ENGLERSTON MP Glenys Hanna Martin. (File photo)
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
ENGLERSTON MP Glenys Hanna Martin wants the Minnis administration to scratch plans to increase Water and Sewerage Corporation rates, saying an increase will hurt too many Bahamians.
State Minister for Finance Senator Kwasi Thompson foreshadowed the rate increase in December while outlining the government’s fiscal strategy report.
It is not clear when the increase will take effect.
During a debate in the House of Assembly yesterday, Mrs Hanna Martin opposed the plan.
She later told The Tribune: “We are a developing nation and access to water is a critical component of health for any population. There is a reason why we have the pumps in communities. It is to ensure continuous accessibility for people who are not able to get water.
“That has been a sustained policy position by successive administrations. If you (are) looking for more revenue, don’t do it on water. As a developing people, we’re not Canada and we’re not the United Kingdom and we’re not the United States. As a developing people we have to ensure that in the process of development that one of the things that is always accessible is water.
“It’s not something during this very difficult time that any administration should be contemplating, where people are not working, they ain’t’ getting electricity, their children ain’t in school, you increase VAT and now you want to increase the rates of water? At some point you got to stop putting pressure on the small man in this country and you have to look to the wealthy.”
In 2018, the Inter-American Development Bank released a report that recommended an increase in WSC tariffs.
The IDB noted the corporation cannot cover its operating expenses from revenue/cash flow and that this leaves it unable to finance capital projects and repairs.
“A tariff increase will be needed to make the Water & Sewerage Corporation a financial viable utility,” the IDB report said. “A core issue relating to the WSC financial condition is the comparative level of the unit tariff to the unit cost.”
WSC tariffs haven’t been increased in almost two decades.
Regarding the IDB’s analysis, Mrs Hanna Martin said: “That’s always been the case. That is why the government subsidises water. The IDB can come and give a commercial analysis. I’m not giving a commercial analysis, I’m giving an analysis of what developing people do when it comes to an essential element like water. Where you need capital works, then the government finds funding for its capital works. Next they’re going to say stop subsidising it. I don’t think it’s compelling.”