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By CELESTE NIXON
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Bahamas Electricity Corporation said it was disappointed by the latest industrial action taken by its managers.
In a statement issued yesterday, BEC's executive said its was "surprised" by the sick out conducted by about 90 per cent of its managerial staff on Thursday.
The Bahamas Electrical Utility Managerial Union (BEUMU) is believed to be behind the action, which was reported to have involved 108 union members.
The statement said: "The corporation is disappointed with the decision by some managers to engage in a sick out especially as it continues to meet with the BEUMU" and the parties have been ...
Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation's (OTEC) $40.9 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has been thrown into limbo following long delays to a key project.
The U.S.-based renewable energy firm, originally tasked with building a $100 million seawater district cooling plant for Baha Mar, received a major setback last year due to environmental concerns. And now, OTEC's application for a $40.9 million loan has been removed from IDB's website.
Robert "Sandy" Sands, the senior vice president of administration and external affairs at Baha Mar, said the loan is likely not relevant because the terms of the deal have changed.
While the issue "is not dead", executives have been forced to scrap the original scale and conditions of the project.
"We are looking at another possible business arrangement going forward," he told Guardian Business.
Jeremy Feakins, the CEO of OTEC, confirmed that talks are ongoing, although he did not wish to comment beyond that point.
According to representatives at the IDB, the project remains in the "internal pipeline". However, the date of the expected approval has changed.
Guardian Business was told that IDB executives are working to better determine the ultimate fate of the proposed loan.
In April of last year, OTEC and Baha Mar agreed to a 30-year power purchase agreement that would see the mega resort reduce its air conditioning costs by up to 90 percent relative to traditional systems and pricing.
"The energy savings generated by the project are expected to reduce consumption of 59,312 barrels of oil per year and prevent the subsequent release of 36,408 tons of CO2 each year, the IDB report said.
The project called for an offshore seawater intake located north of Long Cay and a pumping station on the island. Nearly 10,000 feet of piping would run across to a Goodman's Bay installation.
That installation on Goodman's Bay proved to be the project's undoing, as residents and environmentalists questioned the closing of the popular park for construction purposes.
Long-term effects to the ecosystem were also of concern to stakeholders.
The proposed project claimed it would generate up to 12,000 tons of air conditioning per hour, enough to provide full service to the resort's 2,250 hotel rooms, condominiums, convention center, restaurants and casino.
The status of OTEC's memorandum of understanding to construct a renewable energy plant for Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) is also unknown.
Abaco, Bahamas - On Sunday 10th February 2013, around 3:20am, police received information of a traffic fatality on Forest Drive, Southside Road, Murphy Town, Abaco.
Reports are that upon arrival to the scene, police discovered a gray 1990 Ford Mustang
that had collided into a Bahamas Electricity Corporation light pole with a male driver still
inside the vehicle who was unresponsive...
How long does it take for a delivery truck to drive from a bank on Frederick Street in downtown Nassau to Cable Beach? Maybe 45 minutes on a bad traffic day. How long does it take for the Bahamas Post Office to deliver an ordinary letter that distance? How about 20 days. And from the BEC office on Baillou Hill Road to Cable Beach? How about 21 days via our Government-run postal service?
There was a facetious tone to my last letter about the cost of the road project to Bahamians. I should have enjoyed whatever hilarity came my way. I have spoken to a friend who has a closer vantage point and the joke is really on the public and myself if what he says is anywhere near the truth.
We were aghast recently when the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) hinted that they may need to dig the roads up again, and we thought it was an incredulous statement to make. But it seems like BEC is between a rock and a hard place when it comes to their participation in the road project.
It is alleged that when BEC is granted a date to put their portion of the infrastructure in place, they are given the run around or blocked out to the point where they cannot do what they have to do.
Here is the interesting part of the allegation; when that "window" has passed, the site where the work is being done is now "owned" by the agency that is doing the road project, and BEC has to pay a fee to do whatever it is they have to do. Sometimes it is laying a line in the country in which they are the sole provider of electricity.
And there is another wrinkle. If any damage occurs to BEC's infrastructure during the roadwork, the road work company is not charged. However, the same thing does not apply if damage is done to the Bahamas Telecommunications Company or Cable Bahamas's property.
What is going on here?
BEC is having weekly meetings with the road project people but it seems that there is a three out of five chance that some area is going to be thrown into darkness because a transmission line is hit, even though schematics have been provided to alert the agencies involved as to where the underground utilities are.
The amount of digging going on also indicates that more than the road project people are involved in this exercise, and BEC or Water and Sewerage Corporation does not have enough staff to keep tabs on this kind of hyper-activity.
An investigation is needed, if only to ascertain if BEC is paying through the nose for something that the consumer is eventually going to have to pay for.
An accounting must be done of any and all agencies and companies being paid for the work they are doing in this project.
There is a history for this kind of activity but it has usually happened with buildings where public money has been spent and no work done, and, no one held accountable by government administrations.
Accountability has to begin somewhere and this road project is a good place to start.
Mike Sands, president of the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA), will closely monitor the track and field championships this weekend, the first full meet on the local governing body's calendar.
