By Malcolm Strachan
THE Bahamas is not a real place. Perhaps that mantra is never more fitting than when a country that pays exorbitant fees for mysteriously concocted electricity bills has so often been in smouldering darkness. Particularly, that has been the case this wretched summer which has been filled with days of blistering hot temperatures being exacerbated by BPL’s inability to operate in the 21st century. Antiquated machinery, inept leadership and dubious political agendas have all been a recipe for disaster at the nation’s power supplier.
There are no two ways about it, we are facing an electricity crisis. But what are the bureaucrats telling us – not only that we are incorrect in our diagnosis of how bad these circumstances are, but that this has been one of the best summers we’ve experienced in a long time. Certainly, we can appreciate a bit of positive thinking, but Works Minister Desmond Bannister’s politicisation of the state of BPL could not be more insensitive, ill-timed and downright false.
“Notwithstanding the fact that we had to load shed…if you check the record, this summer has still been better than any of the five summers under the former administration, any of them.” He continued: “But if you check the blackouts, there’s never been a summer under the PLP that has been anywhere as nice as this one has.”
Using the word “nice” to describe this experience ought to make one question the contents of the minister’s coffee mug. Granted that this deluded assertion was made last month, it would be great to hear what further comparisons he could provide nearly a month later. However, getting a statement from the top brass at BPL is like being sent on a wild goose chase, as media continues to be deferred to someone else that won’t pick up the phone.
Why would they? How much further will they go to patronise the Bahamian people with their drivel and lies?
The impact goes far beyond the discomfort we experience in the sweltering heat that envelops our homes. Moreover, businesses are feeling the brunt of this crisis. Inability to operate normally and the unpredictability of power outages have caused a great deal of anxiety in the business environment. Small businesses that can’t afford a generator are on trembling knees as there is not a sure end to the rolling blackouts in sight.
Certainly, we have been told by the powers-that-be that there would be no blackouts this summer, as the new Wartsila engines would be coming online. That was a lie. Then we were told that once the new rental generators landed, the blackouts would cease. And it didn’t take us long to realise that was also a fallacy told to us by BPL executives.
Now, the goal posts have shifted once again, with relief being promised in the autumn.
Be that as it may, why on earth would the Bahamian people entertain anything else that comes out of one of their mouths? The Bahamian people don’t want to hear more of the same.
For some of our nation’s most vulnerable, this is a matter of life and death. Patients who depend on power to run machines for sophisticated procedures and medications that need to be refrigerated can’t afford such lapses under this regime of ineptitude at BPL.
The government’s national solarisation policy in their manifesto has been nothing short of an empty promise with the government signing on for another few decades of generating the country’s electricity from fossil fuel. While wind, water and solar have continuously been proven as more reliable and less detrimental sources of power generation, even being the most practical solution for an island nation has not brought it any closer to the forefront of the imaginations of the political directorate.
We are being led by governments that are more consumed with appeasing the appetites of special interest groups than moving the country forward. Therefore, we continue to plunge into the stone age.
How much longer can the Bahamian people stand to be taken for fools while they dare say to us the country is not in a crisis?
Why should rioting and looting have to spell out to any government that enough is enough? Venezuela’s power crisis should serve as a cautionary tale to the citizenry. While they use hydroelectricity, a much more progressive energy solution, damage to the country’s water system served as a catalyst to their crisis. What ensued following the perpetual shutdown of cities, mandatory three-day weekends and consistent rolling blackouts resulted in a crisis.
Ironically enough, although Prime Minister Minnis has stood with the other 60-odd countries that support Juan Guaido, the self-declared President of Venezuela, he has been mum on the subject here at home. Many want heads to roll at BPL, beginning with the Minister of Works Desmond Bannister, as he is seemingly unable to tell his head from his tail in this regard.
Following the dismissal of the board last year, BPL has been spiralling out of control. Prime Minister Minnis’ lack of acknowledgement doesn’t aid him in his desire to be seen as a man of the people. While we may not riot in the streets in protest, make no mistake, the Bahamian people will have their day to be heard.
As was witnessed with the previous government, hell or high water, heads will roll. Whether it’s the prime minister or the Bahamian people doing the chopping remains to be seen.
Prime Minister Minnis, if he has his wits about him, has to start eyeing who will be collateral damage. One thing is for certain, if this continues, the damage will be irreparable and the Bahamian will not be so forgiving.