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hans king
Hans King, press secretary to Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves (File photo).

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – The Central Water and Sewerage Authority (CWSA) will on Tuesday hold a press conference to talk about the new rates Vincentians will pay even as the government has not been paying its bill at the state-owned entity.

“Yes, the government does owe CWSA,” Hans King, press secretary to Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said on radio yesterday, adding that he would not disclose the figure.

“CWSA is going to have a press conference sometime next week when I believe they are going to talk about the new rates and all of that. I believe that is a question that will be asked then,” he said.

King said that the monies the government owes the CWSA are for water used at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital, schools, and other government buildings.

“The public buildings, basically,” he said as he agreed with the programme host that the bill should be paid

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“I am saying yes. But, just to make the clarification. I know a lot of people don’t like the ‘massa bull-massa cow’ terminology. But, CWSA is a state-owed entity. … As I said, we (the people) are using the water at the hospital, the schools, etc. But it should be paid,” he said.

King further said that he was not sure how long the government, which came to office in March 2001, has owed the company.

“But again, let me ask you this question. Would you suggest that we cut off the hospital?” he said.

But Member of Parliament for West Kingstown, opposition legislator Daniel Cummings, told Parliament on Wednesday that the state owes the CWSA “in excess of three and a half million dollars”.

Cummings, a former manager of CWSA, said he believes that the company was about to raise its rates because of the government’s debt.

“I want to let our people know why, because it is not dissimilar to what has happened to what was the National Commercial Bank. The government of this country does not pay its bills to the CWSA!” he said.

The government in 2010 sold the majority share of the former state-owned bank.

“We who pay water rates are being asked to subsidize the government. We must pay higher rates because the government is not paying for the excellent service provided by the institution,” Cummings further said.

Gonsalves in his Budget Address on Monday said that consumer would this year begin paying more for water and solid waste management.

“Currently, the cost of these services can hardly be covered by the price paid by consumers, much less to pay for the recent capital developments such as at the Windward Water Supply System, and further planned expansions nationally to meet growing demands from both business and domestic consumers,” he told Parliament.

He further said that Vincentians pay significantly less for water and solid waste services than elsewhere in the Caribbean and asked citizens not be “demagogic or unreasonable” about the price increase.

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