Sands will pay attention to the setting up of apparatuses and the execution of crew members working at the new Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium. The Baker Concrete/Greyco Ltd. "Star Performers Track Classic 2013" this Saturday will serve as a test for the executive members of the BAAA, the National Sports Authority and coaches as they prepare for the CARIFTA Games. Taking the ongoing work at the old Thomas A. Robinson stadium into consideration, Sands said a comprehensive assessment will be done in mid-March. The new facility is expected to be certified by the end of February.
"Over the past two weeks we didn't make full use of the stadium, so it is hard for us to see exactly what was needed and should be done" said Sands.
"When this meet concludes this weekend, we should have a better idea. This meet is a test for us. It will allow us to see the progress that was made, and the issues that we need to iron out. A full range of events will take place, and more persons will be here because the meet caters to all age groups.
"Right now, the athletes are warming up inside the new stadium. At the end of the day, it is expected that old Thomas A. Robinson stadium will serve as the warm-up track. That will mean less congestion and a smoother flow. The past two meets, the Odd Distance and the High School Relays, were not a good test. We didn't utilize the stadium like it is suppose to, so we weren't able to tell or see how everything will operate."
Sands said the BAAA is not under pressure and the membership board will not focus on the certification of the track. He added that the track must be certified in order to host the CARIFTA Games, set to take place March 28-April 1. It was revealed that a committee is in place to ensure the readiness of the multi-million dollar stadium. The new Thomas A. Robinson stadium was a gift to The Bahamas from China. It was officially opened on February 25, 2012.
The 15,000-seat stadium is under the control of the National Sports Authority. Sands confirmed that the relationship between the National Sports Authority and the executive members in the BAAA is very stable, and that both groups are constantly communicating.
"It is our duty to make sure that we are ready to host the visiting teams from the various countries in our region," he said.
"I continue to press upon my members that our focus will not be on the readiness of the track. There is a committee in place for that, and from all signs that I have been receiving, the track will be certified by the end of February. We are satisfied in knowing that it will be done.
"We are also satisfied in knowing that the National Sports Authority is working diligently and will use these local meets to correct any problems, so when they do launch at the CARIFTA Games it will be correct."
According to Sands, the stadium will be without lights for the next two weeks while final work with the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) is done. All meets that will be held at the stadium in the interim will have to be finished before sunset.
By ALISON LOWE
Tribune Staff Reporter
LOUD explosions rocked mainland Abaco on Friday night when a bush fire spread to the Bahamas Electricity Corporation's Marsh Harbour power plant compound, setting alight drums filled with used oil and posing a threat to the islands' power supply.
The power station blaze came after days of wild fires raging in pine forests on the mainland tested the island's six volunteer fire services' resolve, bringing together the efforts of an estimated 20 to 30 volunteer firefighters and eight fire trucks from throughout the island.
"A lot of the firefighters worked around the clock. Some of them got only about two hours sleep ...
Exploding interest in The Bahamas and the Caribbean at large has sparked the Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation (OTEC) to announce it will be rolling out its first ever initial public offering (IPO) in the new year.
Fresh off the Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum (CREF) in Barbados, Jeremy Feakins, the Chairman and CEO of OTEC, said the response by political leaders there was "unbelievable", as no less than 10 countries requested detailed proposals for implementing large-scale alternative energy solutions for the general
The OTEC chief believes the recent Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) - a world first - has served as a catalyst for other countries to get on board.
"It was unbelievable and these are very exciting times," he told Guardian Business.
"It's like a snowball. It tumbles down and picks up more snow as it goes - and we have only scratched the surface. Caribbean nations do not want to be held hostage by foreign oil. On the back of what we have learnt in the Caribbean, we have decided to move forward with a public listing next year."
The IPO - expected within the first half of 2012 - is intended to raise enough money whereby OTEC owns 51 percent of each project.
Feakins said the company is still deciding how much the IPO will be worth.
However, considering the two OTEC plants currently being designed and planned for The Bahamas will likely be more than $100 million, Feakins anticipated a great deal of capital will be sought.
And now, as a number of Caribbean countries - including Jamaica, Barbados, the Cayman Islands, the Dominican Republic and Trinidad and Tobago - have entered negotiations to bring the same technology to their shores, he believes "we have work cut out for us".
"You can be environmentally friendly and save money - that is the message spreading, I think," he added.
"It is very gratifying to help provide a solution, although we have our work cut out for us."
In August, the MoU was signed between BEC and OTEC, which paved the way for the construction of two ocean thermal power plants.
OTEC will incur the full cost of building and maintaining the facilities, while BEC plans to purchase the renewable energy from the company for use among the general public.
Meanwhile, Baha Mar, the mammoth $2.6 billion venture emerging in Cable Beach, has announced a partnership with OTEC whereby the company provides air conditioning for the sprawling resort.
Baha Mar will become the second resort in the world to power it's air conditioning through this renewable energy method - with a possible savings of up to 90 percent.
The Bahamas Hotel Association (BHA) has since expressed interest as well, with Feakins reporting that the company has sent information to interested parties.
"They asked us for information and we provided it," he explained. "We are always looking at hotels that want to switch from excessive amounts of fossil fuels to something that is more friendly."
Chairman of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Bradley Roberts criticized the government yesterday for failing to keep its promise to deliver cheaper energy bills to the Bahamian public.
