OPPOSITION Senator Wade Mark in the Senate on Tuesday called for the resignation of Regulated Industries Commission (RIC) chairman Dr Hyacinth Guy for hinting at rate hikes for water and electricity supplies ahead of any public consultation being completed.
His call came in a motion on the adjournment of the Senate. “How does she know there will be an increase in rates,” he asked. Mark also hit Minister of Public Utilities Robert Le Hunte for insinuating that rate-hikes are to be expected in an online news source on October 11, titled: “Minister: TT too dependent on Government subsidy”.
Mark said last December in a newspaper story the minister also promised “rate increases coming next year.” Saying a minister must be independent while the RIC does its public consultations, Mark asked, “Is Hyacinth Guy a puppet, a stooge or a fool of the Government?” Mark also hit Finance Minister Colm Imbert for jumping into the dance, in a news article where he said, “The new rate will be imposed in 2018.”
Mark also quoted Guy herself as projecting rate hikes ahead of consultations. He stormed, “Not a consultation has been held on WASA increases or TTEC increases and here you have the RIC chairman Hyacinth Guy telling the population what the targets are? How does the lady know after the consultations there will be an increase in rates? Have we lost our marbles?”
Le Hunte replied by recalling his previous statement in the last National Budget debate that ministers cannot raise rates, but only the RIC, and only do this after holding consultations. He also recalled once saying the inefficiencies of the producers of water and electricity are not passed on to consumers.
He said the rates charged in TT are among the lowest in the world, which he linked to huge wastage. “Everyime we commission lights in public spaces I have urged people to conserve electricity.” Le Hunte said the average TT national uses four to five times as much water recommended by the United Nations, in contrast to the deprivation of water of 700 million people in 43 countries, a figure expected to rise to 1.8 billion by the year 2025.
“We as a nation must address our patterns of conservation and how we treat with our resources.” He recalled Imbert once saying people don’t appreciate heaviliy-subsidised services, adding, “It cannot be business as usual.”
Le Hunte said the rates set by the RIC according to a utility’s service-levels, which he is seeking to improve. Le Hunte told people to expect a “rate review” not a rate increase. Le Hunte said the RIC and its Board are independent as protected by statute.