Minister of Maritime Affairs and Economy Kirk Humphrey says an increase of $1.50 per day on water bills is negligible when compared to the benefits of effectively and efficiently run social services.
In his contribution today to the parliamentary debate on the $1.2 billion austerity Budget unveiled yesterday by Prime Minister Mia Mottley, Humphrey said the new water tax is preferrable to “driving through sewage on the streets, irregular garbage collection and the continuation of persons suffering the indignity of using pit toilets”.
The first-time parliamentarian, who defeated incumbent Prime Minister Freundel Stuart in St Michael South in last month’s general election, acknowledged that there would be concerns about the approximately $45 monthly increase in water bills.
However, he said it was needed to fix the troubling sewage problems and to help fund other social services.
“I am aware that there are some people who are concerned that we have had to put measures in place to fix the sewage system. In total the increase would come to about $45 or so per month. I want them to compare $45 per month to not being able to educate their children at the university, to having to wait several hours at the bus stop not being able to get a bus or to continue to drive and walkthrough sewage on the streets. Compare $45 to the indignity of having to use a pit toilet. I am grateful that this Government has addressed all these issues in this Budget,” Humphrey said.
Mottley told Barbadians yesterday that to fund the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) after its removal from the Consolidated Fund, Government would impose a new Garbage and Sewage Contribution (GSC) tax effective August 1, 2018, to be collected by the Barbados Water Authority.
The Prime Minister explained that the sewage connection fees are currently only paid by residents of Bridgetown and the south coast.
Under the new proposal, all households will be required to pay the equivalent of $1.50 per day – 75 cents a day for pensioners living alone – while the GSC for commercial entities will be 50 per cent of their water bill.
Almost all of the fee ($1.25) will go towards funding the SSA, while 50 per cent of the fee for commercial entities will be paid to the SSA, with the remainder going to the BWA to offset the operational costs of the sewage systems.
In an analysis of the so-called mini Budget, multinational professional services firm Ernst & Young said the average water bill would increase by $547 annually, while water bills for non-contributory pensioners would rise by $237.75 a year.
However, Humphrey argued that while some persons had a right to be upset over the austerity measures inflicted upon the country, they should bear in mind that the bitter medicine was necessary to correct the economic malpractice of the last administration.
He compared the situation to that of a patient who had a broken arm that has since healed by the bones had not been set back correctly.
“The doctor now has to break that hand again to set the bones correctly. He understands that the pain that he must now endure is not the fault of the doctor.
“It is the same way that Barbadians understand that they must now endure some pain to ensure that we can fix the economic problems created by the last administration,” Humphrey stressed.