New Providence, so that’s quite a swing. The figures, however, come from a survey of 3,500 people so that large swing may represent a fairly small change in actual numbers in the survey.
In all, the statistics are positive – but not quite as remarkable when you look at the detail. Still, we should take it as encouraging, while at the same time remaining determined that almost one in ten being unemployed is too high for our nation, and for those Bahamians left struggling to find work.