Rate reduction: Rated R
My continued observation of decision making trends in Bahamian governance leaves me in an ever more state of perplexity. It would seem that there is almost a desire to seek over complexity as we address our most pressing issues, one of which is the provision of reliable, affordable energy, which is now a statutory obligation under the new Electricity Act.
Not only has the provision of energy completely proven itself to be completely unreliable, it is supplied at the second highest tariff rate in our entire region and is anything but clean and affordable.
In such an environment one would think that the very last thing on any administration’s mind would be to introduce a measure that, but for its misleadingly encouraging name, Rate Reduction Bond, is likely to have the exact opposite impact to the average Bahamian who will see yet another surcharge added to their monthly electric bill.
There are seriously pressing questions that must be asked and answered in pointed detail before any such measure is passed. To start with:
1. What exactly is the total amount of the debt owed by BPL?
2. Exactly what/who is the legacy debt of BPL (formerly BEC) owed to? Who are the beneficial owners of any and all companies which are owed and shall be paid?
3. Why now? And, why in a manner that saddles the tax-paying, hardworking people of The Bahamas with even higher energy costs at a time when the same are already a burdensome bar to businesses and a direct contribution to The Bahamas having one of the top five costs of living in the world?
I ask these questions with a special and specific interest as I am pointedly aware of other structures which have been presented/proposed that would see BPL put into a position to address its debt without the need for the government to take such measures as are presently being contemplated.
I am pointedly aware of a floating power plant proposal that not only offered an immediate power generation solution complete with fuel supply using clean burning LNG/CNG; it also offered a financial package that would allow BPL, then BEC, to aggressively address its legacy debt as the price offered for the Power Purchase Agreement was adjusted to include a debt service payment while still affording the Bahamian consumer a more than 30 percent reduction, not increase, on the average cost of energy and in no way necessitating a special act of Parliament seeking to increase the tax burden and the cost of living for Bahamians who are already losing the struggle to make ends meet.
Extra monies weren’t raised to pay off external debts or to build hurricane shelters, schools or clinics and now the people are to pay for decades of political interference and mismanagement of the pubic electrical company.
It is a tragic travesty at a time when our regional tourism and financial services competitors, Aruba and Costa Rica, are able to boast of being off the fossil fuel grid for more than 90 percent of their energy needs.
Our government is passing special laws to add fees and taxes to our utilities to pay debts owed largely on fuel and purchase new equipment to burn more fuel, and not on the installation of solar, wind and tidal energy technology that would end our dependency on fuel imports and make us energy independent and giving us energy security, something that not many nations in the entire world can claim.
— John Bostwick