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Wind energy facilities could be functioning in the Family Islands by mid-2016, according to Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) General Manager Glen Laville.
Laville told Guardian Business that the government is in talks with investors to jumpstart Eleuthera Wind Power, a pilot wind energy project based in Tarpum Bay. While WSC and the Ministry of Works were targeting the end of 2015 for the project's implementation, Laville personally estimated that the project could be up and running by mid-2016.
"They're looking at a fairly aggressive schedule of implementation. We're still in the preliminary discussion phase. We're looking at leasing land that is necessary, particularly at the naval base, in order to get the project done, but they're very confident that it's something that can happen quickly," said Laville.
Tarpum Bay's Eleuthera Wind Power, a joint venture between WINSO Company Limited and Schneider Power Company, had signed a 20-year power-purchase agreement with WSC and was designed to ensure that power bills remained at least 25 percent below Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) rates.
Although test studies had proven the viability of wind energy in Tarpum Bay, Eleuthera, Laville confirmed that the Eleuthera Wind Power project was currently on hold following the buyout of Schneider Power Company, one of the project's parent bodies.
While Laville said that Schneider's principals were not necessarily continuing the project, the government was currently in talks with additional investors.
"There are some new parties who are coming into it, and they want to take over the project, both in Tarpum Bay and also looking at other sites, such as the Governor's Harbour ex-U.S. naval base."
Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis reaffirmed WSC's plans to develop wind energy facilities in the Family Islands earlier this week, noting that negotiations between WSC and Aqua Design, a GE subsidiary, were ongoing.
Aqua Design had planned additional proposed sites in Exuma, Inagua, and Eleuthera as the country takes preliminary steps towards utilizing renewable energy sources.
Laville suggested that renewables offered dual benefits by reducing increasing energy costs, particularly during WSC's desalination processes, while lowering the corporation's environmental impact.
"While we recognize the climate change impact on our water resources, really the immediate and most urgent part of it is stabilizing and reducing energy costs," he said.
The country's total public debt is expected to surpass $5 billion by the end of this calendar year and government will likely run a similar deficit in the next fiscal year, according to a former minister of state for finance.
James Smith, who is also a key advisor to the Christie administration, noted that the government's commitments will be similar in the next fiscal year.
Debt servicing would have gone up and the cost of running the public corporations, such as Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), hasn't gone down. The only decrease will be in the capital budget, although Smith said that slice of the pie is relatively slim compared to the overall picture.
"What you are seeing now is stopping the hemorrhage," he told Guardian Business yesterday. "It will be a much longer period to stop it and for the healing to take place. We didn't get here overnight."
According to the government's latest prospectus for Bahamas government registered stock (BGRS), released yesterday, public debt stands at $4.986 billion.
The Christie administration is now seeking $50 million through BGRS to partly cover a shortfall in the $550 million deficit this fiscal year.
Smith explained that another $50 million of the stock is likely to surface in the coming months to cover the anticipated $100 million shortfall, bringing the total deficit this fiscal year to $650 million.
"It is seldom that you take the whole amount at once. It often depends on liquidity in the system and immediate needs," he said. "This is to cover the overhang of commitments that weren't foreseen in the original budget."
Applications for the stock are open until April 15 at 3 p.m. Allocations begin the next day and close on April 17.
Confirming earlier assessments by Moody's, the former minister of state for finance said recent moves by the government, such as the introduction of value-added tax (VAT), will have a delayed impact on the economy.
Michael Halkitis, the minister of state for finance, recently met with leaders in the tourism industry to stress the importance of VAT and answer any questions or concerns.
He said the bottom line is that efforts will be made to minimize the overall impact of the new VAT on the cost of living for Bahamians.
"Simply put, the government needs to increase its total revenue intake as a share of total economic activity through a tax measure that is more buoyant and with revenue yields that increase more closely in line with the growth of the economy," Halkitis said. "As our economy has grown, import duties have not shown this buoyancy because, with rising standards of living, a greater fraction of our incomes is being spent on services."
Halkitis called VAT a "rebalancing process" whereby customs duties and excise taxes are reduced. Meanwhile, a number of services will be taxed for the first time, and in the end, the government should eventually be in a position to chip away at the debt.
Branville McCartney, a prominent attorney, entrepreneur and leader of the Democratic National Alliance (DNA), said the government is not taking a firm stand that is necessary to truly bring the country's finances in line.
While certain decisions might be unpopular, he told Guardian Business that politicians must address the "out of whack" civil service.
"The civil service ought to be more efficient than the private sector. The country needs to be run like a business," he said. "Millions and millions are spent through the civil service and public corporations. That is inefficient and the government will not take a stand to do anything about it."
McCartney made particular reference to Bahamasair, the country's national flag carrier.
He said the airline is bloated and over-staffed. In general, he said public corporations are often used as "political tools" and need to be privatized or slimmed down so they are profitable and no longer a drain on the treasury.
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 Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) is in crisis. It has a quarter of a billion dollars in debt the government has to back, it may lose $50 million this year and it is unable to provide enough power to keep the lights on in the high-demand summer season.
Successive political administrations have made all kinds of decisions over the last decade that have brought BEC to its knees. The dysfunctional state of the corporation is now increasingly having harmful effects on The Bahamas.
The high cost of power produced by BEC serves as a large across-the-board tax on Bahamians, increasing the cost of goods and services. The summer blackouts inconvenience businesses and homeowners. And now BEC's debt burden could hurt the country's credit rating.
Moody's is warning the government that rising debt held by public sector corporations such as BEC could hurt the country's rating going forward. According to its latest credit opinion, The Bahamas retains its negative outlook due to the difficulty in achieving fiscal consolidation necessary to stabilize debt and increase revenue in the short term. A failure to reverse the recent trend of rising debt will place downward pressure on the country's future rating, the report added, particularly with the "crystallization" of liabilities held by BEC.
The Bahamas' bond rating was downgraded to Baa1 from A3 last December.
The government says it has 60 energy proposals before it and it is in the process of reviewing those proposals. One of those proposals is from SGI Global Holdings Ltd. It is represented by attorney John Bostwick and thinks a power barge concept makes far more sense than any of the other energy proposals before the government.
Executives from the firm have drafted a proposal arguing it could slash the average cost of electricity from $0.40 per kilowatt-hour to $0.28 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in the first year if allowed to enter the marketplace. In year seven, the international firm says it could reduce the cost of electricity to $0.25 per kWh.
At some point, the government has to make a decision on the "major change" it will create in the local energy sector. The status quo is a barrier to economic growth, an annoyance to the public and it harms the Bahamian credit position.
If private firms are able to enter the market and assist the government by providing energy at lower rates than BEC, why not quickly move to allow private firms to assist?
We are at the end of the first year of this Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) term. It went by quickly. Despite all the talk thus far about BEC and energy, under the PLP BEC continues to spiral. A paradigm shift is needed in the Bahamian energy sector.
If the PLP waits too long to decide on this change The Bahamas will be further harmed, more money will be wasted and the change desired may not take effect until after the next general election, as energy plants take time to set up.
We hope the Cabinet understands that success in bringing down the cost of power is as much a priority now as our crime and unemployment problems.
The new agreement between the government of The Bahamas and Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) announced by Prime Minister Perry Christie last week was the culmination of a political exercise and a waste of time, said Sir William Allen, a former advisor to the Ingraham administration, and a former minister of finance.
