The proposed Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) rate reduction bond is an ill-timed hard pill to swallow that would only further skepticism and mistrust of the government at this time, Executive Director of the Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG) Matt Aubry said yesterday.
“This comes at a difficult time,” Aubry told Guardian Business yesterday when asked for an alternative to the proposed mandatory fee which would – if the tabled Electricity Rate Reduction Bond Bill is passed – be added to the bills of every electricity consumer in the country.
“I don’t think from the public sector side or from the private sector side that this is a very satisfying endeavor. It’s a hard pill to swallow and in the face of some slight gains in areas of ease of doing business, having this rate reduction bond come forward… It is a hit at a time when we need to foster economic development.”
The bond, which has been officially dubbed the National Utility Investment Bond, is being proposed to refinance BPL’s $321 million legacy debt by raising $350 million over 20 to 25 years.
BPL Chairman Dr. Donovan Moxey has said this rate of maturity is to reduce the impact of the cost on consumers.
Aubrey said rather than increasing the financial burden of the Bahamian people, BPL and the government should focus instead on actual resources Bahamians can invest in.
“I think the minister of finance has already talked this past year about the importance of evaluating all the state-owned enterprises and how they can stand on their own. This doesn’t gain any confidence for the public to see how we’re going to get out of this. It furthers the questioning and the skepticism that exists in the public and the potential mistrust of the citizens in government and that’s the challenge,” he said.
“So, I don’t think anybody can dispute that the current situation needs to be addressed… I think the question is how do we all move to a long-term solution, what is that plan folks are looking for at this stage? And until it’s in place there’s going to be ongoing scrutiny of this or any plan moving forward.”
In its Manifesto 2017, the Free National Movement (FNM) pledged to reduce The Bahamas’ dependence on fossil fuel by “aggressively utilizing renewable sources of energy, including solar, wind, wave, LNG, methane, waste-to-energy and biodiesel”.
Last year, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said the government will fully utilize renewable energy, particularly solar energy, to achieve a reduction in the cost of electricity, which has burdened Bahamians for years.
Aubry said the rate reduction bond is not the best way forward for a country looking to move toward renewable energy.
“Access to energy is so critical to the growth of so many different sectors. We talk about positioning ourselves as a technology center, we talk about tourism and all the potential growth areas like manufacturing, they’re all dependent upon having to use and manage energy, so this furthers our dependence on the system we already have,” he said.
“It doesn’t really speak to how we get in front of that to move to a more reliable and affordable energy source and energy plan for our private sector and our government.”