IT’S fair to say the announcement about water bills going up will not be a vote winner.
No one votes to have less money in their pocket – and that won’t be any different this time. The question is, is it necessary?
That there hasn’t been an increase in charges this millennium is scant comfort. No one is going to be partying like it’s 1999 for long.
But as Deputy Prime Minister Desmond Bannister says, “The Water & Sewerage Corporation has always lost money. It’s been a regular loser. It has never to my knowledge made any money, and has to be brought into the 21st century.”
Haven’t we got enough corporations losing money and having to be baled out by the government? Let’s face it, one way or another we pay for it. It can be through bills for our usage, or it can be through extra having to be raised through VAT or shipping charges or other taxation so that the corporation can be bailed out.
The water corporation should be able to stand on its own two feet – and making it do so might well force it to pay more attention to water conservation efforts. After all, at the moment, why stop the leaks when you know the government will just bale them out?
There is another question, of course – is now the right time? Granted, that kind of question has clearly been used to kick the can down the line on an increase in charges for decades now – but we truly are in unprecedented times right now.
WSC chairman Adrian Gibson pointed out last year the backlog on payments had reached $30.8m at the end of August – a change of $15m year on year. That’s unsustainable, certainly, and again it is all of us that will be paying for it as government reaches into its pocket to keep things going, but there has never been a reason for such a backlog as the economic crisis we are now going through.
Once the tourism engine kicks in again, businesses and individuals will have more money again – and be able to start paying down those bills. More to the point, those who can’t afford to pay now won’t be able to pay more anyway – so will those backlogs grow with higher bills?
The corporation’s subsidy has also been cut in the budget – and we have to be realistic to understand that there is no bottomless pit of money to cover all the needs brought on by the pandemic.
So, absolutely WSC should stand on its own and manage its own bills. But is now the time to do it and will raising bills even achieve that right now? That’s an altogether more difficult question to answer.
Well done, Mr Ferreira
A round of applause for Romauld Ferreira!
The Environment Minister deserves such praise after the Biological Resources and Traditional Knowledge Bill passed in the House of Assembly yesterday.
Underneath that long name, the bill will give The Bahamas a chance to capitalise on its own resources. Until now, if a scientific group carried out some research in The Bahamas and found something that could be the basis of, say, a medicine or a vaccine, The Bahamas would earn nothing out of it.
This bill helps to sort that out – handling permits for companies looking to exploit our genetic resources, and providing advice on the revenue and benefit sharing terms. In short, it stops us giving away our resources for nothing to people who can make millions – or billions – as a result.
If a cure for cancer is found in future thanks to a resource found in The Bahamas, then our nation will benefit from that discovery.
The bill closes a gap that was there, and just might make our lives better in future. For that, we say well done Mr Ferreira.