One of the harsh realities facing The Bahamas is that we have woefully inadequate and overprice electricity. It is not something new or unknown, but it is something that has long been talked about, but not adequately addressed to this point in time. Many administrations have made firm promises, but yet we are still at the point of an unfulfilled promise even though it is probably the single most urgent factor in our economic survivability.
By most published estimates we are paying somewhere between 60 to 70 percent higher than we should be paying — are using antiquated and inefficient fuel sources and are thus impeding our ability to be competitive on many levels. Our hotel rooms are higher than they should be, our transportation is higher than it should be, our goods and services are higher than they should be, all because of unnecessarily inflated costs. Hopefully this time there will be concrete and definitive action beyond the talk and promises.
The Bible makes a statement that “When the righteous are in power, the people rejoice”. Hopefully we will soon have a reason to rejoice when our bills go down and our businesses become more competitive. When we are able to save more money and put that money into circulation, our economy can grow. This is a fundamental right that we should have as citizens — to have the best options available to us and to not be held hostage as a people due to inefficiencies, obstruction, or personal gain realized from maintaining the current situation.
Another aspect of this issue is that we have not utilized abundant resources available to us in the form of solar power. I am told that we are behind most of the world in terms of utilization of solar power even though our country is one of the sunniest places in the world. I remember driving down the highway in Germany a few years back and noticing that the median between the two lanes were filled with solar panels as far as the eye could see. When I questioned my driver he indicated that the panels powered the nearby community. My mind went back to The Bahamas as I wondered why we were so backward. If any country should have something like this in place it should be The Bahamas. It is time to act. Get the new equipment, allow for solar grid tie and give Bahamians the opportunity to become entrepreneurs by selling electricity back to the grid. It is not only doable it is imperative that we move on this.
Fortunately recent announcements point to movement on this issue, but I sincerely hope that the movement is not slow and inadequate. We need this to happen as soon as possible for all of our sakes. In the process I hope we get to the point where we realize that governments should not be running any business, even utilities, because there is an inherent danger of never being competitive or efficient because the entity does not have to make money, and staffing will balloon as constituents receive jobs and corporations are used to benefit politicians or relatives of politicians.
Anything with the name corporation should be a private entity and there should be more than one option to ensure that there is competition. Monopolies are inherently abusive because without competition or another viable option, consumers have to bear with whatever the current corporation decides to do.
It appears that we missed a major opportunity when we were offered LNG some years back because here we are agreeing to go the LNG route while the Bahamian people suffered during the debate process. The purpose of governments is to ensure that the best options are available at the least cost with the maximum benefit. Hopefully this time around we get it done, and not only do Bahamians benefit from lower rates but we also benefit from the entrepreneurial opportunity to sell power back to the state. Hopefully we get power to the people, power by the people, and people are empowered in the process.
• Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist and board certified clinical psychotherapist. Send your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit: www.soencouragement.org or call 242-327-1980.