"Clearly, they have not achieved what they set out to achieve," Sir William told National Review yesterday.
"They had in mind something which I think is quite different from what happened. In fact, I am not sure anything happened of substance. I would give them 'A' for effort, for the time involved, and 'F' for what they achieved, quite frankly."
Sir William added that the kindest thing he could say about the new agreement is that it failed and did no damage, thanks to the dogged determination of CWC.
"The attempt to take back control of BTC is nothing short of once more injecting politics into this highly technological and hugely critical aspect of the competitiveness of the Bahamian economy," he said.
"I can't imagine why the government wished to follow through on a silly political promise after reaping some benefit from it on the campaign trail in appealing to those who opposed the privatization in the first place. Their failure was a success for the company and the economy."
Under the deal, CWC will transfer 5,093,200 of its shares in BTC back to the government for placement in a foundation that will hold these shares in trust for the Bahamian people, Christie announced.
These shares represent just under two percent of the total issued share equity in BTC.
CWC will retain voting rights in BTC as well as remain the largest overall shareholder.
Sir William said under the "new" agreement, the status quo remains.
But he added, "There is one benefit that I guess they could point to. [That] is that some funds, some benefits, are going to accrue to some causes or some...charities, I guess.
"But what I am not sure [about] is, is that these are not benefits that would have accrued had they not gone through this exercise."
The government is insisting that the proceeds from the reacquired shares will be in addition to the causes BTC contributes to. BTC has also confirmed this.
Sir William pointed out that he has not seen the actual deal to be able to examine the specifics.
He added, however, "Nothing has changed with regard to the management control of BTC and if that was the objective, as I assumed it to be, then it was a waste of time.
"I thought the criticism made of the former administration in the privatization of BTC was that they gave control to this foreign entity and the objective was to take it back. Well, that has not happened."
CWC said in a statement that the shares transferred to the BTC Foundation will not be entitled to any voting rights.
It will also maintain management and board control of the business, and as a consequence continue to consolidate BTC's financial results.
Sir William noted that the nearly two percent of shares "have no power".
"Therefore," he said, "they [CWC] have a slightly higher percentage than the government has. I don't think it [the government] has achieved anything.
"I've been in politics too. You have to make it seem that you did something. So, it's a little smoke and mirrors now and a wise person realizes what happened."
Chief government negotiator Franklyn Wilson has said repeatedly that the deal entered into by the Ingraham administration in 2011 to sell 51 percent of BTC to Cable & Wireless was a "horrendous deal".
But neither Wilson nor the government has given any details to support this.
In fact, the prime minister has defended his government's decision to use KPMG, the same advisors for the pending Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) deal that Ingraham used for the BTC sale.
Wilson is still calling for the appointment of a select committee of Parliament to look into the Ingraham deal with CWC.
Sir William said yesterday that the government should just reveal what it has to prove that the original deal was "horrendous".
He noted that government negotiators have suggested that some dishonesty happened in negotiating the original deal.
"I think they should say what they found," Sir William said. "I think somehow there should be some effort to get a sense of that which went so wrong in the privatization effort. If it's disclosed, Bahamian people would be quite concerned about it."
Asked whether he thought the original deal was a good one for Bahamians, Sir William said, "Yes, it was. I think it was a good deal."
"I think it is still a good deal," he added. "I don't think much has changed. We've had this exercise to take back control. We didn't take back control. And I think the private company is going to do what it was going to do before this exercise took place.
"It is going to provide good management of this very important operation."
Sir William was also asked whether he is pleased with what CWC has done with BTC so far.
"I am satisfied with what they have done," he said.
"I believe they have been distracted, quite frankly, and I believe now that this exercise is behind them, they are going to be able to devote their entire attention to the business of BTC and I think that distraction did hold them back to some extent."
Sir William said he looks forward to better service from BTC.
"I am hoping that they would do a lot better than they have done in the first [three years]," he said.
"The dropped calls disappoint me considerably. I didn't like that at all, I didn't understand it.
"But I believe they've been distracted."
Sir William also said he was disappointed that Christie used "political talk" to waste so much time in office.
"I recognize there are a number of Bahamians, including the unions, that did not support privatization," he said.
"I could see them making a political appeal to those people. But he should not have followed through on it.
"It was counter productive, so I was disappointed that he went ahead and tried to do this."
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
THE BAHAMAS Electricity Corporation (BEC) is targeting "a fairly aggressive $100 million-plus" capital expenditure programme for 2012, its executive chairman telling Tribune Business the planned investment was "two-and-a-half times" larger than in recent years.
Michael Moss said he was "relatively comfortable and confident" that BEC would be able to achieve its goals, which include upgrades to both its generation and distribution/transmission arms, despite facing the "challenge" of having to seek debt financing from commercial banks and other lending institutions.
Apart from adding a generation unit at both its Clifto ...
Unions have a right to protest. They have a responsibility to advocate on behalf of their workers. They do not, however, have the right to take over property they do not own.
The workers at the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) went too far recently, blocking the flow of people on to BEC's property. Police were called in to assist but the workers, at some points, even blocked labor negotiators from easily accessing BEC's property.
A firm stance must be taken with unions. Workers are allowed on to a property to carry out their duties - duties they are paid to perform. If they do not want to work and prefer to protest, they should be asked to leave the property. Police, once called by management, should then remove those who do not leave. This should be a firm position by the Government of The Bahamas. Workers should only be allowed to return on property when they come to actually work.
There are enough police and defence force officers in The Bahamas to ensure state property stays under the control of the state. The government should not be weak and allow any union or group of workers to think they can take control of a state agency or corporation and act in a disorderly manner.
If the Christie administration and police allow unruly behavior such as what occurred recently at BEC, workers and their unions will think they can do the same in other places.
Workers at BEC have been at odds with BEC Executive Chairman Leslie Miller for several months now over a new shift system, overtime pay and Miller's desire to change the culture at BEC. Now, they are upset that a BEC employee was fired and another suspended. The workers want Miller removed from his post.
That disruption was a test for the Christie administration. The government has been talking with the union and attempting to reach a reasonable understanding with it regarding the disputed issues. However, the Cabinet and leadership of the police force must ensure that even in the context of a labor dispute order is maintained, private property protected and the state respected.
Miller is not one to back down. We assume there will be more disruptions at BEC. The government and police must do a better job projecting strength. Otherwise, unions will push more and more to dictate events to a cowering state.
Local manufacturers are speaking out against high duties and power bills crippling their businesses, forcing some firms to scale back production, diversify their offerings or shut down entirely.In an economy already heavily dependent on imports, the fear is that market conditions in The Bahamas could starve an already sparse manufacturing scene.
Suzannah Eneas, the manager at Bahamas Food Packaging Ltd., told Guardian Business that the parent company, Bapak, has scaled back its operations due to utility bills and high duties.
"It's hard enough trying to compete and when you get concessions taken away; it makes it very hard to be in the business," he said. "It makes it hard to get contracts. You have to tweak the margins so much just to make the contract profitable."
The past concessions Eneas referred to is the Industries Encouragement Act, which was changed last year. Businesses that were in operation for more than five years did not qualify for duty-free exemptions on raw materials needed for manufacturing.