"Despite the public commitments by BEC chairman (Michael Moss) and minister with responsibility for BEC Earl Deveaux, that cheaper energy bills were on the way, Minister of State for the Environment Phenton Neymour said 'he does not anticipate any significant reduction in the Bahamas Electricity Corporation's fuel charge in the near future'," said Roberts in a statement released yesterday.
Indeed, Moss said in July of this year that, "customers will likely experience a reduced fuel charge, due to the combined effect of increased production from Clifton Pier and the downward trend in oil prices, beginning in October."
And earlier this month, Deveaux said that with the overhauled generators back online at BEC, customers would see "a reduction in electricity bills going more into October."
However, with less than a week left in October, Neymour said on Monday that a reduction in customers' bills would not be possible this month. According to him, BEC officials told the government that customers should have gotten lower bills this month. "However, if one were to look at the prices, particularly for heavy fuel oil and ... diesel, that may not be as anticipated," he said.
Roberts said that the disheartening performance of Moss, Deveaux and Neymour, "which is tantamount to gross negligence, has resulted in the FNM government's increasing of the basic rates of electricity, to counter the reduction of rates under the PLP."
He continued, "The hiking of the electricity rates by the FNM, during an economic downturn, is more of the same by this oblivious government."
By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
DESPITE the recent declining trend in crude oil prices, Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) chairman, Michael Moss, told Tribune Business yesterday that in September it paid the highest sum in the past year for fuel supplies.
"In September we paid a higher price for automotive diesel oil (ADO) and Bunker C or heavy fuel oil (HFO), the highest price we had paid in any month since last year October," Mr Moss revealed.
"I'm not sure what market aberrations are taking place that are keeping the price of these two so high. We did not expect that; we expected the price to be moderating. We are still hope ...
As the government prepares to release its interim budget, top ratings agency Moody's is urging a redistribution of spending and tangible evidence of new revenue steams. Ed Al-Hussainy, assistant vice president and analyst at Moody's, said The Bahamas should...
Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU) President Stephano Greene said the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) needs to hire another 300 people in order for it to run efficiently.
His statement is in direct contradiction to that of former BEC Chairman Michael Moss, who said on Sunday that BEC needs to shave down its employment numbers.
"In New Providence, when I was first employed at BEC, we had some 1,200 employees, now we have [more than] 980 employees and [the employees who are gone] need to be replaced," Greene told The Nassau Guardian. "We are understaffed at BEC and it's shown by the amount of time that is needed to be put in by staffers. The amount of overtime is directly proportional to the lack of staff."
However, Moss has an opposite view.
"While BEC's staffing complement had reduced significantly from a peak of around 1,600 several years ago to just over 1,000 at the time I demitted office, in my view, except for a few areas where minor under-staffing might exist, BEC remains over-staffed," Moss said in a statement Sunday. "The organization needs to be rid of unproductive individuals."
But Greene said any move to cut down the employee pool is not wise.
"I don't think it's realistic," Greene said. "The reduction of staff at BEC would cause more problems at BEC. Right now, in our humble opinion, we are grossly understaffed. What the public doesn't realize is that international standards say that one person should not be in a sub station in high power areas [for long periods of time]. And we have that in all of the Family Islands. That's called under-staffing. The union hasn't raised it as a major issue because we know that none of the Family Islands are profitable to BEC. And so if we can argue the point that we need more staff in the Family Islands in particular, that would cost BEC more."
BEC Executive Chairman Leslie Miller said last week that BEC intends to implement a shift system as of March 1 in an effort to cut down on the overtime bill.
He suggested that if BEC could not reduce its expenses layoffs were possible.
Miller previously said the shift system would be introduced on February 1 to save the struggling corporation millions of dollars in excessive overtime. However, the date was pushed back as management attempts to get BEC's unions on board.
Greene said the union is willing to meet with BEC's board to further discuss the plans for the shift system.
The Inter-Development Bank (IDB) is working in tandem with the Ministry of the Environment and the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) to condition energy efficient behaviors and regional conservation best practices.
The Bahamas is one of the owners and governors of the IDB, and in 2010 a $70 billion general capital increase was approved for the bank in order for the institution to meet the demands of its member countries.
“We at the bank are absolutely delighted to be partnering with the Government of The Bahamas in this really important initiative. We are committed to supporting the Government of The Bahamas and the people of The Bahamas in improving your energy security,...
Nassau, Bahamas - On Tuesday, January 22,
U.S. Chargé d'Affaires John Dinkelman hosted an event at Liberty
Overlook in honor of Mr. Gary Ward, the Director of American Affairs in
the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Policy and International
Affairs. The Parliamentary Secretary, Mr. Renward Wells, The Hon.
Leslie Miller, Member of Parliament and Chairman of the Bahamas
Electricity Corporation (BEC) and Mr. Gilles Deal, Energy Officer in the
Ministry of Environment and Housing were among the senior Bahamian
government officials at the event.
Overtime issues continue to plague the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), according to Executive Chairman Leslie Miller, who revealed there are about 44 employees who still received in excess of 100 percent of their salaries in the last 12 months.
Miller said overtime pay was cut by $4.3 million in the last 12 months, but problems persist.
"BEC workers must appreciate the fact they are no different from anyone else," he said.
"I mean, I can show you some figures right now with our overtime for last year. We were able to cut overtime down for the last 12 months by $4.3 million, and even despite the $4.3 million decrease you have persons at BEC right now as we speak, who in the last 12 months, have taken home in excess of $60,000.
