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Apr 2, 2008

Government still insists it will reduce electricity rates

Story PictureAs the request for higher electricity rates by the country’s monopoly provider continues to dominate public debate, today the Government weighed in on the matter. During a press briefing this morning, the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary, Delroy Cuthkelvin, announced that the Barrow administration has already revoked SI 141 of 2007 which had allowed the company to attach “additional claims for expenses in arriving at charges to be borne by the consumer”. Moving boldly from that assertion, the official went on to maintain that, even in the face of record petroleum prices, Belmopan is intent on keeping its pre-election promise to reduce the cost of public utilities. The key, according to Cuthkelvin, is changes in legislation.

Delroy Cuthkelvin, Prime Minister’s Press Secretary
“These rules allow B.E.L. to make demands which the government considers are contrary to the interests of consumers and national development. Among these are B.E.L.’s right to add on to consumers’ bills, the taxes charged on B.E.L.’s income. In other words, they are passing on their income tax to the consumer. The cost of generated electricity lost through transmission line inefficiencies and commercial losses due to B.E.L.’s administrative inefficiencies. While the P.U.C. is empowered to determine the reasonableness of the rates of other companies selling power to B.E.L., the price of electricity sold to B.E.L. by its sister company, B.E.C.O.L., has not been investigated by the P.U.C.”

“With all these facts before us, we believe it is not only unfair and inconceivable for B.E.L. to want to increase its rates, we also believe it would be unjust and unacceptable—unacceptable, I want to stress—for them to not reduce those rates and give the consumers some much needed relief. That was the U.D.P.’s position then and that is our position now. It might be a bit bold to attempt to reach the goal of reducing rates by fifty percent, but in view of all the facts including the fact that B.E.L. is making thirty million dollars profit annually right now, it would not be unreasonable to strive for that goal, reduction by fifty-percent in rates. The Minister of Public Utilities has asked me to express to you his intention and that of his entire team of professional advisors to exhaust all their energies towards the objective of substantially reducing all utility rates, not just electricity but in this case we are talking specifically about electricity and the U.D.P. government certainly does not intend to achieve this in our final year in Government but rather as they say in Spanish, “tan pronto que posible”.”

Cuthkelvin also announced that Prime Minister Dean Barrow will be heading to Miami on Sunday to engage in talks with officials of the World Bank and will also participate in follow-up meetings with the Inter-American Development Bank and OPEC Fund for International Development to discuss financial assistance to Belize. On Thursday B.E.L. will be making its annual review submission, which is separate from last month’s request for rate increases based on a drastic rise in the balance of its Rate Stabilisation Account occasioned by higher petroleum prices. A late release from B.E.L. indicates that their new proposal calls for a thirteen point four percent increase in the average cost of electricity, slightly reduced from their earlier request for a fifteen percent hike. Any new rates will become effective on July first.

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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