Tuesday, April 16, 2024

JUST LIKE IT IS – Of light and power


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Hearing that Barbados Light & Power bills were going up by ten per cent, my reaction was: so what else is new? After all, the cost of almost everything else had already risen, so with escalating global oil prices, sooner rather than later, consumers could be expected to take another hit in their beleaguered pockets.
Experience has taught that projected hikes invariably hit the mailbox at a higher figure. The postman’s arrival was therefore anticipated with dread. Surprisingly, however, there was not even the threatened ten per increase, my bill increasing by just $5.
But over the next few days, the source of a feel-good factor in my household, generated horror stories from close friends whose bills had increased by much more than ten per cent, one as high as 48 per cent.
Let me share a few billing figures with the invitation to the quite excellent marketing and public relations Light & Power spokesman, Mr Stephen Worme, that should he wish further particulars, he is welcome to contact me.
A fellow pensioner’s bill jumped from $387.01 to $565.56, an increase of $178.55, 46 per cent. His bill was for a 35-day period. 
On a 30-day calculation, chances are it would have been far less. With a daily average of 21 kilowatt hours, for a 30-day period his total kilowatt usage would be 105 kilowatt hours less. But over the 35-day period he was billed for 739 kilowatt hours, of which 239 were billed at the higher rate of 20 cents a kilowatt hour.
Furthermore, based on the 35-day billing, he also has to pay an additional $45 fuel charge. This new attention to detail is critical especially for those like pensioners with less disposable incomes.
I look forward to hearing from Light & Power on paying a bigger bill because of being pushed into higher kilowatt usage and if and how adjustments are made; and from the consumer association, Barbados Association of Retired Persons, the Fair Trading Commission and traditional objectors to rate increases.
We heard from Light & Power that interim bills saved heavy additional expenditure to pay more meter readers to produce monthly read rather than interim bills. With increased revenues, is the time to employ more meter readers.
Another friend’s bill jumped from $674 to $999, an increase of $325 or 48.2 per cent. This individual is out of the house approximately 12 hours every working day, does not use the air-conditioning because of the location of the house and uses low voltage security lights.
But I have kept the best for last. This gentleman told me he almost went into cardiac arrest on discovering his bill had jumped from $958 to $1 386, an increase of $322 or 33.6 per cent. He had not made a late payment, was not in arrears and cooks with gas. Furthermore, he told me he and his wife were out of the country for two weeks during the 31-day billing period.  
The three examples highlighted relate to modest, frugal citizens who do not live extravagantly and when the heat becomes unbearable (and it is not yet that time of year), resort to fans rather than expensive air conditioning.
Clearly, Mr Worme, something went painfully haywire with their billings, making your projected ten per cent increase look hopelessly optimistic.
I am sure many other Light & Power consumers whose bills reflect similar spikes may wish to share disappointments with Mr Worme.
Different folks, different strokes
There has been an avalanche of public comment on the continuing failure of Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to address the nation on the myriad problems facing the country and share his vision for the future.
There is a school of thought, seemingly in the minority, that the time is not yet right for him to speak. One journalist went so far as to see the calls for him to speak as an “Opposition conspiracy”. 
If he is correct, from what I have seen and heard recently, the Opposition seems to have attracted some high-profile refugees from the Democratic Labour Party.
Mr Stuart has been Prime Minister for six months following the death of Mr David Thompson. As far as I am aware, unlike the former Prime Minister, he has not exposed himself to any media questioning on issues of the moment or an omnibus media address to the nation.
We see and hear him quite often speaking from Ilaro Court to gatherings of repeat visitors to Barbados. Even though in our democratic system the Prime Minister is first among equals, he is still very much the maximum leader with a figurative finger on every pulse.
How long, therefore, is too long to operate in a silent zone? By contrast, the confident and avuncular Mr Chris Sinckler, Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, was on both radio and television last Sunday sharing his views and taking calls from concerned citizens.
Those who commend parking in a silent zone must have been gobsmacked to hear Mr Sinckler say at the end of Down To Brass Tacks that he hopes to return to that programme every two months. 
C’est la vie. Different strokes for different folks, indeed!
A blessed Easter to all.
Peter Simmons, a social scientist, is a former diplomat. 

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