"The overtime is still $7 million. And many people in BEC, 44 of them, I think, have gotten overtime in excess of 100 percent of their salary."
Miller said the number is "unacceptable in any country in this world".
Asked how that happened, Miller said, "We have some inherent problems that we need to deal with."
The average BEC workers makes in excess of $40,000 per annum, according to Miller.
Earlier this year, BEC implemented a rostering and flexi-time system, but months later, the system has yet to be fully introduced.
The system is expected to significantly reduce overtime pay once fully implemented.
Overtime pay last year exceeded $11.8 million, according to a report conducted by auditors.
Asked if the high overtime costs have anything to do with insufficient staff, Miller said no.
"The problem at BEC is that over the last 30 years there was this inherent situation of entitlement -- 'I work for BEC, I own BEC'," Miller said.
He said some workers believe that BEC belongs to them and not the Bahamian people.
But President of the Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU) Stephano Greene said there are staffing issues.
"There is a desperate need for staffing at BEC," Greene said.
"There are persons who supported Mr. Miller in his efforts to reduce overtime. But the problem with overtime right now is staffing. There are areas that because of lack of staff, the persons have to work additional hours."
He said there is a shortage of staff in some of the Family Islands and in the maintenance department.
Greene said he would support BEC bringing in additional workers.
"If relief doesn't come they have to work additional hours," he said.
While the union supports the hiring of additional staff, it does not support the rostering system.
In March, scores of BEC line staff workers protested outside the corporation's Baillou Hill headquarters over the implementation of the shift system in the customer service department.
Greene claimed the system is in breach of the union's industrial agreement.
In recent months, Miller has locked horns with the corporation's unions over various financial issues, including what he called double-dipping sick pay and Christmas bonuses he said BEC cannot afford.
However, Greene claimed yesterday that management has advised that the staff will get the bonuses.
In the weeks following the referendum loss for the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration under the leadership of Prime Minister Perry Gladstone Christie, calls have been mounting for Christie to step down as prime minister and leader of the PLP. Interestingly, it seems as if some PLPs have joined the chorus of those calling on the prime minister to leave frontline politics so that the younger generation of PLPs can assume the leadership role of the governing party and indeed the nation.
Not surprisingly, there have also been Free National Movement (FNM) supporters calling on Christie to exit the political stage. Christie is 69 and will be about 73 when the next general election is held in 2017. He was appointed to the senate in 1975 and became a member of Parliament in 1977 for the Farm Road/Centreville constituency - a constituency he has won eight consecutive times. He has now been an MP for an astounding 35 years and has been in frontline politics for nearly four decades.
Perhaps it is safe to say that Christie is one of the longest serving MPs in the history of our Parliamentary system and one of the longest serving active frontline politicians in the Western Hemisphere. For what it's worth, he is by far one of the most resilient politicians that this nation has ever produced. Despite being fired from the Pindling Cabinet in 1984, and despite being virtually kicked out of the PLP for speaking out against alleged wrongdoing by his party, he was able to win his seat in 1987 against a PLP candidate as an independent.
Of course, credit must also be given to the FNM for not running a candidate in that constituency. Had the FNM done so, history would have undoubtedly been different for Christie and for The Bahamas. For one thing, he probably would not have been invited back into the PLP and subsequently the Cabinet in 1990 by Sir Lynden Pindling. As a seatless politician he would have been of very little value to the leadership of the PLP, which at that time was beginning to realize that most Bahamians were becoming unbearably exhausted with the then government, which had been in power for over two decades.
Anyway, him being within the fold of the PLP allowed Sir Lynden to groom him for the leadership role he would eventually assume after Sir Lynden's retirement from frontline politics in 1997. Christie has led the PLP for nearly 16 years and has led that party to two general election victories. He is the second longest serving PLP leader, after Sir Lynden. With The Bahamas facing a myriad of challenges, such as high joblessness, an unacceptably high crime rate, a budget deficit over half-a-billion dollars and a national debt pegged at nearly $5 billion, a failing education system that continues to churn out graduates who can barely read, write, figure and comprehend; a crumbling infrastructure in the utterly neglected Family Islands; a grossly overstaffed and underperforming civil service which consumes well over 60 percent of the government's annual revenue; government corporations such as Bahamasair, the Bahamas Electricity Corporation, Water and Sewerage Corporation and the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas, which continue to leach off the treasury and unreasonable government unions which continue to agitate for more money and more benefits.
The weight of the world is clearly on Christie's shoulders. Christie is now finding out that it is lonely at the top. But he wanted the prime minister's job, and now it is his. He must now deliver. The Bahamian people gave him an overwhelming mandate by giving him 30 of the 38 seats in the House of Assembly. By giving Christie such a huge vote of confidence, the Bahamian people spoke in no uncertain terms that they wanted nothing to do with the FNM. Now some nine months into his current term as prime minister, some PLPs and FNMs are now calling for Christie's head. Should Christie resign as prime minister? My answer to that question is no.
