Lindeners take grievances outside President’s office

Lindeners take grievances outside President’s office

June 26, 2012 – Demerara Waves

Lindeners on Tuesday took their rejection of government’s plans to hike electricity tariffs from July 1 to outside President Donald Ramotar’s office as he was chairing cabinet.

The little more than 40 persons, who were bussed in from the bauxite mining town, also added to their list of grievances- government’s television monopoly and dust pollution.

Region 10 Chairman, Sharma Solomon; regional parliamentary representative, Vanessa Kissoon and Region 10 Councillor, Leslie Gonsalves were among the influential persons present.

Restating that Lindeners do not have the earning power to pay a total of GUY$1 billion-the subsidy that government has scrapped- for electricity from next month, Sharma defended the small number of protesters who participated in the picketing exercise.  

“This is a very sustained, a very long and a very peaceful struggle,” said Solomon. “The region of Linden is very capable of mobilizing more than forty two people but this is just to make the point.”

After obeying police orders that they protest on the eastern side of Vlissengen Road rather than the same side in front of Office of the President’s main gate, they carried placards that read “PPPC mean fuh punish we,” “Linden must not pay for GPL (Guyana Power and Light) incompetence,” “End the monopoly now, NCN Must Go,” “Free Media, No NCN,” and “No increase in electricity.” [more]

