Who’s going to pay to fix the long history of mismanagement of electricity in The Bahamas? Here’s a clue – your bills are going to have an extra charge on them.
For months, Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) has been talking about refinancing its debts – well, the detail of that was revealed a little more yesterday.
The company is looking to rearrange its old debts – and borrow new money on top. The total comes to $650m in refinancing – swapping new debt for old. The new money is a whopping extra $350m to invest in generation and the distribution network. There was little detail on that yesterday – with Minister of Works Desmond Bannister promising to reveal details during the debate on the legislation in Parliament that goes with this reinvestment plan.
But the kicker is that your bill will have an extra charge on it – the rate reduction bond fee - with BPL essentially securing its long-term future with our payments.
It is fair to say that BPL has long used up the patience of the Bahamian public. This year has been a nightmare of power outage after power outage in the wake of damaging fires – the reports for which were at last tabled in Parliament today with operator error to blame – and the inevitability of old machinery having failures, for which the company should have been better prepared.
The company offered two carrots to keep customers going – first, that the new Wartsila engines would come online and take care of the power shortages, and second, that the Shell LNG plant would be ready by 2021 and bring with it reduced fuel and other costs.
In short, we’ve been promised stable power supply and at a lower price – and people are ready to hold BPL to account if it fails to deliver.
More than that, they need to see a substantial saving in power costs, not just a token reduction – so the idea that an extra charge is being thrown on top of their bill to pay for BPL nearly doubling its debt is going to infuriate people across the country.
The savings had better be significant – a cut of two or three percent isn’t going to be enough, people are going to want a ten to 20 percent reduction if BPL’s promise is going to be of substance.
BPL chairman Dr Donovan Moxey described the old debt as an “anchor around our necks”. We’re swapping it for a bigger anchor but – BPL hopes – a better structure for paying it.
Dr Moxey also says the legislation will lead to lower costs and reliable power, and that BPL intends “that no Bahamian family ever has to deal with that type of crisis again”.
People are going to need a little more than intent – they’re going to want to know exactly how much that extra charge is going to be, how long it’s going to be necessary, and how soon they’re going to see reduced costs. If bills go up before they go down, that trust that BPL has lost from the public is going to turn into full-blown anger.
So skip the careful language of yesterday’s announcement and give us some straight answers. Map out exactly what people can expect and when they will see changes for the better.
We’ve been beyond patient with BPL, it’s time for the company to go the extra mile to make it up to the nation.
Sorry seems to be the hardest word
Speaking of digging deeper into pockets, it’s time for Lanisha Rolle to pay up.
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis yesterday gave her a double rebuke – for her dealings with the Junkanoo groups and for using government funds to put her face on a shiny pin to hand out to young people at a Youth Parliament event.
The misfiring minister now has to pay $582 – oh, and 40 cents.
There were not one but two statements explaining the Rolle pin – one on a Facebook page associated with Mrs Rolle, another from the ministry. Neither one mustered the word “sorry”.
The minister is already on her second ministry after problems with her performance at Social Services. Perhaps it’s time for a little humility in the wake of such apparent vanity – see if you can muster that apology, Mrs Rolle.
Oh and next time you host an event for young people, remember this: It’s about them, not you.