Princes Town MP Barry Padarath said there are signals from the Government that it has a “time stamp” of June 2024 to complete the entire process of a WASA rate review through the Regulated Industries Commission.
Padarath indicated this in Parliament on Wednesday during the 2024 Budget debate. He said Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales’ contribution to the debate “was as dry and empty just like our taps – he said nothing !”
Padarath added, “Yet one of the most troubling and deeply distressing issues to citizens across the length and breadth of this country has been the water crisis. The dry taps, empty tanks, empty barrels and empty buckets have wreaked havoc and severe hardships on many communities for weeks and in some instances for months…it’s a real crisis many have painstakingly felt, especially in areas where it continues up to today.”
Padarath dismissed Gonzales’ plans for water supply improvement as “spin” and also was sceptical about plans to commission and refurbish wells.
“The repeated promises of new wells in Freeport and others in Tucker Valley, Clarke Road and Chatham were once more articulated by the minister. These are promises from over the past eight years that have never materialised. How many new wells have been successfully completed and how much additional water supply will these new wells contribute to the national grid? The answer is none!” Padarath said.
He said the intervening time period between the project’s start and finish would result in the closure of businesses, destruction of crops and loss of animals. Padarath also said that for booster stations to be effective, water was needed.
He said Government has signalled that it is giving a June 2024 “timestamp” to complete the entire process of a WASA rate review through the RIC.
Padarath added, “Will this rate review take into consideration that T&TEC is owed $1.4 billion by the State and WASA’s debt to T&TEC accounts for $834 million of that $1.4 billion?
“Will this rate review take into consideration that by WASA’s own admission that 50 per cent of potable water is lost through leaks and therefore never reaches consumers? Will the rate hike take into consideration that thousands of citizens pay WASA bills and do not get pipe borne water for weeks and months. Would this rate review take into consideration that many ministries, Government agencies and State enterprises owe WASA millions of dollars yet the small man is being penalised?”
Padarath asked if Budget statements on WASA’s new business plan involved code for its employees “getting the axe, whether this is code for fluff and no action and whether this is code for mega spending without any accountability.
“I call on the minister to lay WASA’s business plan in Parliament since it will affect over 5000 employees and an investment of over 1.4 billion dollars in capital infrastructure.”
Padarath also asked if the RIC – in determining T&TEC’s rate review- had considered the $1.4B debt owed by State agencies to T&TEC. He reiterated that WASA owes T&TEC $834m, Petrotrin ($147m), Udecott $101m), Education($60m), Housing ($34m), THA ($23m), and National Security ($4m).
He said the Budget is best described as: “A ‘death trap’ and a debt trap with no exit strategies…it gives you two dollars more in minimum wage but burdens you with higher water rates, higher electricity rates, property tax.
“If we’re to take the minister’s promises of growth then we too become like the proverbial horse. But while we know in local parlance that while the grass is growing the horse is starving, we have now reached the point where the horse is now dead -and you killed it.”