Bapak, which manufactures bottles, also has two subsidiaries, including Bahamas Extruders & Investments, which creates pipes and a range of cleaning and industrial chemicals, and Bahamas Food Packaging, a food processing company.
Established in 1976, Bapak no longer qualifies for the exemption and now pays 10 percent duty on a variety of material. As the only company in The Bahamas that produces electrical conduit piping, Eneas said the company continues to struggle to stay in business in the face of big business from the U.S.
"It has really impacted our bottom line. The government took the duty exemption away, and it has hurt our competitiveness and [the] profitability of the entire manufacturing industry in The Bahamas," she said.
Another burden for Bapak is rising utility bills.
According to the company, Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) charges them up to $90,000 per bill during the summer months, and around $60,000 in the winter.
Bapak is calling on the government to once again consider a similar system to Florida, which offers three different rates: residential, commercial and industrial. In other words, something must be done to allow local businesses to survive.
Winston Rolle, the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC), agreed that the cost of utilities in particular "is something that needs to be explored".
He pointed out there are plans now underway to bring in legislation to allow flexibility in terms of allowing businesses to create their own alternative energy and sell it back to the grid.
"It seems to be something the government is committed to doing," he said.
However, he told Guardian Business that the issue of utility costs also affects foreign businesses, and of course, the everyday consumer in these challenging financial times. He said the price of oil and fossil fuels holds BEC hostage, so they cannot be blamed entirely.
Alec Knowles, the managing director at Aquapure, one of the largest water manufacturers on the island, agreed that only so much can be done, considering The Bahamas' dependency on the price of oil and gas.
Nevertheless, he said the operating costs of local manufacturers are "out of wack" when compared to those they are competing with.
"In our case, utilities are killing us with our production costs," Knowles said.
"They go up every month. It is really hampering our business and operating costs. What can be done?"
Improving efficiency is one way forward, he explained. Alternative energy is an interesting concept but he doubted whether larger manufacturers could use it effectively. Meanwhile, the 10 percent duties on raw materials continues to be an equal burden, Knowles said.
"It has increased our costs by 10 percent automatically. It's difficult to eat that and pass it on. I think it's true for all manufacturers ... we're all facing the same problems."
For Eneas at Bahamas Food Packaging Ltd., their strategy, along with Aquapure's, is to continously find ways to diversify their offerings to make more money. The company will soon be launching Frutar, a new juice-flavored beverage. But when it comes to securing contracts for the core business, she said the outlook is not too bright.
"It has been a struggle," she said.
"We're hoping the water and juice will help us, but the winter season is slower. We will have to restructure our pricing, so we're worried about getting new contracts."
The Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU) has taken legal action to remove a rostering system recently implemented at the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), BEWU President Stephano Greene has confirmed.
But BEC Chairman Leslie Miller warned yesterday that ongoing demands of the union could lead to job losses at the corporation.
"I am hoping they go on strike. This whole thing has to change," Miller told The Nassau Guardian.
Miller said union officials believe the government would do what they want because of the threat of power being turned off.
"I dare them to turn one light off, just one, and whoever is responsible will never walk back on BEC's premises. I don't care who it is, I will not allow them."
Line staff at the corporation have been going head to head with Miller for several months over issues regarding overtime and the shift system implemented in March.
According to Greene, attorneys for the union have filed action in the Supreme Court.
"We were in negotiations with the corporation on our industrial agreement," he said following a meeting with executive management yesterday.
"Rostering and flexi-time was a part of their proposal, and we were at the table negotiating when the corporation went ahead and implemented rostering without an agreement.
"Because of that we consulted our lawyers and asked them to give us their legal advice as to the best avenue to address it, and they advised us that the best avenue would be to file an injunction against the corporation for what we consider is an illegal implementation of rostering."
In a separate interview, Miller called the development "disingenuous" and said he learnt of the legal action on Monday.
He told The Nassau Guardian the union is also seeking to force the corporation to pay rostered employees an allowance of $75 per week.
"They just don't stop," Miller said. "They don't know when enough is enough.
"Even though we are trying to keep everyone onboard [despite] paying this enormous salary, paying this enormous overtime.
"These people really believe that this corporation belongs to them, and they will get what they want, when they want it, even to the detriment, not only of the Bahamian people, but even to some of their membership, who will not be at BEC if they insist on pushing this through.
"I am telling them right now, people will be disaffected from BEC if they insist on these additional monies that BEC doesn't have.
"The easiest way to pay a bill is to let some people go. Now if they don't mind eight or 10 of their union members being displaced, it shows you the callousness of their ways."
But Greene insisted a clause in the union's now expired industrial agreement regarding the allowance should be honored by the corporation.
"That's contractual and if there is something in the contract no one can unilaterally decide whether or not they are going to pay," he said. "If it is contractual, you have to pay."
Asked whether the union is prepared to compromise, Greene said the union's agreement is binding by law and no one can change the terms and conditions without its agreement.
Miller said while he recognizes the union's contract, both sides should compromise given BEC's financial position.
He said the corporation should not have to pay any employee additional money to work the same hours.
BEC has been losing money for years. In March, Miller revealed in the House of Assembly the corporation lost $12.7 million in the first quarter of this fiscal year.
He said it was on track to lose up to $50 million at the end of this year.
Last year, BEC lost $18 million.
As it relates to overtime pay, last year the corporation paid in excess of $11.8 million, according to a report conducted by auditors.
Miller revealed that in the last seven months alone BEC has paid out $2 million in overtime to employees on the Family Islands.
He said while the corporation should realize a $4 million reduction in overtime pay at the end of this fiscal year, if managers cannot keep overtime under control some of them may also have to be replaced.
According to Miller, a cashier supervisor took home $72,000, which included $28,000 in overtime pay.
"And these are the people who [are] raising hell, threatening you, threatening your future," he said.
The Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) is spending an estimated $5 million on engine repairs to ensure there are no blackouts this summer.
According to top management, engines are being "reconditioned" to make sure they are at optimal levels during this demanding season. Burmeister & Wain Scandinavian Contractor (BWSC), a Scandinavian company, is in the process of refurbishing engines with BEC before the hot months hit.
Leslie Miller, the chairman of BEC, said he doesn't want any blackouts this summer.
"BWSC, the Scandinavian contractors, have put in four of the major engines, which are workhouse engines really. They are now doing re-servicing along with the staff at BEC. It's a continuous program that will get us through the summer," he explained. "So by June 1, most of our machines will be operating at full optimum capacity and that would enable us not have any blackouts. We're spending approximately $5 million."
The BEC chairman estimates that customers could see anywhere from a seven to 10 percent decrease in their electricity bills once the refurbishments are complete.
"Once Clifton is running properly, we are going to get the most out of those engines at Clifton. That will take the load off the fuel. The reason why the fuel costs are so high is because we are using more engines at Blue Hills than what we are using at Clifton, which burn about a third more fuel than Clifton," he noted.
"We have been trying to reverse that. We are trying to get Clifton to do about 65 to 70 percent of the base load for New Providence. We want to start reducing the cost of electricity in the very near future within the next three months. We are estimating that decrease to be between seven and 10 percent. Once that takes place, you will get a lower electricity bill because there is less fuel burning at Clifton versus Blue Hills. This decrease will be seen across the board."
