It’s either privatization or an increase in water rates!
That was the warning issued last night by economist Jeremy Stephen during a University of the West Indies-sponsored panel discussion on The Future Of Water In Barbados in the Henry Fraser Lecture Theatre.
Speaking ahead of today’s observance of World Water Day, Stephen, who is the president of the Barbados Economic Society, warned that the BWA needed to generate more money from its domestic supply of water to Barbadian households and commercial entities, while pointing to declining Government financial support to the public utility, which moved from $130 million in 2015 to $32 million this year, with only $19 million allocated for next year.
“I shudder at the thought if it doesn’t raise prices,” Stephen said, while suggesting that some form of tax relief would have to be given to low income earners.
“The Water Authority, sooner or later, has to push for price increases if it is going to maintain the cost of operating and be a smaller drain on Government’s purse strings,” he stressed.
Given its current economic dilemma, the economist advised that Barbadians may have to “pay more for now [and] ask less questions later . . . if [they] don’t want the privatization of water”, which he said was “one of the worst things that could happen if it mirrors the BNTCL [oil] deal”.
He also suggested that Government had missed an opportunity to generate money for potable water supply when in 2014 it introduced a Municipal Solid Waste Tax but had to repeal it the following year, after Barbadians protested.
This tax had applied to all real estate property owners with no exemptions, and a levy was affixed based on the size of the land.
“What would have been better, in terms of revenue-raising ability for the Government would be to put it on water bills,” Stephen said.
“People would have conserved a lot better,” he contended.
“Government would have been affecting real change in human behaviour and creating revenue to allow for fiscal incentives for [investment in] . . . brackish and salt water plants,” the economist added.