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Apr 3, 2006

B.W.S. asks P.U.C. for 8.5% increase in water rates

Story PictureThe Public Utilities Commission is dealing with a double whammy tonight following submissions from both Belize Electricity Limited and Belize Water Services Limited for rate reviews. While B.E.L. is not asking for a hike in its recently approved new rates, come July first the imposition of GST on consumers of over one hundred fifty dollars per month will impact largely middle class households. But B.W.S. is another story, requesting an increase in water bills of more than eight and half percent. In a letter to the PUC, Acting Chief Executive Officer Alvan Haynes says the tariff adjustments are necessitated by the increased costs it most bare for electricity, interest payments, and general inflation. According to the P.U.C.’s Director of Rate Setting, Anna Rossington, the commission is confident that it can handle both applications simultaneously.

Anna Rossington, Director of Rate Setting, P.U.C.
?Absolutely, absolutely. They are quite different processes as well, because as I?d said, B.W.S. came in today for an annual price adjustment and that?s a much shorter process whereby that takes place in the course of the next month. The public will have ten days to comment on B.W.S.?s submission and then the P.U.C. has a further five days to then issue its final decision on that matter.?

?We received an application on Friday from B.E.L. which commences an Annual Review Proceeding and the process with that is that the P.U.C. will accept comments from the public on B.E.L.?s submission for twenty days, which runs until April twentieth and then within thirty days, the P.U.C. will make its initial decision on the A.R.P., which is by the thirtieth of April. After that, if they are any comments from interested parties there are ten days for the public to make comments. If there are any objections, an independent expert will be employed, who will then write a report and that will inform the P.U.C.?s final decision on the matter. The final decision will be released no later than the twenty-sixth of June, so that any rate changes will take effect on first July, 2006.?

Janelle Chanona
?The utility companies will have their experts, you will have your experts as regulator, what message can you send to consumers about how both these changes might affect their bottom line in their homes??

Anna Rossington
?Well as I said, B.E.L. has not applied for a tariff increase, but B.W.S. has and we will take both submissions and be analysing them in detail. As far as what the public can do, the public can stay informed and contact the P.U.C. with their written comments on either of the two submissions.?

Janelle Chanona
?And those have to technical or they can be feelings??

Anna Rossington
?They can be any comments, but we would prefer if the public can include evidence or some kind of analysis that then assists us. We welcome any comments and anything that indicates the strength of feeling, but it informs us more if they are able to do some form of analysis.?

Janelle Chanona
?The G.S.T. is set to come in on July first, yet I notice B.E.L. has not included that in its submission. How does that parlay into reality since undoubtedly it will have some sort of impact. Why wasn?t that included??

Anna Rossington
?You will have to ask B.E.L. about why or why not their issues on G.S.T., I mean we will be looking at potential impacts on G.S.T. and informing ourselves on what we think how G.S.T. can impact the costs. But I think you would have to talk to B.E.L. about that.?

This afternoon we asked B.E.L. about the G.S.T. issue and basically it boils down to how their costs will be affected by the new tax. In terms of power generation B.E.L. will now have to pay G.S.T. on inputs like fuel and electricity purchases that were previously free of sales tax. They can claim those tax payments back, but only partially since, G.S.T. will not be charged on consumers of under one hundred fifty dollars per month. On the other hand, expenses not related to the direct cost of power should go down as B.E.L. like any other business, will be able to claim back G.S.T. on purchases that are now subject to the non-refundable sales tax. In the end it appears that the small increases and decreases on operating expenses should cancel each other out, leaving only middle income families and small entrepreneurs feeling the G.S.T. pinch.

In related news, the P.U.C. reminded the public today that the forum on Voice Over the Internet Phone issues is scheduled for the twenty sixth of April. According to the PUC an information campaign will be launched this week as a public service. Following the event, the Commission will then make a policy on the VOIP. Belize Telecommunications Limited has blocked internet sites such as VONAGE and Skype, asserting that use of the various services by consumers is illegal under its present license.

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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