Call for transparency in electricity services privatization

BASSETERRE, St Kitts, Thursday March 31, 2011 – The Leader of the Opposition People’s Action Movement (PAM) Lindsay Grant has called on the government to be more transparent in its ongoing efforts to privatize the country’s Electricity Services Department.

Grant has contended that information has not been forthcoming and the country is unclear about what is being done, or what is expected with the privatization that is expected to be completed by the end of April.

“I think I can speak on behalf of the vast majority of people in the country when I say that the privatization of the electricity department is being conducted in a very secretive manner and this does not sit well with the consumers of this country,” he said.

Grant said while his party has no issue with the corporatization since it should result in greater efficiency and service, if properly done, he was not confident that the current administration was capable to doing it right.

“Based on the track record of this government with their handling of corporations , most significant of which is the Air and Sea Ports Authority which has accumulated massive debts that has now resulted in the government going to Parliament to seek clearance to borrow what is essentially a bail-out sum of $29 million, I have no confidence in the government’s ability to properly conduct or oversee the operations of any corporation, least of all one as critically important as our electricity services,” the PAM leader said.

He added that scores of employees of the department recently expressed their grievances through a signed letter which highlighted their dissatisfaction with the lack of transparency in the privatization of the department, in particular their standing as employees or potential employees of the new corporation. 

Permanent Secretary in the Minister of Public Works and Utilities, Lenrick Lake, has indicated that there will be some layoffs, but Grant said PAM opposed sending any of the workers home.

“I am totally opposed to any layoffs as a result of the corporatization of the Electricity Department. The employees of the department are all hard-working people with families to feed and I cannot support the laying off of any worker from essentially a government entity in these tough economic times,” he said.

Grant’s comments came ahead of today’s Parliamentary debate on the St. Christopher (Electricity Supply) Bill, 2011 which provides for the privatization of electricity services and related matters.

The 29-page piece of legislation deals with, among other matters, the appointment of a Public Utilities Commission, the granting of a license to supply by wind or photovoltaic generation to secure regular and efficient supply of electricity, and the safety of the public from personal injury or fire.

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