Just last month, thousands of BEC customers were without power for hours during an island-wide blackout.
Miller has said that cheaper, alternative energy sources would be one of the items topping the agenda of BEC's board of directors in an effort to stabilize the cost of fuel.
"The prevailing circumstances on the world stage dictate what BEC pays for oil. We are looking to get agreements either with one of the major oil-producing countries in our region like Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico and Columbia," Miller explained. "Either we can get a government-to-government situation or let BEC have a contractual arrangement with the national corporations in those countries. That's the sort of thing that BEC looks forward to, where it is dealing with the producer to try and stabilize the price."
Miller further revealed to Guardian Business that BEC is also looking at retrofitting its plants to use liquefied natural gas (LNG) and exploring the possibilities of solar and waste-based energy. The corporation is in fact reviewing four proposals touting the use of natural gas to generate electricity.
"Most powerful countries have now switched towards LNG. Solar energy is another area that we want to look at in a tangible way. We are looking to meet with the newly-appointed Chinese ambassador to encourage the use of solar panels among Bahamians at a much more affordable price," he added.
"The cheapest source of energy outside of oil is the use of solar panels. We believe that if BEC was to enter a contractual agreement with companies in China, they would be able to assist us here in The Bahamas with a very competitive or discounted price, making them available in large quantities for BEC to be able to resell to consumers."
Nassau, Bahamas - The
Bahamas Electricity Corporation advises that it has completed the
restoration of electricity supply to the more than 99% of customers in
New Providence following the adverse weather conditions experienced on
Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.
is a small area of Yamacraw Beach Estates where supply remains
disconnected due to standing water levels. BEC crews are working in
conjunction with the Ministry of Works to complete an assessment of the
area and will restore electricity supply as soon as it safe.
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
THE Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) has been left "smelling like a rose" by its Grand Bahama counterpart, which produced data showing the former's electricity tariffs are "very, very competitive" when measured against the Caribbean.
While its own regional comparisons show Grand Bahama Power Company is in the middle of the pack, ranking sixth most expensive out of a 12-strong utility sample for customers using 600 kilowatt hours (kWh) during September 2011, BEC is ranked number three, behind only Aruba and Barbados.
Grand Bahama Power Company's total charge for those consumers was $227.58, compared to $206.2 for BEC, l ...
Former minister with responsibility for the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), Phenton Neymour, yesterday accused BEC Chairman Leslie Miller of hypocrisy after he announced a new reconnection initiative similar to the one crafted by the Ingraham adminstration that Miller previously criticized.
Last week Miller announced that the government intends to reconnect the electricity supplies of more than 7,000 delinquent consumers.
"I am very disappointed in Mr. Miller," Neymour said. "Miller stated that the Free National Movement put BEC in a poor position when we put in place a very similar program."
Neymour was referring to Miller's critique of the former administration's electricity reconnection and payment plan program which was intended to provide relief and generate revenue from delinquent and returning customers
"He is being hypocritical," Neymour said. "He orignally criticized the program saying it was not good, and saying it helped people who could have paid.
"But when you are putting a policy in place, it must be a policy for everyone."
Back in March, Miller said many of the customers who benefitted from the former administration's initiative were in the "upper income bracket". He said the move ultimately had a negative impact on BEC's bottom line.
The former administration's initiative, which was launched last February, was also branded as an "election ploy" by the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) at the time.
But Neymour insisted that the program did not have any impact on BEC's finances. He said the government gave BEC $4 million at the time to cover any financial implications that would come from the program.
Miller said he wants all households to be reconnected by June 1, adding that delinquent customers will be required to pay a portion of their bill in order to be reconnected.
He gave an example that a customer who owes $2,000 would be reconnected upon paying $400.
A customer with a bill of $3,000 or less will be expected to pay a "fair amount", while a customer with a bill of $4,000 must pay 25 percent.
Asked for his views of the new initiative, Neymour said he does not have sufficient details about the plan. However, he said it is an indication that the FNM was on the right track.
And while Neymour said he supports initiatives aimed at assisting struggling families, he said he has a few concerns.
"When we started the program, it was I who announced that there were 5,200 who were disconnected from BEC, " he said.
"Today he is announcing that the figure exceeds 7,000 which implies that BEC's position is far worse than what it was under the FNM. It also means that the receivables are much worse than when we were in office."
Neymour said the high cost of electricity has contributed to the increase in delinquent accounts.
He said if the government really wants to impact the lives of Bahamians it should fulfill its promise to lower the electricity rates.
With the Christie administration at the halfway point of this term in office, Prime Minister Perry Christie is facing a tight timeline in shaping his legacy and achieving big things in this term.
For him, 2015 will likely be a defining year. By the end of next year, Christie will need to say whether he intends to retire after this term or whether he plans to lead the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) into an election for a fourth consecutive time.
For this government, the challenges, as we know, are many. A lot is riding on the effects of the value-added tax (VAT) rollout come January 1. The new tax will increase the cost of living on a population already stressed and stretched.
But the government, faced with mounting debt, has said it has no other choice, as not implementing the tax would have an even more detrimental impact in the medium term.
Last week, the ratings agency Standard & Poor's (S&P) maintained the country's credit ratings in its latest research update, but warned that, should the government's implementation of VAT not yield the projected results, future downgrades could be expected.
VAT will push the cost of living higher. For those already finding it difficult to pay their bills, the challenges will be greater.
While Baha Mar promises a significant economic boost after its scheduled opening next spring, the company's decision to lay off near 200 of its workers from the Crystal Palace hotel on Friday was the kind of news the government did not need at this time.
The company expects to add several thousand permanent jobs, however.
If the Christie administration can cause a significant dent in unemployment, it could be on its way to another term in office.
But, of course, there are no guarantees.
When the PLP lost the election in 2007, unemployment was 7.9 percent.
The latest numbers, released in July 2014 for a survey conducted in May, showed that more Bahamians were unemployed in 2014 than in May 2012 when the PLP returned to office.
But the rate of joblessness in The Bahamas declined from 15.4 percent recorded last November, to 14.3 percent in May 2014.
In the face of ongoing economic challenges, the prime minister has remained optimistic.
But many people do not now share the prime minister's optimism for better times in the near future.
As we have reported multiple times, Christie has been fighting against a rising tide of disillusionment among many of his party's supporters and the wider Bahamian population.
There is the sense that things are not happening quickly enough. Many people are not feeling better about what is to come.
If people are not as patient as the government would wish, it should not be surprising to anyone.
Ahead of the 2012 general election, Christie declared that he was "spreading the PLP message and vision for hope and change to all our brothers and sisters".
So far, he has failed to deliver on many of his party's bloated promises and his vision for hope has also failed to materialize.
The government's much-touted mortgage relief program was a stillbirth; its National Health Insurance Plan "within the first year" (as articulated by the now Minister of Health Dr. Perry Gomez) was also dead on arrival, as were other promises.
We have yet to see the jobs boom that the PLP made so many voters believe would happen in the near term, and we have yet to feel any safer under the Christie administration.
In the final rally before the 2012 election, Christie said he had been all over the country talking to voters and "they are angry and afraid about [then Prime Minister Hubert] Ingraham's failure to lead on crime; they are angry about the 500 murders."
Today, there is still anger about crime and about Christie and the PLP's failure to deliver.