The Bahamian people made their own bed on May 7, 2012 by voting for the PLP and for Christie, so they must lie in it. They knew the kind of leadership Christie brought to the table, because he had already served as prime minister between 2002 and 2007. Bahamians had a resume on Christie. Him stepping down now will make very little difference on the myriad of problems the nation is facing and it would be of no benefit to the FNM. If Christie resigns as prime minister, it goes without saying that he would also resign from the House of Assembly. A by-election would then be held, and we can be absolutely certain that a PLP candidate would win that seat by at least 800 votes. And even if the FNM wins, the PLP would still have an overwhelming majority of the seats in Parliament. The people spoke loud and clear last year that they wanted Christie as their leader, so why now all the chatter for his resignation after nine months?
I say let him remain as prime minister. Bahamians knew exactly what they were doing when they voted PLP. When you vote for a party, you are saying that you want that party's leader to be prime minister. While I don't support Christie's political organization, I do support him as the leader of the nation. What goes on within the PLP is of very little interest to me. The country at this time needs stability at the leadership helm. Him leaving now would only be another major distraction at a time when the nation desperately need focused leadership.
- Kevin Evans
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
THE US renewable energy company that has partnered with the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) and Baha Mar yesterday said it was looking to establish a permanent operation in Nassau that would create "more than 20-25" full-time jobs. It added that its technology would save the Cable Beach developer 8 Mega Watts (MW) of power per year.
Jeremy Feakins, chairman and chief executive of Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation (OTE), told Tribune Business that the seawater district cooling plant it has committed to build and operate for the Cable Beach developer, which will involve an investment "in excess of $100 million", would reduce the $2. ...
Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) Executive Chairman Leslie Miller yesterday apologized for the recent outages and said BEC is working to prevent further service disruptions.
On Wednesday, thousands of customers were impacted after lightning struck a generator at the Clifton Pier power plant, Miller said.
This resulted in several units tripping offline, according to the corporation.
Miller noted that BEC technicians have since brought those units back online.
"We have all the engines now," he told The Guardian yesterday.
"Clifton is running at [optimal levels], so we're in good shape.
"We continue to get lightning strikes out at Clifton. They have the lightning arrestors on there, but the strikes are so massive they cause intermittent problems.
"So we're trying now to get some new arrestors to try and solve the problems. [These are] the summer months, so you'll have those things."
Asked if customers should expect more outages, Miller said no.
However, he added, "We don't predict nature".
"If the lightning comes and the rain follows, these things happen. I don't know if you want me to talk to God. You want me to give him a call?" he asked chuckling.
"When you have lightning strikes, the machines automatically cut off to save the machine from any serious problems. Then you go and repair whatever damage is done. It's very minor damage most of the time."
BEC spent about $5 million in the past six months upgrading the Clifton Pier power plant in a bid to cut down on energy costs.
Miller told The Nassau Guardian last month that the upgrades will also help to prevent blackouts as a result of load shedding once the summer months roll in.
"We don't expect any blackouts," Miller said.
"We spent significant money refurbishing the engines at Clifton and we did so with very little outside help."
Miller said the upgrades resulted in the increased use of the Clifton Pier power plant, which also resulted in a decreased fuel surcharge.
He added that BEC is seeking to cut down on its reliance on the Blue Hills power plant, as it is more expensive to run.
PLP says, The disjointed and disastrous mismanagement of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation continues
Nassau, Bahamas - Enclosed is a Press Statement by
The Progressive Liberal Party
BEC's Chairman Michael Moss as reported in the Nassau Guardian on July
26th 2011 said "customers of the Corporation can expect to get a break
in their Bills beginning October 2011".
Earl Deveaux, the Minister with the responsibility for BEC, as reported
in the Nassau Guardian on October 7th 2011, publicly disclosed that
"consumers can now expect cheaper power bills"...
Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) Executive Chairman Leslie Miller said two female employees of BEC were almost assaulted by a man with a cutlass after they attempted to disconnect an apartment on Wulff Road last week.
Miller said the women called him in distress.
"I immediately called 919 and I went to the scene," he said in the House of Assembly during debate on several anti-crime bills this week.
"I met several young men at the barber shop; I met the two ladies there, really in distress, and the police were there at the same time trying to ascertain what the problem was.
"The problem was simple. The women wanted to check on some of the lights in this apartment complex, and they had determined, in fact, one of the meters, the light was on but the meter wasn't running. There was one meter that other parties had hooked up to that one meter and was getting BEC electricity free of charge.
"When they saw the two young ladies, apparently the man who owned the place or who was involved in it, got his cutlass and went behind them. They really had to run for their lives."
He said by the time police showed up, the man had left the scene and left his girlfriend to explain the illegal connection.
In March, two female employees of BEC were held hostage by a group of men in Pinewood Gardens as they attempted to disconnect a customer's electricity supply.
Miller said such attacks on BEC employees are happening too frequently. He added that illegal connections are also a normal thing in the country.
"BEC loses anywhere from $5 million to $7 million per year in illegal hook ups; people getting free electricity," he said, adding that it may be as much as $10 million.
"These sort of events tells us that these are difficult economic times and people go to great measures in trying to intimidate, belittle and harass those who are only being paid to do their job.
"We have, of course, disconnected the power.
"The bill at the time was some $4,600. It will probably increase to double that because they were on, apparently, since January. This is the normal thing. This is nothing new. Every single day we find units after units, apartments, homes, that are hooked up illegally."
Miller has said that unless the corporation pays off a $55 million fuel bill by the end of the month, the entire "Bahamas would be without electricity".
