LINDEN HAS ALWAYS BEEN PAMPERED BY THE PPPC
The AFC is up to its old tricks. This time it is recklessly and irresponsibly suggesting that the decision of the government to align electricity rates in Linden with national tariffs is a vengeful act.
It claims that this decision highlighted in the Budget presentation last Friday is retribution for the manner in which the people of Linden voted.
The AFC has to know the background to this issue of electricity tariffs and its outrageous conclusions is a sure case of its mischief making in opportunistic attempt to ingratiate itself with a constituency that did not offer the AFC the support it expected last November.
The PPP has a long history of pampering Linden and it bent backwards on more than one occasion to assist the people of that area.
The AFC on the other hand did not get the votes it anticipated in Linden in the 2011 elections and therefore if there is any party that suffered the most in Linden it was the AFC and not the PPP.
The AFC was hoping to win at least one of the constituency seats in Linden in the 2011 elections. It had always contended that Sam Hinds’s seat in the ninth parliament rightfully belonged to the AFC since there was a miscalculation in the 2006 elections. The Elections Affairs Bureau (EAB) Report on those elections agreed with this assessment.
The AFC must have therefore been hoping that in the 2011 elections the two constituencies seats for Region Ten would have been divided equally between itself and APNU. This was not to be as APNU swept both seats. But the PPP while losing electoral support did not perform poorly. In fact, given the way the vote went nationally, the PPPC has to be satisfied by its performance in Region Ten` which includes Linden.
The issue of electricity tariffs for Linden predated the elections. It has always been the case that the prohibitive subsidy which was applied to tariffs in Linden constituted positive discrimination for Linden.
The government, in fact, has long faced criticism that it was overtly subsiding electricity tariffs in Linden as against other areas where the cost was multiple times higher.
A decision was taken, and this was made a long time ago, to eventually bring the Linden rate in line with the national rate. This decision was delayed for many years but because of the high per capita subsidy, it has to be implemented now.
Linden has always the most pampered town in Guyana. Not only were electricity rates low, but also for many years when the state-owned bauxite company was in the doldrums, the industry was being bailed out for years simply to keep the jobs of the employees going.
Even though there is great need within the mining town, Linden has on a per capita basis been treated better than most communities. And as outlined by the former Minister of Human Services and Social Development, this includes legal aid.
It was inevitable that with rising fuel prices that the low electricity tariffs charged to consumers in the mining town would have to be adjusted in line with the national rate.
In order to cushion the effect on consumers in Linden, it was agreed that the increases will be phased in. There will be complaints but the government cannot simply continue to offer a subsidy to Linden greater than what is given, for example to consumers in Georgetown. This was always an unfair situation.
The AFC therefore should try to do offer more constructive criticisms of the intended measure and not try to use it to stir problems and enhance its appeal with the people of Linden.
One possible option would be to suggest that Lindeners pay the actual cost of generation of their electricity less the average national subsidy.
The cost per kilowatt of generating electricity in Linden should be calculated and this would constitute the economic cost to the consumer. From this, should be deducted the amount by which government subsidizes all consumers in Guyana. In this way, persons in Georgetown and New Amsterdam do not have to feel that they are being asked to pay high electricity tariffs while the people of Linden are obtaining electricity at a cheap rate.
In fact this same formula should be applied throughout the national grid. This will encourage the various districts in which electricity is generated to do so more efficiently.
There can also be a plan to promote a system whereby private low producers can sell or donate excess power to the various district grids and this could help reduce the cost of electricity for persons in this area.
Thus, if some of bauxite companies can produce electricity cheaper or can afford to freely give excess power to the Linden grid; this would lead to an overall reduced cost for the consumers in the mining town.
It is patently unfair for any area which is part of the national grid to be paying $15 per kilowatt when other areas are paying $64 per kilowatt.
Electricity tariffs have to be regularized because if they are not, the country will find itself in serious problems in the face of rising oil prices. If the AFC cannot accept this, then it has a serious problem.