Businesses fear BPL tax

Some business owners on New Providence yesterday expressed concern with the Minnis administration’s plan to increase electricity bills via an upcoming rate reduction bond to repay Bahamas Power and Light’s (BPL) legacy debt.

Keiron Williams, part owner of Pepper Pot Grill on King Street off Market Street, said the move is bad for business.

“Then they want to come around here talking about they want to raise the light bill,” Williams said.

“No, man. No.”

He continued, “It’s not good.

“It’s really bad for business because they [are] already overcharging us.

“So basically, you don’t have no form of remorse for the people because honestly this is not the time to raise no electric bill at this moment.

“Things are slow and after the hurricane everything stopped. So, there’s no way that you can try to increase the light bill. That’s my opinion.”

Last week, BPL Chairman Dr. Donovan Moxey said electricity consumers should brace for additional charges to their bills.

Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest also said if BPL does not increase light bills, the government would have to raise taxes to deal with the power giant’s debt.

Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister tabled the Rate Reduction Bond Bill in the House of Assembly earlier this month. The move comes as BPL attempts to tackle its more than $300 million legacy debt and looks to raise another $350 million for new spending.

Williams said a rise in the cost of electricity will put a dent in his business as his prices are already considered high.

This summer, BPL’s constant load shedding left its consumers with no power for hours in the sweltering summer heat.

These load shedding exercises ultimately resulted in a loss of revenue for some businesses without generators.

Williams said his equipment also took a beating as a result of the increased load shedding, adding that he is now out of a cooler because of it.

BPL announced in March that Finnish technology group Wartsila will install a new 132-megawatt engine power plant at Clifton, at a cost of $95 million, to increase the generation capacity on New Providence. That station is expected to be operational by December 15.

Keith McCartney, owner of Battery & Tyre Specialists Ltd in Palmdale, said yesterday that an increase in electricity bills will also impact his customers.

“It’s going to affect the smaller person because prices are going to go up for them,” he said.

“So, it’s not a healthy thing right now in this society, especially with the passing of Hurricane Dorian. I don’t think it will be a good idea.

“Government will have to absorb those costs for now and in March or April they can reconsider. After the hurricane you want to make it easier for businesses to conduct business, not make it more complicated. That’s what government needs to improve on.”

Donnette Archer, administrator and office manager for Cole Thompson Pharmacy on Bay Street, also agrees with this notion.

“I mean the economy is already bad, especially out here on Bay Street,” Archer said yesterday.

“Business is horrible most of the time.

“So, I don’t think it’s a good thing right now, and I think everyone is struggling right now just to keep our heads above water.

“I don’t see where the government is trying to help us in any way with the cost of living in this country because every time you turn around there is some additional cost that they’re adding every day.

“Even though they don’t consider it a tax, any increase at all is some form of tax. They may not call it a tax, but it is a tax to the consumer and to the business no matter how you put it. It’s an added cost.”

A press statement released by BPL last week explained that the inflow of new money is expected to fund the installation of “modern power generation that is cleaner, more efficient, reliable and ultimately will lead to cheaper electricity costs”.

In light of this, William Deveaux, owner of Rejunal’s Collection, a small clothing store and mom and pop shop in Bain and Grants Town, believes that BPL is simply doing what it must to keep above ground.

“Well, I guess in that situation, they have to do what’s best for the Bahamian people,” he said.

“If they have a debt and that’s the best way to pay it off, then that’s the way to pay it off.

“I’m the type of person, I don’t take anything hard. I just go with the flow. Yes, it will impact the business negatively if they increase the rates, but what can I do? I’ll have to live with that until, I’m sure, they will decrease when the debt is down.

“Right now, I live my life. I depend on God for everything.”

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