NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader Chester Cooper last night called the government’s electricity rate reduction bond an “affront” to the Bahamian people, warning it could drive the country into another recession.
Cooper, who was addressing party supporters at a Centreville Branch meeting, castigated the Minnis administration over its handling of Bahamas Power and Light (BPL).
The electricity provider continues to struggle with ongoing blackouts and load shedding due to its issues with generation and transmission among other challenges.
The government last week tabled an Electricity Rate Reduction Bond Bill (ERRB), 2019, which will allow BPL to restructure more than $320 million in inherited debt, and secure more than $350 million in new funding to address longstanding issues.
The legislation makes clear that BPL’s customer base will be relied upon to service the bond issue.
It has not been revealed how much that charge would be.
“Hubert Minnis and the FNM have zero respect for the Bahamian people,” Cooper told a crowd of PLPs.
“They don’t care about the Bahamian people at all.
“How do you put this BPL tax on people and look them in the face and tell them you have their best interests at heart?
“The minister of finance says the new BPL tax will be palatable to Bahamians.
Cooper said: “First, what Bahamians does he know who feel good about paying more money to BPL?…Who is he talking to? No one wants to pay BPL a red cent more. Not after a summer of blackouts. Not if you can’t move to more renewable, sustainable energy solutions.”
“This is really shameful stuff,” he said.
“I don’t like this new BPL tax. It is an affront to Bahamians and could threaten to drive us into another recession. How could they possibly think higher bills makes any sense? I guess it’s the people time.”
On Tuesday, Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest told reporters that it was ‘no secret’ the public will need to pitch in to turnaround the ‘very serious financial mess’ Bahamas Power & Light BPL finds itself in.
“The government has committed to a permanent fix,” Turnquest said.
“We are well on the road to that. We expect some very significant improvements very shortly and they will do their best to ensure that they maintain the level of cost that they have to pass on to The Bahamian people.”
Yesterday, Cooper warned party supporters to watch the BPL matter closely.
He projected the new “BPL tax” will increase the cost of goods and services, making the tourism product more expensive and less competitive.
“In everything the FNM wants to do they tax you.
“And the FNM don’t have the basic respect for the people to tell them what this money is for.
“So now, in addition to the kilowatts per hour you pay for on your bill, in addition to the astronomical fuel charges you pay on your bill, in addition to the VAT on that you pay on your bill, they’ll have another charge now, that everyone must pay on top of it all.”
Cooper added the matter is the “last straw” for the prime minister and the Free National Movement with the Bahamian people.
“You mean we all have to pay for the legacy debt that BPL generated, and the upgrades the company wants, that’s more than the debt, that they can’t even explain to us,” he said.
“All this in the wake of Hurricane Dorian; what timing.
“Are they really that heartless and thoughtless?”
The purpose of the ERRB 2019 Bill is to establish a legal framework for the organization of the Bahamas Rate Reduction Bond Limited (BRRBL) and the issuance of rate reduction bonds that will be secured by the property or other assets of the BRRBL for the sole purpose of indirect payment and satisfaction of the rate reduction bond financing liabilities.
The Bahamas Rate Reduction Bond Ltd, is the special purpose vehicle that will be responsible for issuing the bonds and making investor interest payments.
The EERB legislation, which will replace a similar act passed previously by the former Christie administration, provides that the bond fee paid by consumers can be adjusted at a minimum semi-annually to ensure that the collection of such fee will produce sufficient revenues to pay all ongoing financing costs as the same become due and payable.
Pointing to the tabling of the bill, the Exumas and Ragged Island MP added: “They thought they’d just sneak that one in there. But the devil is a liar if you think we’ll sit down and go quiet on that one.”