Lethem residents are ready to stage peaceful protests over the recently instituted hike in electricity tariffs for the community and they are challenging the claim by the Lethem Power Company (LPC) that the increase was driven by fuel costs.
With the increase in electricity cost, there is also concern that the cost for water will also increase, according to Sandra Rodrigues, a resident of the neighbouring community of St. Ignatius, which receives electricity from the LPC as well.
Rodrigues, who chaired a public meeting among residents yesterday, said they agreed that they should not accept the tariff increase because they were not consulted by LPC on increase the charge from $55 to $75 per kilowatt hour.
She also said they are prepared to stage peaceful protests and continue to hold public meetings because they are not satisfied with the reasons for the increase given to them by the LPC and its acting Chief Executive Officer Daniel Gadjie.
She blamed the increase on poor management at LPC and not operational and fuel cost and added that residents have been told by reliable sources that the claim that the $75 charge only covers the cost for fuel and not additional operation expenses is untrue. “Management is the problem. You have to have people with the knowledge and background to run such a company,” Rodrigues said.
Gadjie told this newspaper earlier that the increase in electricity cost is due to the high production cost of electricity for the area. He added that at $75 per kilowatt hour, residents will only be paying for the cost of fuel to produce a kilowatt hour of electricity, since production cost per kilowatt hour is $105. He added that additional factory expenses, human resource and other overheads are being subsidised by the government.
Gadjie said yesterday that the residents of Lethem need to understand that the money for electricity production has to come from somewhere; either the government or the people. He added that the increase remains in place despite rumours to the contrary. Further, he stated that LPC cannot make the decision to rescind the increase. Such a decision, he said, has to be made by the Prime Minister.
Rodrigues also said that all the residents agree that the increase is too much for the average working resident of Lethem. A resident of Lethem, Carl Parker, earlier told this newspaper that all residents are required to pay the same amount for electricity as businesses per kilowatt hour. “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 $10M a week,” Parker said.
He added that prior to the increase in the electricity cost, residents were supposed to be consulted by LPC and informed of the intended increase to ensure that all consumers were satisfied. No consultation was, however, done in this instance, he noted.