By Emmanuel Joseph
The 22 000-strong Barbados Association of Retired Persons (BARP) has lodged a formal objection to a request from the island’s sole power company for an adjournment in the second electricity rate review hearing scheduled for next week.
In a five-page affidavit dated June 6, BARP president Marilyn Rice-Bowen pushed for the matter to proceed, saying that members had been paying significantly more for electricity as a result of the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) granting the Barbados Light and Power Company (BLPC) an interim rate increase.
“Since the FTC issued its interim rate relief decision last year, our membership has seen an average increase in their rates of 37 per cent. Although the FTC ordered that should the interim rate subsequently prove to be too high then our members would be refunded with interest, the significant increase of 37 per cent has been a major burden, with several persons having severe cash flow problems,” she contended.
BARP’s position was taken after the lead attorney for the BLPC, Ramon Alleyne KC, requested to have the hearing adjourned because he is out of the island dealing with matters related to his father’s death.
Though saying that she was sympathetic to his situation, Rice-Bowen suggested the lawyer could still participate in the June 14-16 hearing.
“The option for Mr Alleyne to present virtually should be explored such that the motion to review can be heard,” she suggested.
Rice-Bowen anchored BARP’s rejection of an adjournment on several points which she said were raised by Alleyne himself during the first public hearing last year.
Referring to the transcript from those proceedings, she quoted the BLPC lead counsel as stating that “the proceedings are of national interest and importance” and that “the fact remains that the individual needs cannot trump national needs”.
“The reality is that every delay in this matter has costs – costs which, unfortunately, at the end of the day are passed onto the consumer by the nature of their obligation to carry the costs of these proceedings,” the attorney was quoted as saying.
Rice Bowen also urged the FTC that when making its final decision on the adjournment, it should consider that some of the intervenors were representing BARP members in a class-action suit in the High Court which is set to resume on June 26 and continue through July 21.
The FTC’s Chief Executive Officer Dr Marsha Atherley-Ikechi recently told Barbados TODAY that the regulator had to review the dates for the hearing because everyone involved in the matter would not be available.
“We want to make sure that persons are able to fully participate,” Dr Atherley-Ikechi said then.
The second public hearing, which will follow the one late last year, was triggered by an application from the BLPC for the FTC to review its February 15 ruling on the proposed rate increase and to stay the enforcement of six challenged orders it had issued then.