By RIEL MAJOR
Tribune Staff Reporter
AMID the cost of living increasing in the country, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said his policy is in place to “protect the poor and marginalised”.
His comments on Friday came after he was asked about an assessment released by the Department of Statistics that revealed the Customer Price Index (CPI) had increased in September.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association annual general meeting, Dr Minnis said his government is doing everything it can to protect the poor.
He said: “We feel that the wealthy, the rich individuals, regardless of the outcome, they would be able to survive and protect themselves. And we would still need them to help generate jobs, employment…
“But we would do all we can to protect that grouping that needs protection, and that is the poor and marginalised. So, regardless of what happened, policies will be there to ensure their protection.”
The Department of Statistics released data that suggested the CPI has increased to 108.81 in September of this year.
The highest affected areas were transportation, furniture and household equipment, healthcare, restaurants and hotels, tobacco and narcotics, and alcoholic beverages.
Despite the tax breaks implemented by the government in the 2019/2020 budget, the CPI increased.
Recently, Minister of Works Desmond Bannister said Bahamas Power and Light customers will see a $20 to $30 increase in their monthly electricity bills for 10 months starting in 2020.
While debating the Electricity Rate Reduction Bond Bill in the House of Assembly at the time, Mr Bannister said that the issuance of the bonds will be used to refinance BPL’s $321m debt to pay for phase two of the new Wartsila power plant and manage other liabilities.
“We expect that the issuance of the rate reduction bonds will lead to a temporary increase in the average household billing of an average of $20 to $30 monthly for about 10 months in 2020,” he told Parliament. “The good news is that this will be a short-term increase that will be wiped out in 2021 when the cost of generation will decrease drastically due to the completed installation of the second station consisting of even more new fuel efficient engines, better operation performance, and lower fuel costs brought on by the utilisation of Shell’s internationally respected hedging expertise.”
The Carmichael MP explained that the Rate Reduction Bond Act passed under the former Christie administration mandated officials to increase electricity bills at that time in order to properly finance BPL. Instead of doing that, Mr Bannister accused the Progressive Liberal Party of bypassing the increase and hiring 166 people at BPL which caused overstaffing.