Trinidad and Tobago is set to experience a sharp hike in electricity and utility rates according to Finance Minister Colm Imbert. Imbert is now attempting to prepare his people for this eventuality by forewarning them.
During the nation’s latest budget presentation, made by Colm Imbert himself, the finance minister clarified that the current rates for electricity and water are not feasible. According to him, a hike is necessary to maintain the economic viability of these services.
As a result, homeowners will no longer experience the benefits of the low electricity and water rates which were prevalent up till this point.
Imbert spent four hours discussing this and much more, as he cycled through every economic sector. Yet, he avoided revealing the actual figures which are to be allocated with in the budget to specific ministries.
If the changes proposed by the Regulated Industries Commission (RIC) are taken into consideration, residential and commercial customers will not only be paying more for electricity, but also have to shift to a system of monthly payments.
In an official statement issued by the Trinidad & Tobago Electricity Commission, the proposed rates were announced at a press conference at the Hilton Trinidad in Port-of-Spain.
According to the RIC chair, the new Kilowatt Tier groups which would vary in percentage increases if the proposals are accepted.
The proposed rate increases for residential customers range from 15 per cent to as high as 64 per cent, based on Kilowatt consumption. For example, 200 kW usage for the current billing cycle of a residential customer would cost about $58.
If the suggested rates are applied, it would be $71 over two months or $35.50 per month, compared to the current cost of $29.
Commercial customers will also experience percentage increases ranging from 51 per cent to 63 per cent. A commercial customer using 500 kW currently pays $232.50. Under the proposed rates, these customers would pay $380 or $190 per month.
The public reaction to the proposed changes will not be a positive one for obvious reasons. Having said that, the economic ramifications of subsidizing rates can be immense which makes the changes necessary to a certain extent.
It is obvious though, that questions will be raised about the decision and the hike will spark a debate, not just at the governmental level but on a social level as well.
Whether the decision will pass the court of public opinion or not is yet to be seen. Going by the general trend though, people are never happy with a hike in the rates of basic necessities unless they are convinced of the core issue behind the decision.
It will now be up to the finance minister and others who are involved in pushing this change, to put their perspective clearly to the general public and convince them of its merits.