APNU scrambles to avoid “tariff deal” backlash

Demerara Waves – April 19, 2012

Deal or no deal, Lindeners will be paying more for electricity from July, according to Prime Minister Samuel Hinds.

His assertion came after the APNU went into damage control mode Thursday night in the wake of a statement he made in parliament announcing the opposition coalition’s recognition of the need for electricity tariff increases in meetings with President Donald Ramotar Thursday morning. 

“It was also agreed that the tariff adjustment will proceed from 2012, guided by the principles of gradualism and selectivity,” Hinds said shortly after the sitting began around 2 PM.

Following the PM’s announcement feedback from Linden showed that residents there believed that the APNU had sold them out and similar sentiments surfaced on social media sites Twitter and Facebook.

In an invited comment around 4.30 PM APNU Chairman David Granger denied the charge saying that they went to the meetings with all the concerns Lindeners had raised and were able to come away with government commitments to address the economic, health and communication needs of the community and wider Region 10.

“Linden’s future, Linden’s interests are being guaranteed by the position that APNU took,” Granger said, adding that he does not believe that Lindeners will have to protest again like they did in their thousands on Wednesday.

In justifying the APNU’s position at the time he said that the problems in Linden went beyond the tariff increases and must be looked at holistically. Granger added that even the people in Linden know that “sooner or later” they must pay the same for electricity as the rest of the country.

At no time during that interview did he dispute the Prime Minister’s remark that tariff increase would start this year though he did say that they were still to agree on a payment formula and pointed out Hinds’ remark that it would be a gradual process.

Based on the PM’s unchallenged statement in the National Assembly and Granger’s subsequent statements Demerara Waves and other media houses began reporting that the APNU and government had struck a deal which included the tariff increases from July as the government had previously announced.

But amidst growing disquiet from the mining community APNU representatives called a hasty news briefing on the sidelines of the parliamentary session around 7.15 PM to say there was no deal. At that time Granger was joined by APNU’s Region 10 representatives Renis Morian and Vanessa Kissoon.

“There’s no deal to accept the imposition of the tariffs, what we did arrange with the administration is to advance the interest of the Linden people … when we feel that Linden is on its  feet, when the Lindeners themselves are capable of living proper economic lives then we’ll consider the introduction of tariffs,” Granger stated.

He added that he does not see the tariffs being implemented before the other measures they agreed on are in place. Morian stated it more baldly.

“There will not be increase in tariffs in 2012, there will be no increase in tariffs in Region 10 in July,” he declared. When asked if that was the commitment from government Granger responded that he had asked the Prime Minister for a timetable which could be as much as two years.

At the end of the sitting around 10 PM reporters sought some clarity from the Prime Minister and he stated that as far as he knew the increases were coming from July like the government had intended.

“I’m aware of my statement which I think is a true and faithful summary of our discussion this morning,” he said also acknowledging the intention to let the increases be gradual.

“From July, that is the position of the government, that from July tariffs would be raised.”

Hinds had stated earlier this month that customers will only pay half of the bill as calculated for the remainder of 2012 while bauxite pensioners will receive the first 100kWh each month free and pay for half of whatever is over that amount for the rest of the year.

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