Thursday, Dec 12, 2019
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‘A slap in the face’

Pastor Dugrid Adderley speaks to Guardian Reporter Leah Cooper.

Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) customers said yesterday that they are fed up and disappointed with the corporation’s “deplorable” service.

The comments come after an island-wide outage on Friday and an impending increase in electricity bills.

Last Wednesday, Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister announced that the average household light bill will increase by $20 to $30 for roughly 10 months next year.

Government tabled the updated Electricity Rate Reduction Bond Bill, 2019, on November 6, which will allow BPL to reduce its tariff rates to customers, fund its financial obligations and existing debt and establish an Electricity Infrastructure Disaster Fund.

The Electricity Rate Reduction Bond Bill, 2019, was passed in the House of Assembly on Thursday.

Sasha Major, 27, said yesterday that while she understood that the company needs to pay off its debt, BPL has no regard for customer satisfaction. 

“My takeaway though is that customer satisfaction is not important for them,” she said. 

“They don’t care about what you think about their service and about the decisions that they make, because I feel like they should be accountable for the fact that the [electricity] is off.

“Even if you pay your bill and the light is on, at any point you can experience a blackout, and you’re not getting anything back from that. It’s not as if you’re getting a credit for the amount of blackouts that occur. You don’t get anything back. So, I think in terms of integrity and accountability, BPL does a poor job where that is concerned.”

Amid public outrage over the upcoming increase in electricity bills, Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration Elsworth Johnson said last Thursday that some Bahamians should manage their money better.

Johnson said many who complain of being unable to pay bills are spending money on non-necessities.

Major said, “Then you have ministers speaking on behalf of the company expressing that Bahamians need to manage their money better. I just feel like that’s a slap in the face.

“I feel like a lot of people are disconnected and out of touch with what society is faced with if you’re making a certain amount of money. To me, if you’re going to increase electricity bills, I shouldn’t be experiencing power outages… It’s not as if I put myself in this position.

“Because BPL is in a crisis, it’s almost as if every Bahamian is being penalized and that’s not fair. “

Susan Woodside, 37, was also peeved by Friday night’s island-wide blackout. 

Susan Woodside.

She said, “I feel it’s crazy especially after announcing that they’re going to be adding $30 onto your bill.

“So, you’re adding $30, and you can’t keep the light on. It’s crazy, and this is the Christmas season where we normally don’t use air-conditioning like that.

“So, you look forward to this time because the bills go down. Though you may have your little lights on for the Christmas tree, it still isn’t going to be excessive compared to the summer months.”

Woodside urged the power company to “get it together”.

“They’re really trying to kill us,” she said. 

“That’s it. They’re trying to kill the middle class. I wouldn’t talk about the poor. The poor [is] finished.

“It’s only those in the high places, who pay their bill when they feel like it – they won’t turn them off, but they’ll turn off the average man for a little $200. These big timers owe $3,000 or $4,000, and they wouldn’t shut them off.”

Mandisa Kerr, 33, labelled BPL’s service this year as “deplorable”. 

“They give us excuses about why power outages are happening, but at the end of the day, people want their lights on,” she said. 

“Power outages have been an issue for years, and they’re always talking about getting new equipment. It makes me wonder where our taxpaying dollars are going when it comes to things like this.”

Kerr also noted that many Bahamians lost household appliances this year as a result of increased load shedding in the summer months. 

“It’s the little things. It could be your refrigerator, your washer and dryer, and even a curling iron, these are things we function on on a daily basis, and who pays for them?” she said. 

“We have to replace these appliances, and cope with a $20 to $30 increase. I just think it’s ludicrous. I don’t think we should have to. I think we pay enough taxes as it is.”

Nearly a year ago, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said that Bahamians can expect a decrease in light bills, and Dugrid Adderley, 48, said that he remembers that promise.

“The thing about it is, while we understand that unforeseen events can arise in any aspect of life, the reality of it is that the public in general believes that it is too much to bear,” Adderley said. 

“Those who have the virtue of prayer have been praying to see better. 

“The government promised reduced rates on electricity bills. We see now the end of November [has] passed, and it was said that the increased power outages was supposed to be done away with.

“Presently, we have not seen any reduction in the price of electricity. In fact, what we have seen is increases in electricity bills. That’s a big disappointment for the public at large.”

Bronte Neely, 27, on the other hand, understands the need for the bill increase. 

“For BPL’s operations to continue and to progress and maybe for blackouts to be obsolete, the increase in electricity bills, I think, will benefit us in the long run,” Neely said. 

“However, in the fairness of its valued customers, I don’t think it was time efficient. Hurricane Dorian just happened.

“This whole load shedding thing was a huge issue this year. So, I feel like the timing could be better, but we may be able to see a decrease once all the debt is paid.”

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