Last week, the murder count hit 100.
An emotive issue that was used by the PLP to woo voters, crime still remains the most serious of national concerns.
The greatly heralded Urban Renewal 2.0 has been short on results thus far.
As the government struggles with the crime problem, it has placed renewed focus on tackling illegal immigration.
While it faced criticisms on its recent crackdown in this regard, the government gave many Bahamians a sense that on an issue of critical national importance, it was getting it right.
For too long, we have not had the sense that any administration was serious about addressing this problem. We at least feel some sense of that.
But the future will determine whether there is consistency in carrying out the immigration laws.
Despite anger from the Haitian community over the enforcement exercises, we must not lose focus on addressing illegal immigration in a comprehensive and sustained way.
This, of course, means that the focus ought not just be on undocumented Haitian immigrants, but all undocumented foreigners in The Bahamas.
Ahead of the 2012 election and while in office, Christie has expressed big ideas.
He has, for example, promised to break the Bahamas Electricity Corporation into two -- an entity responsible for power generation and another to deal with customer service.
Christie has noted that the high cost of energy is one of the biggest threats to businesses in The Bahamas.
Consumers are also burdened, and are eager for the government to deliver on its promise to lower the cost of electricity in the country. The Bahamas Electricity Corporation's fuel charge has substantially driven up electricity bills.
If Christie can effect energy reform and significantly reduce BEC bills, this would be a major and unforgettable achievement.
Indeed, energy reform is among the key issues that could lead to another PLP term in office.
By ALISON LOWE
Power demand at a fully operational Baha Mar will increase from present levels by just under 330 per cent to a potential 30 Megawatts (MW) per day - 5 MW higher than the total daily power demand of Abaco during the peak summer months.
Baha Mar's senior vice-president of external and governmental affairs, Robert Sands, said yesterday that discussions with the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) have led to the resort developer being advised that BEC can meet this eventual demand using its present generation facilities.
"Discussions are very advanced, and even if we had to go to the maximum (30 MW of power), BEC is in a posit ...
Nassau, Bahamas - Thursday, May 9, 2013 -
The Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) informs the general public
that it is not responsible for the reported "power failure" at the
Lynden Pindling International Airport(LPIA) on Thursday morning; May 9,
BEC maintains that the
temporary loss of power to the airport was due to a failure of equipment
owned and operated by the Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD). BEC
notes that a controlled shutdown of the airport's electricity supply
was requested by NAD and accommodated by BEC. At 6:15 Thursday morning,
LPIA was taken off BEC's electrical grid. During this time, back-up
generation was to be used
There is a kind of madness taking grip in this country on certain matters relative to governance, the functioning of our institutions and the things we as Bahamians are asked to accept.
Nowhere has this been more on display in recent weeks than in the developments that flowed after The Nassau Guardian disclosed that Executive Chairman of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) Leslie Miller and his family-owned business owed the corporation $250,000.
Miller, of course, is not the only person who owes the corporation. There are also many businesses that owe substantial sums, we are told.
We revisit this matter this week because it is no doubt Miller's hope and that of the government that it will go away.
But it remains a matter deserving of attention.
Prime Minister Perry Christie and Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis, who has ministerial responsibility for BEC, continue to remain silent after confirmation from BEC that its policy was violated when cashiers accepted a cash payment of more than $10,000 on the bill.
BEC's policy is that no cash payments are to be accepted over that amount.
Sources within the corporation confirmed that $100,000 was paid in cash.
This has not been denied by Miller or any government official.
Asked to confirm whether the payment was made in cash, the deputy prime minister told us, "I don't know how it was paid. I just know $100,000 was paid."
When we raised this matter again with Miller last week Sunday, he was annoyed that we were still pushing the point.
In a stunning statement to The Tribune, Miller said, "money is money".
The newspaper said Miller informed that he was also unaware of BEC's policy not to accept more than $10,000 cash because many "businesses have done it before".
"Money is money," he reportedly told The Tribune. "I didn't know what the policy was. If they came to my business and gave me money, paid me in cash, I would thank them again and again.
"Institutions in this country have done this before. These are petty things (that are) causing the Bahamian people to be sidetracked from what is really happening at the corporation and all the good that is being done.
"The people that are attacking me and my family are nameless, but I have a name and they are coming for me. I do not need them to like me, my record speaks for itself."
What Miller does not understand is questions relating to that $100,000 are legitimate questions.
This does not represent an attack on him or his family.
The implications of this matter being swept under the rug may be great.
It is not accepted business practice to deal in large sums of money, hence the BEC policy.
The chairman's statement that he did not know what the policy is, is startling.
The prime minister and the deputy prime minister should not accept this as an explanation.
And we the people should not accept the deputy prime minister's statement that he does not know how the money was paid.
It is the chairman's obligation to know the corporation's policies, and it is the DPM's obligation to look into the matter of this payment.
If we say we are serious about protecting the reputation of our jurisdiction, then we must at all times adhere to the highest international standards as they relate to financial transactions.
The world is watching. What signal is the government sending to the international community?
To be clear, we make no suggestions on the source of the $100,000 paid to BEC.
But we do question our disregard for standards relating to the handling of large sums of money.
This is not a petty matter.
We expected Leslie Miller to react in the manner in which he acted.
Miller is a well-liked politician who has endeared himself to the common man.
But he has attracted controversy during his years in public life and has created one embarrassing situation after the next for Christie.
At the start of the first Christie administration, Miller, who was then a minister, fueled a firestorm over firings at the Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation (BAIC).
He was later caught up in multiple other controversies.
We are reminded of a statement an American diplomat attributed to Prime Minister Christie in 2005.
"Some ministers, were brought into the Cabinet because of their qualifications; others, like Minister Miller, were included in an effort, at times unsuccessful, to keep an eye on what they're doing," Christie allegedly said.
We wonder now whether Christie, by his silence, is seeking to avoid a fall-out with Miller over that $100,000 cash payment, and the fact that the chairman owed the corporation so much money while demanding other businesses stay current.
We raise this issue again this week to say again that our general lack of adherence to standards and the prime minister and deputy prime minister's silence are appalling.
Hundreds of passengers were delayed for hours at Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) yesterday after a loss of power supply, according to airport officials.
In a statement, Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD) said as part of its ongoing maintenance program, its contractor, General Electric (GE), serviced the airport's electrical systems on Wednesday.
Ahead of the second service scheduled yesterday morning commercial power was disconnected, NAD said.
"All of the generators started and produced power, however the U.S. terminal electrical breaker serviced by General Electric yesterday experienced significant failure," NAD said.
"As a result, the electrical supply including the lighting at the U.S. Departures terminal was disrupted shortly after 6 a.m."
The power outage affected the airport's Information Technology network, which prevented passengers from being electronically checked in.
The baggage handling systems were also offline.
According to NAD, commercial power was restored shortly before 8 a.m.
NAD said passengers, who were being checked in manually, were able to check in electronically at around 10:30 a.m.
"NAD regrets any inconvenience to the traveling public and our airline partners," NAD said.
While the company said it is working with its contractor, GE, to determine what caused the failure, Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) Executive Chairman Leslie Miller insisted that NAD is "absolutely and totally" at fault.
"That was a planned outage by them," Miller said, adding that the generators were supposed to kick in.