He said the corporation is in a very tough financial situation.
MASSIVE load shedding is expected throughout the weekend and will continue until Bahamas Electricity Corporation technicians complete emergency repairs on three engines at the Clifton Pier power plant, a BEC source confirmed to The Big T yesterday.
History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future. - Robert Penn Warren
As we noted in parts I and II of this series, the march to Majority Rule in The Bahamas can be characterized by two words: sustained struggle.
On January 10, we quietly celebrated the first public holiday to commemorate the day that Majority Rule came to The Bahamas in 1967. It was a life-changing event that catapulted the lives of many thousands to unimaginable heights. Last week we reviewed three important milestones in the march to Majority Rule that helped to create the framework for the attainment of that achievement: the by-election of 1938, the Burma Road Riot of 1942, and the Contract beginning in 1943. This week and in the final week in January, we will continue to Consider This...what were some of the major milestones that contributed to the centuries-long march to Majority Rule?
The 1950s were decisively transformative on the march to Majority Rule. It was a decade that witnessed the formation of the PLP in 1953, the 1956 Resolution on Racial Discrimination in the House of Assembly and the 1958 General Strike.
The formation of the PLP
The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) was established in 1953, following an attempt by the Citizens' Committee to actively address some of the rampant discriminatory practices by the white Nassau elite. The Citizens' Committee, formed in December 1950 initially protested the government's refusal to let Bahamians view three films: "No Way Out" (starring Bahamian actor Sidney Poitier), "Lost Boundaries" and "Pinky" all of which addressed societal injustices. Many of the members of the Citizens' Committee, which was led by Maxwell Thompson, Cleveland Eneas, and A. E. Hutchinson and whose members included Jackson Burnside, Randol Fawkes, Gerald Cash, Kendal Isaacs, Marcus Bethel and other prominent personalities, suffered brutal discrimination and many of its members were deprived of the ability to earn a living by the Bay Street oligarchy as a result of their social activism.
In October, 1953 the PLP was formed by Henry Taylor (who would become the third Bahamian governor general in an Independent Bahamas from June 26, 1988 to January 1, 1992), William Cartwright and Cyril Stevenson with a platform that responded to the challenge by Rev. H. H. Brown that: "The Progressive Liberal Party hopes to show that your big man and your little man, your black, brown and white man of all classes, creed and religions in this country can combine and work together in supplying sound and successful political leadership which has been lacking in The Bahamas."
The PLP made bold progressive promises for a more equitable social structure including equal opportunities for all Bahamians, better education, universal suffrage, stronger immigration policies, lower-cost housing and the development of agriculture and the Out Islands.
In the early days of the PLP, its members were subjected to abject ostracism and victimization by the white elite, including the loss of jobs and bank credit, as well as canceled contracts. In 1955, Lynden Pindling and Milo Butler emerged as the leaders of the party, appealing to the black masses to mobilize in advance of the general elections of 1956. The party also attracted Randol Fawkes, the founder of the Bahamas Federation of Labour in May 1955.
The general election of May 1956 was the first to be fought by an organized political party. The PLP won six seats in the House of Assembly, four in Nassau and two in Andros. That election significantly accelerated the march to Majority Rule. In March 1958 the white oligarchy formed themselves into the second organized political unit, the United Bahamian Party (UBP). The UBP would later disband and its members would join forces with the Free National Movement (FNM) in 1972.
The 1956 Resolution on Racial Discrimination in the House of Assembly
In the wake of rampant racial discrimination that prevented access for black people to hotels, movie theatres, restaurants, and other public places, H. M. Taylor, the chairman of the PLP, whose platform vowed to eliminate racial discrimination in the colony, tabled a number of questions to the leader of the government.
Moved by this and in light of his own disgust with racially motivated practices, in January 1956, Etienne Dupuch, the editor of the Nassau Tribune and a member of the House of Assembly for the eastern district, tabled an Anti-Discrimination Resolution in the House of Assembly. During his passionately eloquent speech on the resolution, the speaker of the House of Assembly ordered Dupuch to take his seat, threatening, if he refused to do so, that he would be removed from the chamber by the police. Dupuch responded: "You may call the whole Police Force, you may call the whole British Army...I will go to [jail] tonight, but I refuse to sit down, and I am ready to resign and go back to the people." The speaker abruptly suspended the House proceedings.
Although the resolution was supported by H. M. Taylor, Bert Cambridge, Eugene Dupuch, C.R. Walker, Marcus Bethel, and Gerald Cash, it was referred to a select committee, effectively killing it. However, the following day, most of the Nassau hotels informed the public that they would open their doors to all, regardless of their race.
The 1958 General Strike
The General Strike began in January 1958 after several months of tension that arose because of the government's plans to allow hotels and tour buses that were owned by the established white tour operators to provide transport for visitors to and from the airport, at the expense of predominantly black taxi drivers who made a large portion of their living transporting tourists between the new Windsor Field (Nassau International) Airport and downtown hotels. To allow the hotels and tour companies to supplant the taxi drivers would severely curtail the ability of black taxi drivers to earn a decent living.