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  • DMITRI ALLICOCK  On July 1, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    Prime Minister assures Lindeners…
    Written by
    Sunday, 01 July 2012 01:56
    Gov’t still subsidising electricity, but not as heavily as before
    — that it is committed to protecting the most vulnerable
    THE following is a statement issued late yesterday by Prime Minister Mr. Samuel Hinds, in which he specifically sought to address and engage the people of Linden with regard to the proposed hike in electricity rates which comes into effect today.
    “My Fellow Guyanese citizens of Region 10 Prime Minister Samuel Hinds
    and of Linden in particular, I am asking for some of your time to speak to you about the Government’s reform of the provision of electricity in Linden. I do this, conscious of the fact that no one should be expected to be happy in being presented with a reform with a number of steps, even over a number of years, to bring electricity prices to a sustainable price.
    Please allow me to make three points right away. First, let me reiterate that the subsidy is not being totally removed all in one step; a large subsidy continues. Secondly, the most vulnerable, the ones with least money are being protected. Each household customer will receive 50 Kilowatts per hour of electricity each month at existing prices.
    Thirdly, at present, electricity consumption in Linden households far exceeds that of counterparts in the rest of our country. There is great potential for Lindeners to reduce consumption of electricity to between half and one-third of what is used today, and in so doing reduce the amounts on your bills for electricity.
    We know the history for the provision of electricity in Linden, as Mr. Lincoln Lewis has reminded us recently of the story of the provision of highly subsidised electricity goes back to the 1940s. At that time, this area of Mackenzie, Wismar and Christianburg comprised an enclave in Guyana’s hinterland — a mining town carved out of a jungle and linked to our coast by a day-long steamer ride three days a week.
    Mackenzie was then a full company town, where not only the houses but the roads and drains were company owned. Workers in Mackenzie lived in the company houses but that was good for as long as it lasted, but when for whatever reason a worker lost his job he had to leave the company town with nothing but a suitcase or two of clothes. Wismar and Christianburg, however where an available pool of would-be and part-time workers lived were not part of the company town but, none the less enjoyed some benefits, but generally had to carry their own costs.
    Whilst the worker who lived in the company town of Mackenzie had their roof fixed by the company when it leaked and his stairs repaired, those who lived in Wismar and Christianburg were largely on their own; they had to meet those costs. This was recognized as a source of inequity between the two sides of the river. Residents of Wismar and Christianburg had to pay their way, but they had a certain degree of independence and living under their own roofs.
    In about 1965, the company began offering houses to the workers living within and many, if not the majority accepted, even those where there was inherently a loss of the housing benefits and, even though local taxes would need to be paid to a local town council, but it was a step to greater security and independence. Yes it met a change in life for all of Mackenzie when it required a change in the way the worker spent his earnings but it was evident that the change was eventually good for many who were ready to change and adjust.
    The electricity reform on which we are now embarking, occasioned as it is by a desire to spend a subsidy this year to the end of the year, is to be seen as the last step in the transformation of this Linden area from a company town to a regular Guyanese town, completing thereby the process which began in 1965. This is not a new policy/idea; it was enunciated already in July 1976 by the Prime Minister of that day, Mr. Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham.
    He had proclaimed that the provision of electricity for the two banks of the river should be merged and that the Linden area should be incorporated into our country’s electric utility of that day the GEC, now the GPL. The Guymine News of July 27th summarized his address with respect to the different rates charged for electricity for the east bank and west bank of Linden. The Prime Minister disclosed that with the hooking up of Linden with the National Grid, both sides of the river will come under the Guyana Electricity Corporation.
    The electricity supply for the entire Linden is part of the electricity supply of the entire Guyana. Mr. Burnham was reported as saying these words, “You will certainly have to pay no more than what the rest of people in Guyana pay. I do not promise you that you will necessarily get it cheaper than other people because I’m Prime Minister of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and not the Prime Minister of Linden.”
    That policy/position then remains unassailable today. I was working here in Linden at that time; the cost recovery price for electricity was worked out at Guyana $1 per kilowatt per hour but we in Linden were paying then 2 cents per kilowatt per hour. Eventually a phased implementation was agreed to with the first step of jumping from 2 cents per kilowatt to 49 cents per kilowatt per hour. However, there was another of the oil shocks of that period when the cost recovery price jumped to about $3 per kilowatt per hour.
    Unlike what Mr. Lewis has been saying, I was paying for electricity then. I remember that my metre seems to have been faulty but at 2 cents per kilowatt per hour who cares, I ignored it. Whenever the prices jumped 40 times to 40 cents per kilowatt per hour I had the metre recalibrated and my wife and I turned off our electrical water heater, I would not be surprised that if LECI and LUSCL made a request to have every metre checked. There has been periodic electricity price increases in Linden, but very little closure with economic rates.
    Some people may say, didn’t we resist and get ways with keeping electricity prices low and very highly subsidized all these years why then should we accept paying full rates now?. I would say that we didn’t get away with it eventually, without sufficient money, the maintenance of the whole bauxite company fell away including the whole electricity system of Linden. There were many dark days we all lost perhaps more in that time when we didn’t have electricity we needed.
