Lindeners protest impending electricity hike
By Abena Rockcliffe
Yesterday, Lindeners publicly voiced their disapproval of the electricity hike by staging a protest outside Office of the President. Linden is expected to be faced with a hike in electricity rates from July 1.
Since the closure of the bauxite plants in Linden back in the ’80s, Government had introduced the electricity subsidies to the area as a means to alleviate the hardships of many who had been laid off. Decades later, not much has changed as it relates to the availability of jobs in Linden, according to the people of Linden.
Recently, the government decided to move for an electricity hike in Linden.
Yesterday, Lindeners signalled that they are not prepared financially for a raise in electricity rates in the region. The protesters reiterated that it is by no means a case where Lindeners do not want to pay more for an absolute necessity like electricity. “We simply can’t afford it” was the echoed phrase among them.
With over 40 protesters, almost three fourth of the amount were females. They voiced that they were forced to “do something” about the situation since most of them are single mothers and they struggle, as it is, to maintain their households. “Moreover, if there is to be an electricity hike, we would have to thief to survive,” expressed one of the irate protesters.
They held cards that read: Linden needs jobs, don’t punish we cause we ain’t vote fuh cup’, ‘No increase in electricity’, ‘Sam eyes pass we’, ‘Lindeners must not pay for GPL incompetence,’ and ‘Will de women in Linden prostitute themselves to pay the light bill in Linden.’
Vanessa Kissoon, APNU parliamentary representative from Linden, voiced the instance of one businessman who currently pays an $80,000 monthly electricity bill; she said that with the hike the business will be indebted to the tune of $360,000 on estimate monthly for light bill.
With that drastic rise, she explained that the businessman would then be forced to raise the price on each item being sold at his bakery. She said that the hike in electricity rates will result in the cost of living hitting the roof.
Further, if the man is to close down his bakery, due to him not being able to sustain his business, it would result in 25 more persons being unemployed, Kissoon said.
She said that she does not understand the government’s “bullyism and control freakism.” “Could you imagine that this so called caring government wants to reduce the subsidy of pensioners who worked with the electricity company?” asked Kissoon.
This newspaper learnt that only the pensioners who worked at the Linden Power Company will be subsidized. However, the government has lowered the subsidy from 300 free kilowatts to 50 kilowatts. “It means that pensioners will have to pay at least $12,000 from a $10,000 a month pension.
Faced with the question of why the Government should take heed of 42 persons in protest, Region Ten chairman, Sharma Solomon, said that Linden is more than capable of rounding up more persons to protest for the cause.
However, yesterday’s was the start of a sustained, long and peaceful protest.
Solomon asked for it to be considered that even if the bill is raised by $1, the economy does not permit Lindeners to afford such payments.
Another resident, Winston Smith, said that Linden has been the bedrock of the country’s economy and that Linden contributed to Guyana’s development and however received “nothing in return.” “Linden is the gateway to the interior but if the problems are not addressed that gateway will close,” said Smith.
The general opinion at the protest was that Linden is being victimized because of the results of the last general elections.
Government had budgeted almost $3B for Linden as an electricity subsidy. The opposition however had argued during the budget debate earlier this year that GPL should move to cut waste and reduce the subsidy by $1B.
Dr. Roger Luncheon, Cabinet Secretary, said that government is working on measures that will outline how the tariffs would be structured for residents and businesses in Linden.
Earlier this year, Dr Luncheon had claimed that despite the tariff increase, Lindeners will still be paying half of what the rest of the country is doling out.