"BEC had to go back there this morning (Thursday) to reconnect, to give them energy. That is how they got on."
He said BEC disconnected electricity on Wednesday at NAD's request ahead of its planned system check, and dispelled speculation that the incident had anything to do with BEC.
Roscoe Perpall, president of the Bahamas Air Traffic Controllers Union, said while the power failure affected the airport, the radar nor the communication system experienced any problems.
"However, we were advised that due to the power failure and the generator not performing properly the terminal suffered some severe issues," Perpall said.
He did not want to speculate who was at fault for the power supply interruption or malfunction.
An international rating agency says The Bahamas' economic climate is faring well in comparison to other countries in the region, experiencing slight growth and attracting lots of investments.
Despite the country's financial situation deteriorating for the past four years, Edward Al-Hussainy, assistant vice president and analyst at Moody's, said The Bahamas' debt is not unsustainable and at a level where there is a need for "alarm bells to ring". However, he did point out that the debt level continues to rise.
"It's definitely growing and putting the brakes on the growth in debt is still far from being concrete. The debt is not unsustainable but the level is high and it continues to increase. In fact, The Bahamas' financial situation has been deteriorating over the last three to four years," he said.
Al-Hussainy, who spoke to Guardian Business from the Caribbean Development Bank's annual meeting in St. Lucia this week, revealed that he is more optimistic about The Bahamas' position in comparison to its regional counterparts.
"The rest of the region is really suffering. However, The Bahamas has had a little bit of growth last year, not as high as the government expected, but it was still over one percent growth. There is still a lot of investment happening in The Bahamas including Baha Mar and other touristic developments. We're more optimistic about the position that The Bahamas is in relative to a lot of other countries," he explained.
On Monday, Moody's released its latest Credit Outlook report where it unveiled that sovereign credit quality is expected to continue deteriorating in the Caribbean region.
"I think what we're seeing is that countries are having a really tough time and in many ways this is making debt loads unsustainable," said Al-Hussainy.
"Looking ahead, the balance between improvements in economic growth and the speed, content and sustainability of fiscal adjustments will drive sovereign credit quality in the Caribbean," the report noted.
"We expect limited progress in establishing mechanisms that contain the fiscal and macroeconomic imbalances in government and external deficits. As a result, public sector balance sheets will remain stressed and some countries will experience liquidity crises that precipitate default."
"In addition to weak fiscal fundamentals, we see significant risk arising from contingent liabilities stemming from highly indebted public corporations (Caribbean Airlines) in Trinidad and the Bahamas Electricity Corporation in The Bahamas, weak domestic banks and a poorly regulated non-bank financial sector, primarily insurers and credit unions," the report further noted.
According to Al-Hussainy there are three ways to generate growth: structural changes, the imposition of heavy fiscal austerity or resolving/restructuring debt.
"Countries are finding that restarting growth is very difficult. We are finding that more countries are opting to resolve/restructure their debt because structural adjustments take a lot of time and have not been successful over the years," Al-Hussainy stated.
Jamaica, Belize and Grenada have been listed in this week's Moody's Credit Outlook as countries that are heavily indebted.
Nassau, The Bahamas - Hundreds of Pinewood residents
gathered at Pinewood Park on Pigeon Plum Drive at 9 A.M. sharp to collect their
Government issued CFL bulbs. They were eager to participate in a
nationwide programme to condition Bahamians in small conservation practices to
help the country save energy and money spent on it.
is an initiative put on by The Bahamas Electricity Corporation and it seeks to
provide an avenue by which constituents in Pinewood and other areas in The
Bahamas can take advantage of cost savings, by using energy efficient
lightbulbs," said Byran Woodside, Minister of State for Lands and Local
Government in the Office of The Prime Minister...
NASSAU, The Bahamas - - The National Emergency Management Agency is continuing to assess the damage caused by excessive flooding which impacted thousands of residents on New Providence over a 24-hour period.
The communities to be canvassed in the eastern area are Pinewood Gardens, Mt Tabor Estates, Elizabeth Estates, amongst others where a record 15 inches of rain fell between 3:00 p.m. Tuesday, May 21 to late afternoon on Wednesday May 22, 2013.
Director of NEMA Captain Stephen Russell at a press conference held Wednesday strongly advised residents to turn off their electricity supply if they have standing water in their homes, to avoid electrocution or other mishaps.
On Wednesday a rapid assessment team was dispatched to the flood impacted areas to determine the extent of the damage experienced by residents, and the level of assistance to be given.
The team was lead by Captain Russell and included Bradley King, Acting Chief Engineer and Henry Moxey, Civil Engineer of the Ministry of Works and Urban Development; Trevor Basden, Senior Deputy Director, the Department of Meteorology; Cyprian Gibson, Senior Engineer, Water & Sewerage Corporation; and Wrensworth Stubbs, Department of Social Services.
We just went through the worst summer in recent memory in New Providence when it comes to power outages. Many homeowners and businesses lost equipment due to the situation. Many were enraged because family life and commerce were constantly being disrupted. The problem was equipment failure, for various reasons.
This poor service also costs a lot. Customers of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) pay for usage and a fuel surcharge. The surcharge is usually three times the usage cost.
Despite the high rates for electricity, BEC is a failed corporation. It has $450 million in legacy debt. The government has to stand behind its loans. BEC's Executive Chairman Leslie Miller has said the corporation stands to lose $30 million this year.
In this context, the Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU), the representative of BEC's line staff, is in a battle with the corporation and the government over a new contract.
The full scope of the proposed contract is unknown, but Miller recently told The Nassau Guardian that he called a special board meeting to examine it and expressed several concerns. Those concerns included union demands regarding lump-sum payments and rostering, according to Miller.
BEWU President Paul Maynard has said there could be industrial action today over the impasse between the union and BEC. The electricity started going off yesterday.
At times, Miller has been intemperate with his words regarding BEC's workers. He was correct, however, when he said BEC cannot give employees what it does not have when it comes to these negotiations. He has asked the union to be "a little more reasonable, consider the plight of all Bahamians, and stop being so selfish".
The government and BEC should not offer the workers an extravagant deal. In fact, with BEC being a failed state entity that is losing money there is a need for the new deal to cut back on what was given before. No worker should expect more money and benefits when the entity paying the salaries is bankrupt.
The government has pledged to restructure BEC and allow increased private participation in the energy sector. The final decision on sector reform, however, has not been announced. Change is urgently needed, as BEC and its high rates and poor service are inhibiting economic growth.
The union should accept that the corporation is in a poor financial state. It should be reasonable and not seek more than BEC can bear - and it can bear no more when it comes to salaries. The government and BEC should also hold the line and work toward reducing costs at the corporation in order to bring some relief to BEC's financial situation.
The government has raised eyebrows among those involved in the process to take over the Bahamas Electricity Corporation's (BEC's) generation and transmission and distribution responsibilities, by demanding bidders be capable of handling BEC's $200 million-plus debt without a government guarantee, Guardian Business understands.
In addition, this paper can confirm that the government not only intends to wholly-own the transmission and distribution company, but also to be the "initial majority owner" of the generation company that will be created from BEC and for which it is currently soliciting companies to sign management contracts for.
