PUBLIC Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales, Finance Minister Colm Imbert and National Security Minister have denied a suggestion by the Opposition that it appears government intends to increase water rates by 300 per cent.
During a meeting of the Standing Finance Committee of the House of Representatives, Gonzales said the UNC was “trying to make statements to grab headlines.”
The committee was considering the allocation of $2,202,016,400 to the Ministry of National Security, and questions were being asked about $30,000 budgeted for water for the ministry in 2022.
Gonzales said, “Any review of the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) rates..that is a matter for the Regulated Industries Commission (RIC).
"There is a process. The government is not responsible in law for setting rates for electricity and water. The RIC will do its work and a recommendation will be made to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago."
The Government, he continued, "will decide what subsidy structure will be put in place to protect the weak and vulnerable people in society."
Government MPs thumped their desk as Gonzales said, "I reject any attempt to create any narrative in the national community that there is an attempt to increase water rates by 300 per cent."
Hinds said this is why he asked UNC MPs to look closely at what they were reading.
"The scaremongering I am seeing here is not helpful."
Naparima MP Rodney Charles claimed figures in the Draft Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure were wrong.
"Let us throw away the book. The book is of no use."
Imbert supported Hinds. He said the figure quoted by Hinds was $2,500 per month for the ministry to pay for water.
"It is not unreasonable and is no indication whatsoever, that there will be an increase in water rates."
While there could be arrears with respect to payments for water, Imbert said, "It is not unusual for ministries and agencies to be in arrears to WASA."
He said there is a sum of $1 million in arrears from the public and private sector to WASA.