PRIME Minister Phillip “Brave” Davis.
By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
The Prime Minister yesterday admitted he had wanted to hold-off on up to 163 percent increases in Bahamas Power & Light’s (BPL) fuel charge for longer to give struggling Bahamian families more time to rebound from COVID-19.
Philip Davis KC, in unveiling BPL’s phased fuel tariff rises, said: “I wanted to see more Bahamians working before I asked families to pay a higher light bill. When times are tough, coming up with an extra $20 per month is no small thing.”
Confirming that there had been discussions within the Cabinet about raising BPL’s fuel charge in February, Mr Davis confirmed the decision was made to “postpone the increase and keep the charge low as long as possible”. He added: “Given the hardships Bahamian households are facing after so many difficult years, and given other inflationary pressures, our economy is growing and adding new jobs every month.
While the Government did subsidise BPL’s fuel costs with “tens of millions” of dollars during that period, Mr Davis said its cash-strapped fiscal position means the increase cannot be delayed any longer. “Now that we have passed this and are moving into a period of lower electricity usage, the Government has approved BPL’s request for this phased increase,” he added.
Noting the importance of reducing fossil fuel dependency and moving towards alternative, cleaner energies Mr Davis said: “One of our key priorities has been to transition The Bahamas to cleaner, more affordable energy. That shift is underway. The solar microgrids in the Family Islands, which are already operating, will be expanded to benefit 70,000 Family Islanders.”
Bahamian businesses yesterday said will just pass the BPL fuel charge increase on to customers and not absorb it themselves. Dwayne Higgs, WHIM Automotive’s general manager, told Tribune Business: “It’s interesting that gas prices are going down now, and we’re below $6, but now the fuel has to go up on your electricity.
“Businesses are never going to absorb any increases, especially like us, because we are under price control. So any increases we get in costs like that, it is a cost of doing business, and if you can pass it along then you are going to pass it along.
“If we absorb whatever increases come along, we’re not going to be able to afford to pay our staff properly, which means either you pay people less or you let them go. So any business that wants to survive is going to pass those costs along.”
Atwell Ferguson, Golden Gates Supermarket’s general manager, said that while consumers have to be patient with the Government it will “hit you” with increases such the BPL fuel tariff rise. “Anything extra with the people right now will be hard because everybody is beyond what they can handle and anything is just hurting the people more,” he added
Philip Darville, owner/operator of SolveIt Bahamas, said BPL rate increases are a “recurring theme”. He added: “This has nothing to do with politics. This is just the economy. This just highlights the need to go towards more alternative energy. With a company like BPL that is so immersed in traditional fuels like oil and gas, increases was unavoidable.
“We just have to be prudent in the way we consume energy. A lot of us don’t do that, but we need to shift towards smarter devices and smarter equipment. We have shifted towards lower voltage equipment.”
Gregory Sherman, owner/operator of G.S. Landscaping Company & Property Management, said it is “very sad that Bahamians have to go through this”
“Had this present government decided to go with what was already on the table... We initially were supposed to get the BPL generators. We got them. Phase two was supposed to be changing the transmission lines. We have more than sufficient power to take care of all of New Providence,” Mr Sherman said.
“I heard BPL also went to rent generators and they have bypassed servicing the generator. They said they are going to keep them in existence for another year before they will decide to take them down to service them.”