FOR weeks now, there have been fairly regular power outages in New Providence – and as summer nears, there are obvious concerns about how well our power grid will cope when air conditioning gets cranked up to full.
The answers given by Public Works Minister Alfred Sears yesterday were unenlightening to say the least.
Mr Sears, in fact, said that he had not been briefed as yet about what BPL is doing or what it will have in place for the summer – that briefing, he says, will come next week.
It is May. Summer is around the corner. Any significant work needed to deal with any problems we face for the summer is too late.
Worse, Mr Sears said: “Well, the power outages to my knowledge is not novel in The Bahamas.”
Indeed, it is not. And that makes it worse that you are only now getting a briefing. You knew that the nation has a history of power issues, you are the minister whose portfolio covers the problem area and the best you can say is well, this is nothing new for Bahamians? That’s not good enough, and you should know it.
Mr Sears went on to talk about a government commitment to address power generation by increasing renewable sources of energy to achieve 30 percent power generation by 2030. As admirable as that is, it has absolutely nothing to do with our current issues.
The problem is down to one of two areas, broadly. Either we are not generating enough power, despite new engines coming online under the last administration that was supposed to deal with that issue, or the distribution network has problems. Simply put, not enough power being generated or problems with the power grid to get it to consumers.
Which is it? Well, Mr Sears did not say. He did acknowledge that the distribution system needed to be modernised and that would need significant funding – but did not identify if that is the issue with recent power outages.
In short, no explanation for the cause of the problems and effectively a shrug to Bahamians to say well it’s nothing new.
Does that seem good enough to you?
Those not fortunate enough to have generators have already had to swelter through hot days or, worse, dark nights when the power has gone out. That’s not even taking into account the problems children have if they’re trying to get their homework done when the power goes out or if they are trying to take part in virtual learning. As for those fortunate enough to have a generator, well, those rising gas prices are something of a disincentive to turn it on right now.
After a series of power cuts, the minister should have straight answers at his fingertips to explain to people what was the cause, what needed to be done to prevent any further outages, and the plan to carry out that work, complete with the price tag attached. That should not be too hard, nor should it be too much to ask.
Instead, Mr Sears has given us no answers, no plan of action, and no expectation that we will see things improve.
One of the top complaints from businesses and one of the top concerns from would-be investors is our infrastructure and our unreliable power supply.
Other nations around the world can depend on their power to stay on under most circumstances – for goodness’ sake, why should we settle for second best?
So what are the answers? Because yesterday we did not get any.
Speaking of not getting any answers, Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis renewed his attack on agencies involved in distributing food to Bahamian families during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic yesterday.
He made some big claims - $10m that had “vanished”, for example. But on close reading, there are a lot of specifics missing. The 138-page audit itself has produced no evidence of corruption, fraud or misappropriation of funds – and the suggestion that NGOs have produced some documentation but not the right kind raises some scepticism.
This is especially so given the recent back-and-forth with the National Food Distribution Task Force in which it was claimed there were no documents, only for the organiser to show The Tribune a whole range of documents that had been sent to the government – and which were then presented again.
Mr Davis called for answers, and said for now there are no conclusions – and just as with the accusations of a lack of documentation made previously, so now is the time to find out if the claims hold up or if documentation is indeed available to detail costs and distribution information.
The programme was a huge one, created at short notice to feed people suddenly left without jobs and without a prospect of getting another one to feed themselves with the tourism market shut down – and it would probably be surprising if there were areas that could not have been done better. But let’s get the full picture. After that, if there has been any misappropriation, then act accordingly. We all want what is the best use of tax funds. But equally if groups are exonerated, there will be some who are owed an apology.