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Dec 3, 2009

Belize Water Services rejects PUC’s initial decision

Story PictureThe Public Utilities Commission announced on November seventeenth that it was only giving the green light to a ten point six percent increase in water rates sought by the Belize Water Services. BWS had requested a twenty-five percent hike to cover ninety-two million dollars worth of expansion projects. The proposed water increase sparked much opposition and even a protest in San Pedro, where islanders pay the highest rates. BWS today said it is opposed to the ten point six percent increase because it wants the full twenty-five percent hike. In a release issued today, the utility company listed six reasons for rejecting the PUC’s decision.

Firstly, BWS is claiming that the PUC ignored its proposal to reduce monthly bills for about seven thousand residential customers who use seven hundred and fifty gallons of water or less. BWS says those persons would actually see their bill decrease by an average of twenty percent. The next point was that the decision did not consider that the company has to provide an acceptable rate of return for its stakeholders. The rate setting methodology was also a bone of contention because BWS does not feel it is appropriate for a “cash-short utility”. Other issues raised by BWS included that the Regulated Asset Value significantly understates the cost of providing services to customers and that some changes proposed by the PUC would bring more expenses to both the utility and the regulator. When considering those concerns, BWS says the decision will create an environment of uncertainty for the company and will have negative effects when it needs to obtain financing for its projects.

To allay the BWS, the PUC issued a release late this evening saying that in receipt of BWS’ objection, it will be appointing an independent expert to review the schedules and tariffs. The independent expert will be selected by December eighteenth and must be agreed to by BWS. That person will submit a report to the PUC and BWS by January eighteenth 2010.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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