Jamaicans brace for possible water rate increase

Jamaica’s National Water Commission loses big to theft, leaks.

KINGSTON — The National Water Commission said yesterday that it will seek a tarrif review later this month, which could result in an increase in water rates by early next year.

The commission’s vice-president for human resource and administration, Harold Minott, told Parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee that the state-run water company is being constrained by the current rates.

“The last tariff review was done in 2008, and while the cost of water production and distribution has gone north, we have had to hold water rates for quite some time, while our costs are going up,” Minott informed the PAAC.

“We are developing a tarrif review that will be submitted to the OUR (Office of Utilities Regulation) [because] we find that we are severely constrained and hampered by the current rates for water vis-?†-vis the cost of producing and distributing water,” he added.

However, Minott’s declaration was not welcome news to PAAC members who felt that, although water rates are relatively low compared to that of other utilities, the cost of the NWC’s inefficiencies should not be passed on to the consumers.

32 per cent paid for

It was disclosed that only 32 per cent of the water distributed by the NWC is paid for, as the other 68 per cent is shared between water lost to leaks and the quantity that is stolen. The commission was unable to say how much “social water”, which includes standpipes and free sewage services, is factored into the equation.

Member of parliament for North West Manchester, Mikhael Phillips, said that it was unfair for the NWC to be seeking to increase rates while sitting on over $8 billion in loan funds slated for improvements in its service across the island.

Phillips pointed out that the commission had only spent $2.5 billion, or less than 20 per cent, of the $10.7 billion it had acquired to complete 11 projects in its 2012/13 capital programme.

He criticised the NWC for “talking about tarrif review, when you are not doing the things that ought to be done to bring in additional revenue”, including expanding its service into more rural communities. (Observer)

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