Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Fred Mitchell slammed the government over a proposed uniform increase to electricity bills, which he said will disproportionately affect the poor.
The Rate Reduction Bond Bill, 2019, was passed in the House of Assembly on Thursday.
On Wednesday, Minister of Works Desmond Bannister said that the bond will result in an average of a $20 to $30 monthly increase to household bills for a 10-month period, and that it will be “wiped out” in 2021. But he did not detail how that figure was arrived at.
Mitchell said the bill is hypocritical. He said the PLP would have had the rate change depending on the consumer’s usage.
“The FNM (Free National Movement) must be condemned for taxing the poor with this bill,” said Mitchell in a statement Thursday.
“We know that under this bill the people of Bain Town will be charged the same levy as the people of Lyford Cay for the supply of electricity.
“The prime minister has promised to make an announcement about this after being shamed by the PLP in the House of Assembly.
“The proposed additional charges that will result from this FNM bill are estimated at $20 to $30 per month per electricity account on top of your existing bill. This is not what the PLP proposed. Under the PLP’s plan the smaller users of electricity would have seen virtually no increase at all. In fact, many small users would have seen a decrease in their monthly bills.
“Under the Minnis plan, whether you burn power in a mansion or a small house the additional charge will be the same. This means the poor will bear the burden for the rich.
“We will see what the prime minister proposes to do now that he has been told about it. He should not commit yet another breach of his commitments made to the people in the last campaign.”
The rate reduction bond is expected to help Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) refinance its $321 million legacy debt and raise another $350 million for new spending – $70 million of which would be used to fund an expansion of the Wartsila plant the Clifton Pier Power Station.
With consumers having long complained of excessive electricity bills, combined with months of unreliable service on New Providence, the announcement has not been well-received by the Bahamian public.