Guardian Business understands that these two clauses - relating to the ownership and debt-related responsibilities of the winning bidders in particular - have ruffled some feathers among potential bidders to execute contracts with the government in relation to the two entities, as the government pushes ahead with its BEC reform initiative which is intended to reduce costs to consumers.
It is understood that these details were recently made known in a "pricing proposal" document provided to the six companies participating in the current stage of the reform process, with this document stating that the government intends for the restructuring and refinancing of current BEC debt and other long term liabilities by either NewCo (the transmission and distribution company) and JVCo (the generation company), or JVCo alone, "in a manner which ensures that there is no need for a government guarantee to support the liabilities".
If it could achieve this, this debt would no longer appear as a contingent liability for the government - a favorable outcome for the government given it would allow the government's debt to GDP ratio, a major concern for multilateral financial institutions and credit ratings agencies who are watching this country's economy, to fall by a not insignificant amount.
However, some observers have suggested that the demand that companies bidding take over responsibility for all BEC debt and liabilities and require no government guarantee would essentially exclude most potential bidders from the process.
Confirmation that the generation company (JVCo) is to be "initially majority owned" by the government has surprised some industry players who had expected the joint venture the government had proposed would see it take a minority stake in the entity, Guardian Business understands.
Informed observers have suggested it would create some nervousness among potential bidders, who would be hoping to ensure that their investment is not placed at risk of government interference.
BEC General Manager, Kevin Basden, only recently stated at an energy conference held at the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island that the government's "social obligations" to keep customers' electricity switched on despite non-payment, for example, have been a factor in the high costs suffered by the financially-strapped entity.
Guardian Business understands that a pricing proposal document provided to potential bidders suggests that JVCo's capitalization will "change over time", including with an initial public offering (IPO) taking place at "an agreed time".
Potential bidders have been asked to submit pricing proposals by November 15th in order to remain with a chance of obtaining management contracts for either NewCo (the T&D company) or JVCo (the generation company).
In that document it is suggested that the government intends to "transfer all of the existing generation assets into JVCo" to account for its equity stake in the company, another point which is likely to generate some concerns given questions over to what extent the new company would rely on existing generation assets to create power, as opposed to having to install new generation, and therefore, the ultimate value of these assets.
Part of JVCo's contractual obligation is to agree to installing a certain amount of new generation on New Providence, and there are expectations that this will be part and parcel of achieving many of the cost efficiencies the government is demanding.
Meanwhile, Guardian Business understands the generation company is also being made responsible not only for the cost of generating power, but for the purchase of fuel for the first three years, and commitments to reducing the cost of this input, which has long formed the major component of BEC's costs.
This fuel purchase responsibility has been demanded notwithstanding the fact that under the PPA that will be signed with NewCo, the T&D company, they will be asked to provide a "firm price" for the power they will generate.
This suggests that they would have to provide power at the same cost to JVCo, who will distribute it, notwithstanding any fluctuations in fuel price, which it will be their responsibility to absorb.
With respect to the terms of the contracts to be signed with companies to manage NewCo and JVCo, Guardian Business understands that in the case of both the government intends to execute a 10 year contract.
In each case, it is asking for "significant reductions" in costs to consumers to be generated within the first five years, and overall performance to be improved to that of a "world class utility" within the period of the ten year contract.
Would-be bidders for each contract have been informed that the government will measure their performance according to specific metrics, with "significant weighting" placed on the achievement of "immediate cost savings".
On the generation side, the company to be brought in is being asked to show how it can offer power at a lower cost to customers than the "overall level of estimated cost to the customer" from BEC's generation of power that is said to stand at 29.4 cents per kilowatt hour. This BEC cost includes generation costs (including staff, maintenance, depreciation and interest) at 6.8 cents/kWh, and fuel costs of 22.6 cents/kWh.
The company taking over management of T&D as the JVCo service provider, will be expected to "beat" a current estimated cost to the customer from the current T&D system of 10.9 cents per kilowatt hour, made up of "T&D costs (including staff, maintenance, depreciation and interest)" at 4.9 cents/kWh and "line losses (technical and non-technical)" which are estimated to stand at six cents/kWh.
Guardian Business understands that each proposal will be reviewed by a selection committee, which will perform a "quantitative evaluation" of each proposal, and engage the bidders in "competitive negotiations" before making recommendations to Cabinet on who to select.
Potential proposers are this week said to be meeting with KPMG and undergoing a BEC management presentation, and also doing BEC site visits, as they gather information that they will need to put forward their proposals by November 15th. By November 29th, the government is anticipated to select its preferred bidders, with negotiations then occurring between November and December 2013.
The government is not considering a ban on the export of copper, according to Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis, but will meet with officials from the Department of Customs, Environmental Health and the police to determine if current rules need to be expanded.
This comes after prominent businessman Rupert Roberts and Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) Chairman Leslie Miller urged for a copper export ban to protect businesses and government agencies from theft and financial loss.
Halkitis said while the government has heard their calls, the Christie administration would have to review current policies to determine if a full ban is warranted.
He said regulations mandate that scrap metal dealers have to keep copper in their possession for a certain period and verify the metal's origin. He added that once the copper is loaded onto shipping containers for export, police, Environmental Health officials and customs officers have to be present.
"When the containers are being exported those containers are scanned," he said yesterday. "That is to monitor the legal export of copper. But there's always the possibility that individuals would steal it and smuggle it out of the country."
He said he is organizing a meeting with the relevant officials to determine the success of the regulations.
"Then we will make a determination as to if we need to tighten up or if we need to make considerations for any sort of ban. As of now, no ban is being considered by the government."
In March, Miller said copper thieves caused local businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. He also said any scrap metal dealer who buys stolen metal should be locked up.
He also revealed that BEC has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of copper and equipment due to theft. His family-owned business, Mario's Entertainment Palace, has also been robbed of copper, he added.
Roberts has said his stores have lost almost $1 million in equipment and other costs associated with copper theft.
He explained that he has done what he could to prevent layoffs or permanent store closures because of repeated attacks from thieves.
In July 2011, the Ingraham administration placed a temporary ban on the scrap metal trade and a permanent ban on copper exports in response to the rise in copper theft.
The former government later lifted the copper ban and amended the Customs Management Act to allow for copper exports under stringent conditions.
Police still do not know what caused a fire that led to the death of a five-month-old girl on Mother's Day, according to Director of Fire Services Superintendent Walter Evans.
Evans said police are still investigating the tragedy and will not release many details about the case. He also could not say if he expected any charges to be filed in connection to the child's death. When asked if the child was left unattended at the time of the fire or was at home with loved ones, Evans said he would release that information at a later date.
He added that the family is helping police in their investigation.
"We are getting assistance but bear in mind they lost a loved one," he said. "Certainly they are grieving."
Evans said he expected to be able to release more information on the investigation by this afternoon.
The infant was killed in a fire that gutted an apartment building on Exuma Street in The Grove.
Police said the child's uncle tried in vain to rescue her from the flames.
"Due to the intense heat he was unsuccessful in his
attempt and as a result of that he received some injury to his right arm," Evans said on the scene.
When firemen arrived at the scene they met the top of the two-story building on fire. The flames were put out and firefighters found the infant's remains.
Evans said the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) was called in to disconnect the power at the house for the safety of the fire fighters.
Distraught family members crowded the scene opposite the charred apartment.
