Residents of the Grenadines who do not pay their solid waste collection and disposal fee now risk having their electricity disconnected as a result.
Parliament this week amended the Environmental Health Services Act, mandating the state-owned electricity company, VINLEC, to collect the tax in the Grenadines, where there is no municipal water supply.
On St. Vincent Island, the state-owned Central Water and Sewerage Authority (CWSA), which manages garbage collection nationally, attaches the solid waste management fees to the water bill.
However, while the CWSA bills Grenadine residents for the service, only 8 per cent of them pay the bill.
Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Ralph Gonsalves, in presenting the bill to Parliament, noted that the CWSA collects garbage once weekly in St. Vincent and twice weekly in the Grenadines.
There is a monthly charge of $11 added to the premises with water collections in St. Vincent, Gonsalves said, adding that almost every house on the island has a water connection.
A monthly charge is billed by CWSA to all domestic Grenadine residents.
All commercial customers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are responsible for their own waste collection and are not billed for the service. Commercial customers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines pay different rates for garbage disposal at the CWSA’s landfills.
Gonsalves told lawmakers that the CWSA sends bills to all domestic Grenadine customers, but only 8 per cent of the customer base actually pays them.
“So you have on St. Vincent for the collection and disposal of your garbage, the fee is put on the water bill and if you don’t pay it, your water gets cut off. In the Grenadines — in Bequia, Canouan and Union because there is no central water system as you have here in St. Vincent, … the service which is provided twice a week, they are billed, the residents in the Grenadines, but only 8 per cent of them pay.
“Now, that can’t be fair. That can’t be right,” he said.
“In the Grenadines, it is not on the water bill, because none gets sent out. In the Grenadines, because they know nothing would be disconnected, they ignore the bill, Gonsalves said.
“It can’t be fair. It can’t be right,” he told Parliament.
He said there are 3,001 domestic customers in the Grenadines and 273 commercial customers.
Gonsalves said he knows that the majority of people in the Grenadines want a system which ensures that they pay for their garbage collection and disposal because they believe in fairness.
Gonsalves also said Grenadines residents also want to see that the service develops even further and that they should contribute to it.
He said the CWSA pays about EC$1.5 million for solid waste management services in the Grenadines, but residents are billed for only 29 per cent of the cost.
“That is to say, $420,000. So CWSA already absorbs a million dollars plus. But of this $420,000 which they charge annually, they collect only $33,000. Eight percent. Now, that can’t be reasonable.”
Gonsalves said more people are visiting the Grenadines and the nation has to ensure that they are kept clean.
“So you have increased waste volumes and, therefore, increased costs. Surely, we must recoup some of this cost. It can’t be fair that you’re spending one and a half million dollars and you are only collecting 33,000”
He further said the CWSA has on the book the Grenadines Solid Waste Management Project and needs to have some seed money to be able to kick off the project to deliver an even better service.
“Let VINLEC collect the solid waste money in the Grenadines so it comes on the electricity bill,” Gonsalves said.
“So, what this bill does is to give VINLEC the authority to collect the solid waste collection and disposal fees and that VINLEC would charge CWSA a commission for doing it for them. And this fee would be taken as part of the VINLEC bill. So that in the same way that you if you don’t pay your CWSA bill here in St. Vincent, including the $11 a month, you will get your water cut off, when this comes into being and you don’t pay the $10 in the Grenadines, the same thing will happen to your electricity,” Gonsalves said.