KINGSTOWN St. Vincent – The central Water and Sewerage Authority (CWSA) will not get an increase in the EC$1.4 million subvention its gets from the government even as the company increases its rates to other customers.
CWSA customers will this month begin paying at least EC$5 more each month for water and garbage disposal.
The government owes the state-owned entity just under EC$3 million, according to General Manager Garth Saunders.
“What has to be done is for the central government to make payments in respect of their arrears and certainly to keep their current subvention up. That’s the objective,” Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dr. Ralph Gonsalves told reporters this week.
“There is a subvention, which is inside of the Estimates for this year, which is close to about EC$1.4 million. That’s the subvention for this year,” he said.
Gonsalves further said that it would be “good for the government to clear the arrears while seeking to keep current on your quarterly payments …”
He said he was waiting to see who would be “seduced by the superficial argument that because the government owes the CWSA just over EC$3 million there should be no increase in water rates”.
He said that people were advocating that in the same way that the CWSA disconnects other customers that are in arrears it should disconnect the government also.
“So they must cut off the hospital, cut off the schools? Who consumes the water? Who owns CWSA? Who guarantees the debts of CWSA?” Gonsalves said, adding that the government has to guarantee CWSA loans and repay them if the company is unable to do so.
“In any event, the price of a service which is delivered is not determined on the basis of receivables. … The price of a service is determined by the cost of delivering that service.”
He said that the government has invested in CWSA but has not received and is not expecting a dividend, adding that in 2001, when the ULP came to office, the New Democratic Party government owed the CWSA EC$2.5 million.
“Payments will be made, as payments have been made, on an on-going basis,” Gonsalves said. “[Does] Ralph Gonsalves uses the water down at the hospital? I use it here [at the Office of the Prime Minister] but if I got to the hospital I will use it.
“We obviously have to keep the CWSA viable and we obviously have to make sure it maintains the high quality service which is being delivered. And the fact of the matter is that water in this country is cheap and it is the cheapest in the Caribbean, so, too, the delivery of solid waste services,” Gonsalves said.
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