The government’s decision to temporarily increase the value-added tax (VAT) exemption for electricity bills will do very little on easing the burden of high electricity costs, according to President of The Bahamas Electrical Utility and Managerial Union (BEUMU) Paul Maynard.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced in Parliament Wednesday that government intends to temporarily raise the VAT exemption ceiling on electricity bills to $300.
The initial exemption, when implemented back in July following debate on the Fiscal Responsibility Bill, exempted all Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) Bills under $200 from the 12 per cent VAT increase. But Minnis said, “given the circumstances that has given rise to the temporary spike in the fuel surcharge component of consumer electricity bills, the government is mindful of the impact this increase has on all Bahamians, especially on the poorest and the most vulnerable.”
However, in an interview with Eyewitness News on Thursday, Maynard suggested BPL ask shell for help.
The company last week signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Shell Gas and Power Development for an LNG gas to power project.
While that project is expected to lower electricity costs, it will not be completed until 2020, but Maynard said help is needed now.
“This country is in crisis mode,” he said. “You have a light bill so high that small businesses are closing down, poor people are choosing to live without electricity and we have mothers who are struggling and [they must] decide whether they are going to feed their family or pay their light bill. When you have that going on, you are in a crisis mode and you have to recognize that,” he said.
“So what the government needs to do is, you say to Shell ‘look you have us for 30 years and listen, we need your help’. Shell is the largest distributor of LNG and propane in the world, they will work it out, they can move mountains to get what you need them to get.”
In the meantime, Maynard said his union is encouraging BPL’s board to rethink the current disconnection policy.
“We, in the union, are trying to encourage the board to get with the program, see what they can do to alleviate this programme because everywhere I go, I can’t even eat properly because people are asking me ‘when their light bill coming down’.
“Everyone wants to know so we are trying to encourage the management, the board and the government to do something about this and it needs to be done quick.”