Misguided Help At BEC

The last Free National Movement (FNM) administration had several reconnection programs at the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) for consumers who hit hard times and could not pay their bills. The idea was for the consumers to stay current on their new bills and to pay down on what they owed over time.

These plans were especially a focus after the financial crisis of 2008. Layoffs at resorts sent shock waves across the economy and led to a substantial increase in the unemployment rate – which remains high at 14 percent. Many jobless people just did not have the means to pay their basic utility bills.

The FNM had difficulties with these plans, however. Many still were unable to stay current with their bills despite the arrangement.

Nonetheless, the current Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) now has its plan to reconnect people who can’t pay their BEC bills. The PLP seems undeterred by past experiences with such exercises. Under its recently launched electricity assistance program, BEC intends to reconnect the electricity supplies of more than 7,000 residential customers.

The problem here is politicians with soft hearts offer kind solutions that are impractical, not workable and dangerous. BEC is a near collapsed financial entity that might lose as much as $50 million this year. Government has to back its loans. It does not have the capacity to be kind to anyone. Additionally, it is obvious that if people do not have the money to pay what they owe to the corporation now they likely will not have the money to pay for what they consume going forward.

BEC rates are high and paying the corporation for electricity is a difficulty for individuals and companies. The government should work on meaningful solutions to reduce the cost of electricity in The Bahamas. It should not be engaging in feel-good gimmicks to appease people who have no money to pay their bills.

With national debt as a percentage of GDP in 2012 at 61 percent – the rate doubled in a decade – the Government of The Bahamas should be careful as to how it invests its money. These BEC schemes sound good, but they are clearly bad policy. When these reconnected people sign up for the plan and are not able to pay their bills in a month or two, what next?

The Christie administration needs to set in motion a paradigm shift with BEC and electricity generation in The Bahamas. This should be the immediate concern of the government rather than gimmicks.

– Editorial from The Freeport News