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Jul 4, 2011

Government intends to control water, electricity and telecommunications

Dean Barrow

The Prime Minister spoke at length of what the government would do about the country’s utility companies. In a bold statement, the PM made it clear that his vision for the country is one in which the government controls water, electricity and telecommunications.  Barrow announced that he would amend the constitution again to entrench the Government’s majority ownership of utilities.

Dean Barrow

Allow me to close, Mr. Speaker, on a more general note. I wish to declare that we in the U.D.P. believe that the restoration of Government control over utilities- water, electricity and telecommunications-is an expression of perhaps the most dominant public purpose there can be. These utilities fall into a special category. And consistent with Government’s charge to safeguard the nation, utilities ought not to be the subject of unbridled privatization. I emphasize the word unbridled. Nothing is wrong with a partnership with the private sector, local and foreign, regarding the utilities. But Government should always keep majority ownership. In an ideal world Government would have enough money to operate utilities simply on a break-even basis. That is, consumers would pay only the actual cost of delivering the utility service and not a service provider’s profit. That, unfortunately, is not possible. Particularly with B.E.L., there is a need for capital injection that could well come from the private sector.  And a private sector partner must be allowed a reasonable rate of return. But Government should, with both B.E.L. and B.T.L., be in the position of dominant partner in order to ensure that the interests of the consumer are always looked after. Now this is a position long held by the U.D.P. That is why when we first privatized B.T.A., we drafted Articles of Association to preserve Government majority control. But succeeding P.U.P. Administrations swept away those protections, and the operatic saga of B.T.L. thereafter was the result. We need to prevent this from happening again. So we declare today that we intend to constitutionally entrench Government’s majority ownership of utilities so that no future Administration would be able to upset that ownership.”

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