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posted 4 Apr 2018, 11:01 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 4 Apr 2018, 11:07 ]
The National Workers Union issued the following statement on April 4th 2018.

Working people and the poor in T&T are faced with more and more pressure as the government seeks to make up for the tremendous loss in revenue from the energy companies (from $20 billion to $1 billion), by picking the pockets of those who could least afford to suffer a drop in income.

The National Workers Union (NWU) alerts the population to the move by the government to raise utility rates, more particularly to raise rates charged by the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA). Along with increase in water rates the intention is to, once again, eliminate jobs at the public utility.

At the Joint Select Committee of Parliament on 28th March 2018, WASA Chairman Romney Thomas lamented that rates were “unusually low”, which was one of the reasons for lack of profitability. He also argues that higher costs and low tariffs mean that there are less funds for investment. WASA officials also argued that the intention was to transform WASA to operate independent of subventions.

WASA argues that water usage is “excessive” because it is cheap and actually leads to higher costs for WASA. They didn’t add that one third of WASA’s production does not reach the consumer, but is allowed to leak all over the place, though they did admit that only 20 percent of homes receive pipe-borne water every day. This figure is at variance with Minister Le Hunte’s figure of 38%.

In addition to subsidising WASA to the tune of $3billion per year, citizens, who can afford it, have had to install water tanks and now those who can afford and those who can’t are being made to pay increased rates.

This same WASA has become a happy hunting ground for contractors and suppliers. This is how the financiers, suppliers, contractors, friends and families of the politicians thrive. Corruption is the lifeblood of the economic system in T&T.

This is the same WASA that hires private contractors to make 47,000 truck borne deliveries per year at a cost of $18,800,000 and some of these contractors turn around and put a surcharge on consumers. This is the same WASA that gave a consultant a US$70,000 contract to prepare a business plan to submit to the Regulated Industries Commission (RIC) because it did not have the competence to do it in house!

This is the same WASA that signed an agreement valued at US$594,280 ($3,833,106) with Spanish firm Aquagest Solutions (a subsidiary of Agbar), for the provision of consultancy services for the design, preparation and presentation of an operational transformation plan for the utility.

WASA has also entered into an agreement with a Ugandan firm at a cost of US$309,325 for the development of a performance improvement plan for WASA that includes staff training, development of a decentralisation strategy and the development of successor annual plans. Everybody benefits from by feeding on WASA, like corbeaus on a corpse, except working people and the poor.

So, in addition to the hefty subsidy, the spending of money on water tanks, the overpaying of corrupt contracts, we now are going to be forced to pay increased water rates. Don’t forget that WASA has taken loans to the tune of US$600,000,000 from the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) for the Waste Water Rehabilitation Project which citizens also have to pay back.

Dr. James Lee Young, Chairman of the Regulated Industries Commission, former head of the Energy Chamber wants WASA to eliminate jobs.
James Lee Young, Executive Director of the Regulated Industries Commission (RIC) to which WASA must apply for a rate increase, told the JSC that WASA has a poor rating for efficiency. He defines efficiency not as WASA’s ability to supply a safe and reliable supply of pipe-borne water but in the number of employees per thousand connections. He claims WASA has 12-13 employees per thousand connections and that top companies have 3-4 employees per thousand connections.

What Lee Young is doing is setting the stage for implementing the conditionalities contained in the IDB loan. US$50 million of the loan is for the re-organization of WASA. According to the IDB, the plan is to “decrease the number of employee per 1,000 connections from 12.5 in 2011 to 5.8 in 2016.” This means that more than half of WASA’s workforce in 2011 was supposed to have been eliminated by 2016.

According to the Program annex to the loan “2.03 …The activities financed through this component will include: (i) support to the implementation of transformational actions concerning the organizational structure, financing voluntary selection separation plans; and (ii) voluntary vocational training for employees accepting the separation plan.”

The loan proposal states “the economic regulator has issued a new methodology that will allow WASA to update its tariffs; and WASA’s Board has approved a strategic plan to transform WASA into an autonomous commercially run company with a strong corporate governance.”

This is a clear signal that when WASA applies to the RIC for a rate increase, a major consideration by the RIC is going to be how many workers per connection does WASA have? With the Rowley government pushing the envelope because we ent riot yet, it is clear that the government intends to implement the conditionalities contained in the contracts with the IDB.

Working people and the poor must not allow this further burden to be placed on our shoulders in addition to their plans to raise electricity rates and to sell as much of the publicly owned assets as they can.

The National Workers Union urges community organisations, trade unions, non-governmental organisations, professional groups and citizens at large to organise themselves to prevent the increase of utility rates. It can be done with co-ordination and unity. It is high time that the working people and the poor take direct action to protect and defend their interests and stop expecting sell out politicians and confidence tricksters to do so.

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Gerry Kangalee (National Education and Research Officer – Cell: 785-7637