The time has come for the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) to grab its share of the bottled water industry, Prime Minister Mottley declared tonight.
Debating the Barbados Water Authority (Validation of Water and Sewerage Rates) Bill, Mottley said that for far too long the state-owned water utility has ceded market share to imports.
“I do not understand how the Barbados Water Authority could have survived this long and not seen it as its core business to put out commercial Barbados high grade water.
“We allow other countries, Trinidad and UK and France and everybody to be exporting water into this country.”
She added: “The Barbadian public buys these products willingly and in large numbers.”
Mottley argued that many of the bottled water products cost more than beer and therefore the Water Authority must demand part of the market by putting out “affordable, well-packaged, attractive and clean water coming through the coral stone of this nation.”
She continued: “This is water that is better for you because we don’t know where the rest are coming from.
“I also say to Barbadians that when that time comes and they buy a bottle produced by the Barbados Water Authority, it will help keep the profitability of the company in reach, as compared to the significant losses that it has had over the years.”
As she pushed the idea of the BWA’s entrance into the bottle water market, the Prime Minister claimed that Barbadians currently enjoyed low rates and called for a candid conversation on water prices.
The Prime Minister said: “At this point to change Barbadians’ patterns is significant. You could fill that litre bottle that one buys at the store 1,300 times from the tap to begin to pay the $2.48 that the Barbados Water Authority charges.
“Now that must tell all right-thinking Barbadians that we have to have a serious conversation; now is not the time for the increase in rates but now is the time to correct the anomaly and the disparity between residential and commercial rates.”
While Mottley stressed that Government has no intention of encroaching on the domain of the Fair Trading Commission (FTC), the regulator solely responsible for setting water rates, she said in the meantime steps must be taken to right the ship of the financially troubled utility.
Pending FTC approval, commercial entities are expected to pay $4.66 per cubic metre up to 40 cubic metres and then $7.78 per cubic metre for usage in excess of 40 cubic metres of water, with a monthly cap of 12,000 cubic metre, after which the rate reverts to $4.66 per cubic metre.
Government is banking on the rate change raising an additional $2.1 million per month in revenue for the Barbados Water Authority.
Mottley contended that it was never intended for domestic rates to be equivalent to commercial rates and therefore this change was necessary.