Gebe moves towards relief program for senior citizens

POSTED: 03/28/14 10:46 AM

St. Maarten – Kelvin Bloyden, chairman of Gebe’s supervisory board and Vromi-Minister Maurice Lake signed a Memorandum of Intent yesterday morning that must lead to tariff relief for seniors aged 62 and above. The exact details of the arrangement still have to be worked out, but Bloyden expects the program to go into effect within the next two months. The relief program will run for one year; extension is possible after an assessment.

Gebe management and the office of Price Waterhouse Coopers have worked out the relief program, Gebe’s Chief Operations Officer Ronny Maduro said. “We want to bring relief to those seniors that are entitled to it. At the same time, we have to make sure that Gebe remains a stable company. We are not the first island to do this; Antigua for instance has a similar program.”

Seniors that qualify for relief must be 62 years of age or older, they must be legal residents of St. Maarten, clients of Gebe and their household income must not exceed a certain level. The income criterion is still a point of discussion. To qualify for the program, an applicant’s electricity consumption must have stayed below a certain (to be determined) maximum during the previous twelve months and it must not exceed this maximum during the period the program is in place.

Application for the program will be accepted at Gebe starting in April. The relief will be granted in the form of a fixed amount per month that will be deducted from the electricity bill of qualifying seniors.

“This way we will contribute to improving the living standards of senior citizens. A pension is not sufficient for them and the cost of living is high. This is a start,” Maduro said.

Kelvin Bloyden said that relief for seniors was one of the first agenda points on the first supervisory board meeting he chaired in January. “We consulted with Raymond Jessurun (chairman of the Seniors and Pensioners Association – ed.), with Minister Lake and we listened to Members of Parliament,” Bloyden said. “Now we have come up with a policy to ensure seniors-relief will be done in a fair manner. We will make sure that this is done in a transparent and fair manner.”

Minister Lake said that there is “more work to be done, especially for senior citizens.” He added that seniors are “the backbone” of St. Maarten. “We have to take good care of them. There is no politics with seniors.”

The minister referred to proper housing and the upgrade of the entertainment facilities at the John Larmonie Center as examples of other areas that warrant attention.

Gebe will release full details about the program shortly. In a press release sent out after the signing of the Memorandum of Intent, the utilities company announced that it is working on a similar relief program for citizens facing “other challenges.”

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