Former BEC chairman says ‘nothing to be done’ over proposed BPL bill increase

Former BEC chairman says ‘nothing to be done’ over proposed BPL bill increase
Leslie Miller

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Despite mounting uproar from the public over Bahamas Power and Light’s (BPL) proposed fee hike, former Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) Executive Chairman Leslie Miller yesterday resigned that there’s nothing Bahamians can do.

Miller was responding to comments from Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest, who last week suggested if BPL does not increase its costs, the government would have to raise taxes to cover the company’s $300 million in debt.

“Why is it the general public now has to be burdened,” Miller told Eyewitness News Online.

“First of all, people can’t afford electricity now. The rate has gone up in excess of 50 percent since we left…We brought the rate down by 40 percent when we were there.

“The engines we were going to put in was going to save us $120 million a year to decrease your rate again by another 20 percent. That’s not going to happen anymore.

Miller continued: “Where does the government believe that the average Bahamian gets the money from for these average expenses that is daily placed upon their backs. Where are they going to get it from? There’ s no increase in salary. In fact, people are afraid to even ask for an increase because you’re lucky you have a job right now, after the hurricane.”

BPL 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.

BPL consumers have been warned that they should brace for additional charges to their bills.

Last Week, Turnquest told The Nassau Guardian,”Unfortunately, the cost of that fix is significant and in order to meet that, BPL, as a stand-alone corporation, has to raise the money. Otherwise, the taxpayers, the shareholders of the corporation, will have to inject the capital as equity. If we inject the capital as equity, it means that our tax bill will go up because we have to recoup that money.”

Pointing to Turnquest’s comments, Miller said, “To me that was so callous; just saying that it’s do or die.

“You know what’s going to happen because of what has taken place over the entire summer with all of these chronic outages, people are just going to say, ‘It’s better than nothing. Let me just bear with it.’

“That’s all you can say because you really can’t do anything because the government already made up its mind.”

Miller maintained yesterday that the plan he and his board left in place for the corporation would have ensured the decrease in electricity costs.

“We made a presentation with our consultants, with the international partners,” Miller noted.

“We said we needed to put in 128 megawatts of power. It was going to cost us some $165 million, including all overhead lines and the new station that we were going to put up. We had infrastructure costs.

“We had financing in place from the [Denmark] Export-Import Bank for 85 percent of the funding at two percent interest.

“We had a tentative agreement with NIB to give the guarantee which they accepted; everything was in place.

“But the guys had no faith in the best board that BEC probably every had, that proved itself. We decreased the cost of electricity to the Bahamian people and made their lives better.”