The government learned that the taxi drivers would vehemently protest this arrangement when they blockaded the new airport on the day it opened. On that day, nearly 200 union taxi drivers stopped all business at the airport for 36 hours, showing their determination to protest the government's plans. Negotiations on 20 points ensued between the union, represented by Lynden Pindling and Clifford Darling, the union's president, and the government for the following eight weeks, but broke off after they could not agree on one final point.
On January 11, 1958 the taxi union voted for a general strike and the next day the General Strike commenced with the cessation of work at hotels, which was supported by hotel and construction workers, garbage collectors, bakers, airport porters and employees of the electricity corporation. The strike lasted until January 31 and prompted a visit to the colony by the secretary of state for the colonies who recommended constitutional and political and electoral reforms which were incorporated into the General Election Act of 1959. Following the General Strike, male suffrage was introduced for all males over 21 years of age and the company vote was abolished.
Undoubtedly, the General Strike accentuated the ability of effective reform that could be achieved by the peaceful mobilization of the black majority.
Next week, we will review the decade of the 1960s and discuss how the Women's Suffrage Movement, the 1962 general elections and Black Tuesday culminated in the eventual attainment of Majority Rule with the general elections of 1967.
o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) Executive Chairman Leslie Miller yesterday admitted that residents could experience more power outages if the corporation is unable to repair one of three engines damaged on Tuesday night.
The engines were damaged at the corporation's Clifton Pier Power Station during a lightning storm, according to Miller.
While he could not say when the corporation would have the engines back online, Miller said he hoped to have at least one engine back online yesterday.
"We will probably have some problems with load shedding today (Wednesday) unless they can get the engines up," Miller told The Nassau Guardian around 10 a.m.
"In the day is when most of the [fuel is used] with the commercial places being on. That will present some problems for us.
"But hopefully, they say within the next hour, they should have one of the big engines up.
"If that is to take place then we will be fine for the rest of the day, if lightning does not strike and hit anything.
"But again, as I said, our problem is we need more capacity, more reserve capacity. Until that is done, we are going to be stuck with these problems."
BEC has been plagued with intermittent outages and island-wide blackouts for several months.
Numerous residents and business owners have called the service "depressing" and the corporation a "national disgrace", amid persistent outages.
Several residents in eastern New Providence claimed yesterday that their power was off since midnight on Wednesday.
Miller extended an apology to those residents.
However, he insisted that what BEC is experiencing is part of a much larger problem.
"They were load shedding last night (Tuesday)," he said.
"Again, that was because six big engines were out last night.
"When you get those big engines out, that is the reason we switch and go to the medium-speed engines, which are small engines."
The medium-speed engines generate 14 megawatts while the larger engines generate between 26.5 and 32 megawatts of power.
"When one of those larger engines trips, we have a problem," Miller said.
"You have a serious situation where you cannot meet the demand.
"If we have smaller engines with greater capacity, this problem will not reoccur, and that is what needs to happen to BEC."
The executive chairman said it does not matter what entity takes over the corporation, the plan must be to increase capacity and the corporation's reserves if customers are to see blackout-free service.
Prime Minister Perry Christie said on Friday the government has made a decision on the BEC break-up after several delays.
The government announced plans last August to engage a private company, or companies, to gain a management contract to take over transmission, distribution and customer billing at BEC.
Christie said before the government reveals its decision, it has to consult with its advisors, KPMG (Bahamas).
Attempts to follow up with Miller on the status of the engines last night were unsuccessful up to press time.
Automotive Industrial Distributors (AID) on Wulff Road was destroyed by a fire, which reportedly started in the warehouse section of the building late Thursday afternoon.
The blaze forced a shutdown of the immediate area and at one point came dangerously close to the nearby Shell gas station.
Police closed Wulff Road from the Marathon Road roundabout to Mackey Street and directed all traffic away from the area.
Officials said all employees were safely evacuated after the fire started shortly after 4 p.m.
One of the chief concerns for authorities as well as for residents of the area was that the fire was being fueled by flammable material in AID, a popular home and auto parts establishment that has been in the community for decades.
Rohan Deal, an employee at AID, said he crawled out of a bathroom in the building after the fire started.
He said he heard things explode and pop around him as he ran for his life.
"I basically saw a lot of black smoke, so I went by memory and hit the floor, crawled on all fours, because that's where the oxygen spots are, and I just crawled all the way from the bathroom section in (the parts (section), to the warehouse section, went through the door and just tried to run for it," Deal said.
"I was just trying to get the hell out, trying to survive. I put my shirt over my face, trying to breathe and trying not to inhale so much smoke."
When The Nassau Guardian arrived on the scene AID was fully engulfed in flames.
Three fire trucks and a Bahamas Electricity Corporation bucket truck were used to help fight the blaze.
A backhoe was also used to tear the side of the building open near where the fire began so firefighters could reach farther into the store with their hoses. When the walls came down smoke and fire billowed out.
The men had to cap a line that led to Shell's diesel storage tank with a wet rag to prevent a gas explosion.
Assistant Superintendent of Police Craig Stubbs said the wind helped to prevent the fire spreading to the diesel line.
He added that the smoke in the area was so thick that everyone in the nearby Wulff Road Police Station had to be evacuated, including the prisoners.
Stubbs said two men were arrested at the scene of the fire. He said one man was brandishing a knife.
All of AID's employees were accounted for when firefighters arrived on the scene, according to Stubbs.
