New water rates went into effect on Thursday – and by the time
your next bill arrives, you should see an increase of about 12.1% - which means
if your bill was $100.00 with the same consumption, it will be $112. The PUC
agreed the 12.1% average increase after BWSL asked for a 24% increase. Today
the PUC explained how it moderated BWSL’s needs against the needs of consumers.
Jim McFadzean Reporting,
A deteriorating infrastructure, maintaining BWSL’s viability and the PUC
reaching out to the small shareholders of a major utility company - those were
three of the main reasons for the 12.1% increase granted the Belize Water Services
Limited, which took effect the first of this month. And so come the next billing
period, consumers should expect to see a jump in their monthly water bill.
Leroy Almendarez, Director of Admin and Tariffs
“It is not a 12.1 cent increase on the dollar, it is basically based
on what your consumption level is since it is applied across all bands. There
are several things we have to look out because we must balance the interests
of all stakeholders. The viability of the utility provider is also important.”
The PUC says the measured increase comes after a revised look at what the commission
felt was the minimum investment capital needed by BWSL to address those critical
expansion and necessary maintenance needed to ensure the effective and reliable distribution of water and sewerage services to its consumers.
“The expansion is not concentrated in any one district. It addresses
from Corozal to Toledo. If we were to approve any capital expenditure greater
than that then it would have meant an increase more than the 12.1%.”
Eugene Cleland, Director of Water and Waste
“BWSL has not been doing any maintenance lately, primarily because
of cash flow constraints. So the commission made a conscious decision to approve
a significant portion of the investment which is for improvements to the existing
infrastructure, putting in reservoirs to improve pressure and improve infrastructure
to reduce losses.”
A BWSL representative told us that the commission’s decision will greatly
limit its ability to expand its infrastructure making it unable to respond effectively
in natural disaster situations such as hurricanes. Almendarez says the commission
had to take into consideration BWSL’s financing options.
“Based on the economic situation that presently exists, we figured
by adopting or by approving that 40.45 because it comes with a rate of return,
by adopting that it gives them a level of financial ability that they will be
able to finance their operations etc. equitable and that is surely saying that
it is somehow dependent on the internal operations. They can still get external
funding but we do not want that to be the restricting factor.”
BWSL’s increased rates come amidst a global recession and the GST hike.
But it’s not all bad news says the PUC.
“You have fees like reconnection fee, transfer fee, water connection
fees. Those fees never did change. And so in deliberating our decision and to
further expounding on what Leroy said to the gentleman there, the commission
decided not to increase these fees. So we didn’t touch these fees at all.”
The commission also approved $40 million in investments to be applied
over the full tariff period. PUC will review BWSL’s performance annually
and make any necessary adjustments.