On Wednesday, December 2nd the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) closed the date for submission of objection for the initial approval of 10.6% increase in water services. But before the deadline for objections, islanders took their objections to the street on Friday, November 27th in the form of a protest. Close to 100 private citizens gathered at the Central Park with placards in hands displaying messages that clearly rejecting PUC’s approval in water increase.
According to the citizens, objection and rejection of the increase was based on six main grounds. Those reasons were outlined in a letter which was sent to the PUC. Those reasons as out lined are primarily because of: 1) Many Belizeans are out of a job as the unemployment rate continues to steadily increase. An increase in water rate will only add more to the burden that families are facing as they go through unemployment. 2) Cost of living is too high and many families are living on a minimum salary and are hardly making ends meet. Until the relevant authorities address the issue of “high cost of living” then we are willing to consider an increase in water service. 3) The country is in a recession and until the economic indicators suggests otherwise then we are not accepting an increase. 4) We are of the strong belief that water consumers should not pay for any expansion project that BWSL wants to implement. BWSL is in the business of making a profit and that profit should be allotted for expansion projects. 5) Residents of San Pedro are paying in excess of $22 per 1000 gallons of water as compared to other parts of the country that pay less than $9 for the same amount; hence we are not willing to pay a cent more for water services on Ambergris Caye. 6) Water is a basic necessity and it should not be used as a profit making business. Hence the government’s responsibility is to ensure that consumers pay the minimum rate on basic necessity such as water.
A list of over 500 signatures was attached with the letter that was sent to the PUC and copied to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. If the objections are not accepted and taken into consideration, there is a plan to stage a protest at the next sitting of the House of Representative in Belmopan, scheduled for December 11th. The PUC stated that if no objections were received, the new increase would come into effect at the beginning of the next fiscal year which starts on April 1st, 2010.