KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – The new rates for water and waste disposal services announced on Tuesday left former manager of the Central Water and Sewerage Authority (CWSA), opposition legislator Daniel Cummings crying “Murder! Injustice!” yesterday.
Cummings, of the New Democratic Party, said at a media briefing that the government should not implement the new rates, which come into effect next month.
He said that the Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration should instead meet its obligations to the CWSA and increase the EC$1.4 million annual subvention.
Seventy-five per cent of CWSA customers will next month begin paying increases of at least EC$5, the second price hike since the ULP came to office in 2001.
However, the government will not be asked to pay more to the state-owned company, which it owes just under EC$3 million, CWSA manager Garth Saunders said on Tuesday.
Government facilities consume about EC$5 million in water a year while the government pays an EC$1.4 million annual subvention, according to Saunders.
“Consumers have done enough. Remove that adjustment to the water rates now!” Cummings said.
“The government is the largest customer and it is not paying,” said Cummings, who last week told Parliament that the government owed the CWSA EC$3 million, which Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves denied.
“When CWSA adjusts its rates, it comes three-pronged,” said Cummings, who noted that the basic charge — which customers pay even if they don’t use any water – will also be increased.
“That should be only adjusted very incrementally. But you find that it has a big jump because that is an easy revenue base. Secondly, your consumption charges go up depending on your level of consumption and, thirdly, the solid waste fee,” the Member of Parliament for West Kingstown said.
“Once you have a water connection, whether or not the truck comes in your area, you have to pay solid waste fee. That’s going up, too. So it’s a three-pronged increase on every bill. Bear that in mind,” said Cummings the opposition spokesperson for water resources.
“So they can talk and dance on the head of a pin. It’s when you get your bill at the end of February you’d understand what I am talking about. It’s substantial increase at a time when yo’ can’t buy butter bread,” Cummings further stated.
As far as Cummings is concerned, government facilities use about EC$12 million worth of water every year but the state still does not pay the total EC$1.4 million subvention.
“I am saying if the government even pays half of that — EC$5 or EC$6 million a year — the CWSA would be in a much better position and you and I will be able to continue to pay rates as we are paying today,” he said.
Cummings further said the new rates are 15 per cent and 20 per cent higher than the current ones.
“And they can coin it in all kinds of fashion. It is a substantial increase at a most inopportune time. A time when businesses are closing, when people can’t send their children to school. I have never come face to face with a situation like this.
“This government put an increase in 2007 already since they came to power … now, they’re coming back, not a 10 per cent, not a 5 per cent; 15 per cent now? I say oh God no! Murder! Injustice! Not acceptable!” Cummings said.