Barbadians cannot take any more price increases, Democratic Labour Party (DLP) spokesman on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Ryan Walters has said while declaring opposition to Light & Power’s push for a near 12 per cent increase in electricity rates.
In October, the monopoly electric utility revealed that it had filed an application with the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) for a review of electricity rates. Among the reasons it gave for the request was the increase in operating costs.
But Walters believed that with the reality of high unemployment in the country, decreasing wages and salaries and costs, adding an increase in electricity bills will only compound the fragility of many Barbadian households and businesses.
“Barbadians cannot afford an increase in our electricity bills. Not today, not tomorrow, not next week, next month nor next year,” Walters stressed as he declared that financial gain should not be the only thing that drives such companies like Light & Power to operate in a small developing island like Barbados.
Walters said: “Imagine the impact such an increase will have on our village and corner shops, who have to run chillers, coolers or freezers 24 hours a day, a hairdresser whose essential equipments like a blow dryer require electricity, barbers using machines all day long, small laundromats, small retailers in town who have to blow AC to keep their staff and customers comfortable. All business will be impacted. How do you ask these small business owners who have already been crippled by the pandemic and who are already paying hundreds of dollars in monthly electricity bills to pay more?”
Questioning Government’s silence on the issue, the DLP business spokesman maintained that small businesses and ultimately lower and vulnerable households cannot bear the increase.
He suggested that if Light & Power’s application is approved there are several inevitable outcomes, including an increase in food prices as he predicted that supermarkets and farmers will pass it on to consumers in an effort to stay afloat. He also said the rate hike will limit consumer spending power that will further contract the economy and lead to the closure of more brick-and-mortar businesses.
Walters declared: “What about households who are barely affording to make ends meet, who are struggling to keep their light on in the first place, some still playing catch-up with their overdue balances from all utility companies. Children are schooling from home. Parents working from home. More people in the home than usual because of high unemployment. These situations have led to higher energy consumption and electricity bills have been higher than usual for the last 18 months.
“Now the government is silent in the face of a draconian application to inflict more pain through a rate increase. This Government does not care about Barbadians. Who else will intervene on behalf of the people of this country?
“It is really disheartening that this application has not been tossed out already but I want to remind the Government that this country, this economy cannot run without the small man. Fellow Bajans, continue to keep fightin0g, as the old saying goes, who feels it knows it.”(KC)