With the state-run National Petroleum Corporation (NPC) currently projecting a loss of about $4.7 million next year, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart Friday warned ahead of Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler’s much-anticipated Budget presentation later this month that “some kind of rate increase” would be coming to help NPC meet its financial obligations and effectively carry out its mandate.
Leading off parliamentary debate on the NPC bill, Stuart further warned that the proposed amendments to the Act, which also make provision for penalties for breaches to its provisions, were “non-negotiable” at this stage.
“We have to take into consideration a debt which it owes to the BNOCL [Barbados National Oil Company Limited], which at present stands in excess of $11 million and its inability too, to service, maintain, replace and or reposition old and unsecure pipeline infrastructure,” the prime minister said, while lamenting that the state-run entity had been forced to function under “crippling revenue circumstances”.
“What we are doing here today was being requested by the National Petroleum Corporation for a number of years going back to the year 2000. But certainly from 2005 initiatives were being put forward so that what we are attempting to do here today could be done, but those initiatives were not entertained,” Stuart said, in making it clear that the problems were inherited by his ruling Democratic Labour Party, which came to office in 2008.
Residents were first put on notice of a rate increase in natural gas prices last month, when Minister of Industry and Commerce Donville Inniss disclosed that the ministries of finance and energy were in the final stages of discussions on the matter.
Currently, consumers pay a monthly rate which consists of a consumption charge of $1.48 per cubic metre, a fixed charge of $3.00 per month for each domestic meter, and 17.5 per cent Value Added Tax, with a ten per cent discount given for bills settled within 15 days of the due date.