November 08, 2018
Given the circumstances that have given rise to the temporary spike in the fuel surcharge component of consumers’ electricity bills, the government is mindful of the impact that this increase has on all Bahamians – but especially on the poorest and most vulnerable.
This situation is a legitimate issue for every Bahamian. However there are a small few who are seeking to make political mischief out of a serious situation who know full well the set of circumstances that have built up over several decades that have led us to this point – and who also know that THIS administration is the one that is putting in place the plan to address it.
Mr. Speaker, you would recall that the government in the 2018/2019 Budget provisions made allowance that would exempt Bahamians whose monthly bills were under $200 from the payment of VAT.
This was and remains a deliberate policy initiative to assist Bahamians of modest means.
This recent temporary spike in fuel surcharge has unfortunately put a number of the qualifying customers over the $200 threshold.
Thus, I today advise the Honorable House that the Government will be moving an amendment to the law to allow for a temporary increase in the VAT exempt ceiling from $200 a month up to $300 per month through the end of the fiscal year – that being June 2019. This will be made effective for December 2018 and will show up in the January billing cycles.
The trends in the cost of the delivery of electricity will inform any decision to extend the increased exemption ceiling into the new fiscal year beginning July 2019.
Additionally, I have requested the Minister responsible for BPL and the BPL team to review and report back to Cabinet on the full range of options open to the government to address this temporary spike in electricity bills – even as we execute the longer term strategy to reduce energy costs in The Bahamas.
Finally, I wish to assure The Bahamian public that I remain resolute in the need for the country to substantially reduce its energy costs and the undue burden it places on Bahamian citizens and on the cost of doing business in The Bahamas. We WILL continue to explore the reduction of energy cost.
We WILL make a substantial transition to solar and other renewable energy supplies.
You will hear much more about these plans and strategies in the coming months.