By early evening, the front walls of the building fell down. Not long after, firefighters brought the fire under control.
There was no immediate estimate of the damage and it was unclear what started the blaze.
This is the latest of several major fires that occurred in recent months.
The largest fire was the one that ripped through a portion of Bay Street on February 14.
A leading Bahamian businessman has questioned the government's decision to heavily invest in the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI), arguing that it is not a "prudent" use of funds, given the country's "horrible fiscal situation".
In an interview with Guardian Business, Superwash President and former Director of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) Dionisio D'Aguilar stated that the North Andros agricultural facility should be a low priority for the government, given the country's constant power concerns.
"We're in a horrible fiscal situation right now, so is [BAMSI] really a prudent use of government money? The timing is wrong," stated D'Aguilar. "We've got so many other pressing concerns. Our electricity infrastructure is a disaster. Why aren't we putting resources into ensuring that we have power 24 hours a day, seven days a week?"
D'Aguilar, a vocal critic of BEC due to its continued inability to provide reliable power, slammed BEC's proposed reform approach last week, which would create a new company wholly owned by BEC with two divisions: one for transmission and distribution and another for generation.
Although D'Aguilar supports agricultural development in the country, he questioned whether The Bahamas has the capacity or resources to compete with regional agriculture competition, noting that similar initiatives to boost local produce in the past have largely failed.
"Why are we building something in Andros that is going to affect so few, whereas the fact that we don't have power every day affects everyone? Something needs to be drastically done.
"To go and take $50 to100 million to pump into Andros right now, with the power going off every day in New Providence, I think there's a better use for those funds," said D'Aguilar.
While the government initially issued $20 million in contracts to begin the construction of BAMSI's first phase in February, Prime Minister Perry Christie has suggested that the government would eventually invest approximately $100 million in the project.
The facility, which was originally slated to open at the beginning of September, has been impacted by delays over construction concerns.
Livingston Forbes, chief architect in the Ministry of Works, confirmed last week that BAMSI's major facilities are nearly 70 percent complete. However, Forbes did not expect the institute's lecture halls to be completed until early 2015.
However, Minister of Agriculture V. Alfred Gray dismissed doubts over the project's future, claiming that the government had invested nearly $50 million into the project to date.
"We have spent almost $50 million already and we have just begun...and so those who would like to see it fail, tell them keeping looking," stated Gray.
Both Gray and Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation (BAIC) Executive Chairman Arnold Forbes have stressed that the project remains within its budget, despite the construction delays.
The Bahamas Electricity Corporation has slashed its monthly average of $1 million in overtime pay by 50 per cent, according to corporation chairman Leslie Miller. He explained yesterday that at one point, individual workers were sometimes receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime pay, but the bill is now...
The salaries of more than 100 middle mangers at the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) were cut on Monday for their participation in three days of sick-out between February and March. Bahamas Electrical Utility Managerial Union (BEUMU) President Ervin Dean said yesterday that the union has already written a letter to BEC’s General Manager Kevin Basden requesting that the money be refunded immediately.
“BEC cut our pay for three days for which we called in sick for a day in February and two days in March,” he said.
“The problem we have with that is that BEC owes us about $3 million for our industrial agreement, which has [been] expired for more than th ...
Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) Executive Chairman Leslie Miller said yesterday that line staff at the corporation will now work on a shift system as of March 1, a delay of almost a month.
Miller said the delay is intended to get the union onboard as "We just want to work with each other." He suggested that if BEC could not reduce its expenses layoffs were possible.
Miller previously said the shift system would be introduced on February 1 to save the struggling corporation millions of dollars in excessive overtime.
However, Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU) President Stephano Greene said his members had no intention of working any such system yesterday or in the future.
But Miller said the system would go ahead regardless of the union's stance.
"All of the employees should work in the best interest of the corporation and by the extension themselves," he said.
"The board will do what is necessary to enhance the welfare of the corporation, whatever that is, including some layoffs if it is deemed necessary. It's up to him (Greene); the ball is in his court."
Miller said members of the executive management team, President of the Trade Union Congress Obie Ferguson, and the union discussed the matter on Thursday, although that meeting did not go as planned.
"Fifteen minutes into the meeting with Mr. Obie Ferguson explaining the rationale behind it, the president of the union Mr. Greene got up and said he's leaving, [because] he had to go and pick up his wife," Miller said.
"He signaled to the rest of his team and they left with him. Of course, he left on BEC's time and then the meeting was over."
However, Greene described the meeting as brief and said the union is not opposed to negotiating with Miller.
"The union has not negotiated any shift system with the corporation and until that happens there will be no shift system; however, BEC does have a 24-hour shift system in place now where we have [some] shift workers, who work at the power station and on emergency," he said.
"The union sat in the meeting with management where they presented their thoughts and ideas and they said they would send a communication to the union in writing, and next week we will receive that, and move forward from there."
Miller said he hoped Greene would "come to his senses" and see the move as necessary "if he is really interested in his membership here at BEC".
"You cannot be so disrespectful to the board and a person like Mr. Ferguson," Miller said.
"...I was shocked really, but I say you know, I guess the guy is feeling us out and he wants to show us he in charge, that they own BEC, and that the people of The Bahamas have no say, and the board of directors have no say, and so he did what he did."
Overtime pay at BEC last year exceeded $11.8 million.