National Alliance wants flat rate for electricity

POSTED: 07/14/11 12:19 PM

St. Maarten – Leader of the National Alliance (N.A.) William Marlin has said his party would ideally like to see a flat rate for electricity, instead of the mixed tariff that utility company GEBE currently uses. This is the party’s latest contribution to the discussion on how best to deal with high bills the utility company has been sending consumers.

“We want a flat rate for electricity so people can know exactly what they are paying,” Marlin said at a press conference.

GEBE’s tariff is divided into one part consumption and one part fuel clause. At the moment consumers at every level are dealing with charges on the fuel clause side that are two to three times the amount of their consumption. It has also emerged that the company is charging customers for inefficiencies like water leakages and fuel losses. The Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunications Franklin Meyers wrote the company on June 15 and said that government had given conditional approval to the new tariff structure per August 1. The condition for acceptance is that GEBE would only charge consumers for the purchase of the fuel and remove all charges related to the company’s own inefficiencies.

Marlin does not believe it is “altogether wrong” for the GEBE to include the inefficiencies, but he does agree that the company has gone too far.

“It should not be that the company makes that profit to the point where it leads to people at every level complaining about the costs,” Marlin said.

“If we look at the fact that GEBE collected 20 million in profit in 2009 and we assume that it was the same for 2010 and already they are on course to have that same amount of profit in 2011 we believe our motion to give a 50 percent reduction for six months would have given the people some relief and allow for a realistic pricing structure to be agree on,” Marlin added.

The N.A. leader is also convinced that there will never be a way for government to have the utility company completely remove the fuel clause from the bills that consumers get.

“Even if you get the company to take it off the invoice that people receive the company will simply incorporate it into the bill,” Marlin said.

His comments about removing the fuel clause is based on reports about a statement made by Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams at the Council of Minister’s press briefing on July 6.

“Instructions have been sent four weeks ago by the Minister of Economic Affairs to sort of force a situation and instruct GEBE to cut out, unless they would have come up with a proposal – a feasible proposal – to cut out the fuel charge as it is right now completely. Those are the discussions that are taking place presently. I have not yet seen a proposal from GEBE to government – a feasible proposal – addressing the matter of the fuel charge, which is unacceptable the way it is and the way it’s going right now and so if no proposal comes that the government could say this is a feasible proposal then GEBE will have to carry out the instructions as given by the government of St. Maarten,” the prime minister said.

She later added, “The way that formula is applied and what it means today is unacceptable for government. We cannot continue like this. People’s salaries and wages do not change in such a way that it can be accommodated and payments to GEBE can be made. Even with so many people attempting to do with a decrease in consumption your bills are just skyrocketing and that is why government has been quite firm in its position about the fuel charge.”

Marlin said this statement made the prime minister sound as if she was on the campaign trail and was deceiving and misinforming the people.

“If you listen to the prime minister you would believe that the government has asked GEBE  to completely remove the fuel clause but the minister’s letter of June 15 states that government is giving conditional approval based to the new tariff structure in which the company cannot pass on its efficiencies in the new fuel clause. Government does not state it wants to drop the fuel clause and so the prime minister is taking the people of St. Maarten for a ride and now needs to come out and tell the truth,” Marlin said.


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