KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – More Vincentians have been connected to the electricity grid than have had their services disconnected over the past 10 years.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, in response to a question from the opposition in Parliament this week, said there were 40,417 electricity connections in this country at the end of last year.
The figure compares to 30,172 when the Unity Labour Party administration come to office in March 2001.
The question, asked by Dr. Godwin Friday on behalf of Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace, who was ill, sought to know how many consumers had had their electricity disconnected because of non-payment. The question, however, did not give a time frame.
Gonsalves told lawmakers that in addition to disconnections for non-payments, some consumers ask that their electricity supply be disconnected because of migration or for the transfer of the registration from one resident to another.
The system at Vinlec, the nation’s sole commercial electricity producer, is not configured to distinguish the reason for disconnections, Gonsalves said.
“So I just want to knock that assumption out of the way that because someone is disconnected it is because of non-payment. I understand the political mischief behind the question so I need to clarify conceptually what we are about,” he said.
He said that almost 100 per cent of Vincentians houses and businesses are connected to the electricity grid.
Gonsalves said that last year, there were 1,389 new customers and 885 accounts remained terminated.
“Whether they were accumulated from an earlier period, I don’t know. The fact is that there are a lot more people who come on new than the numbers who have been terminated. And those who have been terminated, I can’t tell you how many were terminated for non-payment,” he said.
“The fact is this: we are doing a lot of connections and there clearly has been some disconnections because of non-payments. … The policy of the government is to provide electricity for everybody and to provide streetlights,” he further said, adding that 100 streetlights were installed in Diamond recently and 21 in Ottley Hall.
“And bear this in mind: we are doing this while in the United States of America, state governments and city governments are cutting out streetlights. And we are putting in. It is about EC$6 million we pay for streetlights [every year].”
Meanwhile, Minister of Health Clayton Burgin, in response to a similar question, said that in the two months ending January 31, 2012, 614 or 1.8 per cent of all customers had their water disconnected while 635 paid for reconnections during the same period.
This compares to 349 disconnection and 412 reconnections and 327 disconnection and 421 reconnections in the same periods in 2011 and 2010, respectively.