The parliamentary opposition parties have come out against the proposed 26.7 per cent Guyana Power and Light tariff increase, with the AFC urging Guyanese to vigorously resist it, while the APNU called for the removal of the entire board.
In its statement issued early yesterday, the Alliance for Chance (AFC) noted that “even after spending billions every year through loans and prohibitively high prices on new generating capacity, it is vividly clear that the government has no solution in sight in the context of its statutory duty to provide electricity at an affordable cost”.
The opposition party pronounced that “after more than 20 years of PPP Government in office… the PPP has no excuses other than its gross incompetence and corruption. It has handled GPL just like it has handled the sugar sector and the NIS bringing all three to a state of bankruptcy.
“The Guyanese people continue to suffer hourly blackouts with repeated adverse effects on homeowners’ appliances and goods, business-owners’ production equipment and school children’s education.”
Demanding that the Public Utilities Commission fully investigate GPL’s reasons before pronouncing on the proposed rate increase, the AFC warned, “that this highly ill-advised and unjustified act on the part of GPL, will be provoking huge national unrest.”
Meanwhile, in its statement issued last evening, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) noted that GPL continues to under-perform. It pointed out that there has been no improvement in services and no significant attempt to control line loss, while daily blackouts continue to be a way of life. “In the current climate, where citizens are burdened by high cost of living, stagnant wages and exorbitant taxation; rampant unemployment; APNU finds it unconscionable that any civic minded corporate citizen ( company) would even consider to saddle its customers with such an increase,” the statement said.
Noting its admission that the company was losing more than 31 per cent of the power it generates, APNU said that anywhere else in the world, in a corporation with this type of track record, the board and top-tier management would be dismissed; instead the government sought in the national budget to give GPL a whopping $5.2 billion, without demanding reorganisation or a turnaround plan. APNU said it would not stand idly by and allow this burden on the backs of the Guyanese people. It said it will stand by all Guyanese in their resolve not to pay one cent more. “The PPP/C government by encouraging this mismanaged corporation to visit further suffering on the people of Guyana, has laid bare its anti-working class philosophy. This must be seen as an attempt to provoke unrest,” APNU said.
“The tactic is clear to all that this government intends to link this proposed rate increase with the 2013 Budget cuts,” APNU said.
This morning, the governing party did just that. Speaking at a press conference at Freedom House, Minister within the Ministry of Finance Juan Edghill said that “any increase in electricity tariffs must be laid squarely at the feet of the oppositions… This nonsense about the management is mismanaging is a smokescreen it’s to deflect and to seek to cast aspersions on public servants who work hard in very difficult circumstance.”
He said Leader of the Opposition David Granger was “creating a platform of political instability to further a political agenda,” continuing that the opposition was “using the people of Guyana as political pawns”. Edghill hinted that it was the opposition’s budget cuts of $5.2 billion have forced GPL to seek the PUC’s permission to increase its rates.
Minister of Finance Dr Ashni Singh said the tariff increase was worrisome and that every individual’s socioeconomic status would play a part in whether or not people could afford the gigantic hike.
“This does pose an additional burden on the Guyanese consumer… Let me say this, the opposition’s argument that it is okay for them to cut but we could bring back a supplementary is nothing more than a smokescreen because the fact of the matter is that every question was answered… when these allocations were taken to Parliament in the first place,” Singh stated.
The finance minister also noted that the last time tariffs were increased was in December 2007, but noted that the state-owned corporation has not been on financially secure ground since before that. He pointed to the global increase in the cost of fuel, saying it has not been reflected in GPL’s rates.
“GPL has carried the cost of this increased fuel burden without passing it on through increased tariffs,” he said.
However, critics have called the proposed 26.7 per cent increase in tariffs a last ditch effort by the state-owned corporation to remain financially viable due to gross negligence.
Over the weekend the power company said that it needed to increase tariffs because of the rising cost of fuel, to fund projects and remain viable financially. In a statement, the company revealed that the fuel bill had doubled in just six years, in 2012 to $24.2 billion compared to $12.4 billion in 2006. The company said that 83 per cent of tariff revenue accounts for fuel cost and by delaying implementation of tariff increase the company has foregone over $21.7 billion in revenue.