A relative of the infant identified her as Satiya Cooper.
Her mother, identified as Satanya, was inconsolable at the scene. After speaking with police, she walked to the side of the home with a friend and held her head before breaking down.
While the government has requested an additional $65 million from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to complete the road works, it could take time before the financing is approved.
Members of the IDB technical team are expected to fly into the country next week to assess the status of the project and decide whether to award the additional funds.
An exact breakdown of the requirements and meetings with the supervising contractor will take place, according to Astrid Wynter, the IDB representative for The Bahamas.
After the assessment, she said approval could be given sometime in the first quarter.
"I can't speak for the board, but I think the project, as long as it meets criteria for approval and is justified, and has a positive development impact, should be approved," she added. "In this case, when you look at the project, how could it not be completed?"
Wynter told Guardian Business a study is now being prepared to assess the challenges faced by this country and
other nations in the Caribbean when it comes to roads and public infrastructure projects of this nature.
Pointing out that one of the major challenges of the controversial New Providence Road Improvement Project was the unmapped utilities found underground, the IDB representative said the study, due out this year, will provide recommendations and solutions to prevent future disasters.
On Tuesday, Guardian Business reported that Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, during a speech in the House of Assembly, revealed the $119.9 million project has now ballooned to $206 million.
In addition to swelling well above budget, the road works are far behind schedule and have impacted many local businesses.
Ingraham pledged tax breaks or grants for entrepreneurs affected by the works.
In response to these latest developments, the IDB representative told Guardian Business most road works in older urban areas can lead to this kind of confusion, because "you don't know what you'll find when you dig up".
"We are looking at a study where urban road projects have occurred, which have common themes. Especially in older cities, you don't know what is underground, There is no mapping of utilities,"Wynter said.
The Bahamas will feature prominently in the study.
Among the recommendations that could emerge from the study, she noted, is subterranean mapping and greater contingency planning.
The comments came at the official launch of the 2012 IDEAS Energy Innovation Competition at the British Colonial Hilton yesterday.
Funded by the UK Department of International Development, the Global Village Energy Partnership, the IDB and the South Korean government, up to $2 million is now on offer as grants to individuals and companies in the competition.
Each project, focusing on energy efficiency or innovation, could be awarded as much as $200,000. Wynter noted that since the program was introduced in 2009, only two Caribbean countries have ever been approved. The Bahamas has never been awarded a grant.
"Given that energy is essential to almost every activity, and given that we don't set the prices for fossil fuels, it makes us extremely vulnerable in the Caribbean in particular to price escalation, and those escalations lead to the rise in the cost of food," she explained.
"If we can make energy available on a sustainable and renewable basis, that will alleviate poverty."
The IDB and the Ministry of the Environment are now in the middle of four technical agreements worth $2.9 million to strength the local energy sector, introduce new technologies and improve efficiency. Approximately 68 percent of the $2.9 million has been spent.
Coming up with an expansion plan for the Bahamas Electricity Corporation, and installing solar water heaters on government housing on the Family Islands, are just two components in the mult-million-dollar technical agreements. Though only in the pilot stage, Wynter said they have potential to become part of government policy over time.
The Bahamas Electricity Corporation's (BEC) "more restricted" electricity assistance program will only work if management is held accountable for collecting payments, former BEC Executive Chairman Michael Moss said yesterday.
"In my view, the program proposed by the PLP (Progressive Liberal Party) can also work, but will only do so if capable, conscientious, competent individuals - more specifically, those managers with responsibility for credit and collections activities - are held accountable for effective management of the activity," he told The Nassau Guardian.
Moss, who served as BEC chairman under the last Ingraham administration, said he believes the best way for the government to assist customers without electricity is to issue them a voucher similar to other social assistance programs, instead of providing a directive to the corporation.
As recently revealed by The Nassau Guardian the government intends to reconnect the electricity supplies of more than 7,000 residential customers by June 1.
BEC Executive Chairman Leslie Miller, who made the announcement on May 9, said all customers on the new plan must keep up with their future bills once connected, and could even receive a five to 10 percent reduction on the outstanding bill.
Customers who owe between $2,000 and $4,000 will be required to pay 20 to 25 percent of their bill.
The corporation's records indicate that the majority of those disconnected customers have bills under $2,000, according to Miller.
Months ahead of the 2012 general election the Free National Movement (FNM) initiated an electricity assistance program to assist thousands of customers without electricity.
Miller has claimed almost 50 percent of customers on that program did not need to utilize it to the extent they did.
He said customers, many of whom were in the "upper income bracket", ultimately had a negative impact on BEC's bottom line.
But Moss insisted yesterday that the majority of customers whose electricity was restored had been disconnected for months, and in some cases years.
"Only a handful would have been disconnected and without electricity service for days and weeks," the former chairman said.
"I seriously doubt there would have been persons in the upper income bracket and [who] 'could afford to pay' who would have remained without electricity service for such extended periods, as to be included in the 5,000."
Customers on the earlier program were required to make a payment on their outstanding bill before reconnection, keep up to date with future bills, and continue paying down on the outstanding balance up to a three-year period.
The reconnection fee of $20 was waivered.
The PLP has suggested the earlier program was an election ploy.
Moss pointed out some irregularities on the last program. He said while he has no evidence, "based on what I now understand transpired, some individuals whose supplies were off were reconnected without paying anything.
"Others who failed to pay new bills in full were not immediately disconnected," he said.
"Certain individuals whose supplies were still on at the time the mandate was issued, were allowed to run up significant balances prior to being disconnected and were then extended similarly, [on] generous payment terms."
The new assistance program does not apply to commercial customers.
Amid ongoing talks between the government and the Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU), the labor body that represents Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) line staff, BEWU president Stephano Greene expressed confidence that a recently fired employee would be reinstated.
"We are confident because we feel the government is not in the mood for releasing Bahamians from jobs and just letting people go home for what we call for no reason," he said.
"That's not the government's position. The government is about securing jobs, finding jobs for Bahamians and making sure that the standard of living for Bahamians does not deteriorate, and we have gotten that from the government... With that assurance and speaking with the prime minister, speaking with the deputy prime minister, we feel the right thing will be done."
The union staged a heated protest on last week over accounts clerk Melinda Cunningham's firing and the suspension of BEWU chief shop steward Michael Edgecombe.
When senior police officers arrived at BEC's headquarters on Baillou Hill Road, a shoving match ensued.
Greene recently met with Prime Minister Perry Christie, Labour Minister Shane Gibson and Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis.
He said on Wednesday that the union has had several meetings with labor representatives this week, and Cunningham could have "justice" in short order.
Minister of Labour and National Insurance Shane Gibson told reporters on Tuesday that BEWU workers who walked off the job should expect a deduction from their pay.
In response, Greene said whatever the end result is the union is more than willing to accept the pay cut and will not fight the decision, though it is seeking to find an alternative.
"Once the members decide to withdraw their labor or the union decides to withdraw its labor usually that comes with some consequences, and for the most part the union is aware of what those consequences are," he said.
"And for the most part if you don't work you don't get paid and that is the natural order.
"But the union's position however, is that in the best interests of the corporation and its members you always try to negotiate the best deal and this would be no different."
Union and BEC officials have estimated that 150 workers took part in the industrial action.
Gibson could not be reached for comment.