Wednesday, June 22, 2022
By EARYEL BOWLEG
Tribune Staff Reporter
OPPOSITION Leader Michael Pintard is “deeply concerned” that Bahamas Power and Light is considering a cost increase for consumers, insisting yesterday that at the heart of the issue is the manner in which the government has “mismanaged” the power provider to date.
Meanwhile, Free National Movement chairman Dr Duane Sands described the situation as an “ongoing nightmare” for Bahamians.
This came after The Tribune exclusively reported on Tuesday that BPL chief executive officer Shevonn Cambridge revealed that an internal review is underway to determine whether there will be an increase to billing by way of a fuel charge adjustment.
Mr Cambridge said the review will evaluate if the necessary “triggers or threshold” have been reached to require the company to make the adjustment. He said as gas prices have gone up when an adjustment comes it would be an increase.
In a press statement yesterday, Mr Pintard expressed the opposition’s concerns about the issue and asked why BPL had not bought oil supplies for the summer when the price on international markets started to rise.
“The Opposition is deeply concerned with the contents of the headline report in The Tribune of June 21, 2022 regarding likely hikes in electricity surcharges - and more so, with the manner in which the government has mismanaged BPL to date that will lead to a level of surcharge increases that could have been avoided,” Mr Pintard said in a statement yesterday.
“The FNM left in place the first ever fuel hedging arrangement for BPL that has led to an unprecedented level of price stability and lowered fuel surcharge rates to the benefit of Bahamian households and businesses recovering from the economic ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This Davis administration was made aware by BPL management and board from last year October regarding the need to extend the fuel hedge to lock in as low as possible a price for fuel in an environment where fuel prices had started to increase rapidly. The administration twiddled their thumbs and did nothing at the time.”
The statement added: “From then to now, this PLP government has continued to dither with the BPL situation - too busy in receptions and events that do not move the economic development agenda forward in an appreciable way.
“While the matter has been raised several times now by the Opposition - including in the current budget debate - the government has done nothing and this will now inevitably mean a significant increase in the electricity surcharge at a time when Bahamian households and businesses could least afford it.”
The leader urged the government to moderate “their incessant travelling, photo-ops and public relations stunts and to take their responsibility for governance seriously.”
They also demanded that the minister responsible for BPL update the public on what happened with the fuel hedging programme and what the failure to extend the programme will mean for increased BPL surcharges going forward.
“How much are they spending for the rental generators and what exact information are they relying on to put this so-called back up plan in place? This is extremely important given BPL’s financial challenges and the absence of a strategic plan to attract the level of capital to address the legacy debt, recurrent expenditure and capital works.”
For his part, FNM chairman Dr Duane Sands acknowledged that while certain factors were beyond control, he said it was the government’s job to mitigate some of the shock.
He said: “It’s almost as if this is an ongoing nightmare for most Bahamians. There are certainly things that are beyond our control. There are circumstances that we cannot control, but there is the ability of our government to make decisions to mitigate some of the shock. A great part of this was the failure of this administration to adequately hedge, to lock-in predictable energy prices.
“The other thing, clearly is BPL seems to not want to be direct, open, and candid with the public about what people can expect and so I think they’re trying to ease this burden by drip feeding it a little bit at a time - there might be a price increase.
“Now they’re saying it is going to be a price increase. It’s a horrible, horrible summer that Bahamians need to dread given the reduction in buying power because of inflation. The increased cost of food in the food stores, the increased price of gas at the pumps and now energy.”