Lethem residents petitioning for withdrawal of power tariff hike

Over 300 residents of Lethem have signed a petition calling on the Lethem Power Company (LPC) to immediately rescind its decision to raise electricity tariffs from this month.

The petition was presented to APNU’s Region Nine parliamentarian Sydney Allicock, who told Stabroek News that it will be transmitted to the National Assembly via the coalition.

Electricity tariffs for Lethem were recently increased by $20 and this has left residents disturbed and they want the rate revisited.

From this month, residents will have to pay $75 per kilowatt hour (kWh) having previously paid $55/kWh. According to resident Carl Parker, the increase means that residents will now be paying the highest electricity tariff in Guyana. However, Stabroek News has been told that Mahdia residents pay approximately $100/kWh.

The petition, which was organised by Parker, calls on the LPC to rescind its decision in relation to the tariff increase immediately. It also called on the company to meet with residents to determine what is affordable and that the tariffs reflect the various categories of consumers’ ability and capacity to pay. It also said that the Public Utilities Commission should be arbitrators in the impasse. The petition urged that a suitably qualified professional be employed to head the board of the LPC.

It called on the National Assembly to instruct Prime Minister Samuel Hinds to take all the steps necessary to minimise waste and theft at LPC and to make the entity maximise on the resources availed to it.

Daniel Gajie, the acting Chief Executive Officer of the Lethem Power Com-pany (LPC), had told Stabroek News that the tariff increase is due to the high production cost of electricity in the area. At $75/kWh, residents will only be paying for the cost of fuel to produce a kilowatt hour of electricity with additional factory expenses, human resources and other overheads being subsidised by the government, he had said.

Parker, however, had pointed out that residents and businesses are required to pay the same amount for electricity. “It is unfair, people who work as public servants and earn $43,000 per month should not have to pay the same cost like business people who earn $10 million a week,” he had said. Prior to the increase in the electricity cost, residents were supposed to be consulted by the LPC and informed of the pending move but this was not done, he added.

About 305 residents signed the petition, which noted that when prior tariff increases were instituted, residents were consulted and the people were respectful in accepting those increases despite their economic difficulties because of their participation in the consultation process.

The petition said that for this latest increase, residents and other stakeholders were not consulted. It further noted that the increase represented a 54.6% hike over the original, sanctioned tariff of $45/kWh “even though there has not been any recent, (dramatic) increase in the cost of fuel or maintenance.”

It stated that residents view the imposition as disrespectful, a departure from the norm and a scheme to have them pay for assumed potential benefits beforehand. The petition said that the imposition will put the residents of Lethem and its environs at an increased disadvantage in relation to communities in Guyana which benefit from subsidised electricity and who pay between $55 and $58 per kWh.

Lethem has been faced with chronic power problems and a new power station is under construction, with the engines currently in Georgetown.

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