    On that same occasion in July 1976, to which I earlier referred Mr. Burnham used some salient words, “socialism is not freeness” indeed there is nothing free, costs have to be met and if not met service deteriorates. This PPP/C Government itself has been wrestling with the question of electricity for all of Guyana and of Linden since 1992, we face a huge task of rebuilding, restoring and extending electricity supplies all across Guyana including here in Linden. Let me say the electricity prices of GEC, GPL are also subsidized but to a much lesser extent perhaps 10 to 25 percent at various times but not 90 percent. To obtain the assistance for the large sums of money required for the economic recovery of Guyana, this PPP/C Government continued the principle by the outgoing PNCR administration of the need to recognized and to provide for and to make economic prices.
    Remember again Mr. Burnham had said socialism is not freeness. So why it is this PPP/C Administration want to push ahead with this reform now? Because no matter what some people say there has been growth in Linden. Just look around and date back to the 1980s. The electricity taken by the community here in Linden has grown both absolutely and as greater propulsions of the power generated here in Linden and the price of fuel too, has been steadily increasing so that the electricity subsidy in Linden has been growing steadily.
    Last year 2011, the electricity subsidy was Guy$2,576, 320 for all of Linden. When you do the calculation for each residential customer in Linden the subsidy from the nation’s consolidated fund averages $17,000 per month for each household and that is $204, 000 for the year for each household. I hope that my fellow Guyanese of Linden would recognise that no national Government could in good consciousness continue such a situation in the circumstances of our Guyana as a whole. There is nothing vindictive or is the Government un-sympathetic to the people of Linden in setting up this phase- the electricity reform, rather we think that this is timely.
    Linden is growing and each day that the reform is put off and Linden grows a bit more the subsidy grows a bit further. Household family decisions as well as commercial business decisions made on the basis of highly subsidized electricity prices set up troubles for the future. Each day the reform is put back, the need to reform grows bigger and the paying of the eventual reform grows bigger.
    Allow me to tell you now what the new tariff structure is and to point out those gains citizens who reduce their consumption of national averages will face. In the new tariff structure, we are retaining the same prices for the first 50 kilowatt hours of electricity so for the first 50 kilowatt hours each customer takes during a month there is no charge. For bauxite pensioners that means there is no charge for the first 50 kilowatts hours and for other residents it is $5 per kilowatt hours if you are on the right bank and $7 if you are on the left bank.
    For commercial/industrial customers it is $12 on the right bank and $15 for the left bank. For pensioners and residents $50 per kilowatt hours for both sides and for commercial industrial it is also $65 so here we are taking a first small step in bringing together the tariffs on the two sides of the river. Customers are being called upon to use electricity more carefully to conserve and to avoid wastage so that the electricity bills may be kept at a minimum and there is great potential to do so. Let me say that the charges of $50 and $65 dollar per kilowatt hour are to some extent still subsidized by about 20 percent because during this year the average cost for generation alone is about $62 per kilowatt hour and this is so because in Linden diesel is used in generation and the price delivered to customers is more in the order of $75 to $80 per kilowatt hour.
    So I do hope that customers in Linden would aim to and can achieve the same sort of consumption as their counterparts do on the GPL grid and other parts of Guyana whether in Bartica or on the West Coast of Berbice or in the Corentyne. The monthly consumption of the 50,000 GPL residential customers average 45 kilowatt hour and a residential customer in Linden who can get his consumption down to that level will be seeing a bill of $225 per month on the right bank and $325 per month on the left bank.
    The larger of the 100,000 GPL customers average 150 kilowatt hours per month and someone in Linden who can achieve that will see a bill of $5250 per month on the right bank and $5350 on the left bank. These are the sorts of bills that residents in Linden would be facing if electricity is consumed carefully and consumption is reduced, making significant saving for themselves and for the subsidy too. Government undertakes to take any net savings on the electricity subsidy allocated for Linden this year to make that saving available to consumers by some procedure that the consumers in Linden may propose.
    There have been suggestions of shared saving equally with every customer on proportion to their reduced consumption as a jackpot to a few lucky customers. As we have seen electricity reform has been talked about and began since 1976. When you think of it no time has been a perfect one for this reform and indeed no time will ever be a perfect one. However, our Government thinks that it is timely now for a number of reasons;-
    One, the subsidy this year- the allocation of $1,856 Billion provided in the budget is projected to run out by the beginning of September It is only reasonable that we make some adjustments now so that the remaining allocation can be spread smoothly through to the end of the year.
    Secondly, the people of Linden must build their lives on a sound basis continued highly subsidized prices different from the rest of Guyana. We can see good reasons for our country and for Linden to continue growing but within out reform as we said earlier as Linden grows, the subsidy grows making the situation ever more untenable
    Thirdly, nationally the world’s economy is facing many head winds and if such winds reach us and Government, whichever Government, might find it difficult to maintain these subsidies to Linden. I want to plead to my fellow citizens of Linden to resist calls for protest and unrest which may provide cover for some for the destruction of infrastructure of Linden such as roads and actions which harm Linden and Lindeners like the blocking of the bridge.
    The government had been advocating and pursuing all possibilities for Linden to be the first port to and from the Atlantic and northern Brazil. We urge the ordinary and good people of Linden not to follow those who call to take action which would compromise those possibilities; rather, our focus should be on enhancing the image of Linden as the place to set up shops. We must not take action that would drive people away from Linden; rather we must bring people and work in Linden.
    I would like to assure Linden and the people of Linden that this Government has always been, and will continue to be, considerate to the people of Linden as any other of our fellow citizens. The incorporation of the electricity corporation of Linden into our national utility will assure that in the matter of electricity, Linden enjoys the same as all other Guyanese.

    I thank you.

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