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Cummings maintains his position, ‘water rates increase could have been avoided’

Cummings maintains his  position, ‘water rates increase could have been avoided’

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Opposition Shadow Minister for Public Utilities Daniel Cummings has maintained that an increase in water rates could have been avoided,{{more}} had the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines honored its financial obligations to the Central Water and Sewerage Authority.

At a press conference called by Cummings’ New Democratic Party (NDP) on Wednesday January 18 at their Richmond Hill headquarters, the former CWSA manager was adamant that a rate increase should not have been necessary, as he stated during his contribution to the 2012 budget debate last week.

“I am submitting today, that because the government and its agencies are not paying their water rates, the CWSA is cash strapped.”

“….I not only stand by that position; I intend today to go through and explain to you why we have arrived at that position.”

An emotional and animated Cummings reasoned that, based on information given to him by current CWSA manager Garth Saunders in his press conference the previous day, the government uses 35- 40 per cent of the water produced by the Authority, and he calculated the estimated sum owed by the government as over $12 million and not $5 million as estimated by Saunders.

“Unfortunately, the document that the CWSA puts out puts all other rates except the rates for standpipes and government buildings; and what it is, it’s substantially less…. There is also a regulated agreed rate for which the government should pay per thousand gallons. That rate is substantially less than any other rate.

“What I am saying: let’s say you are paying about ten dollars, the government is only paying about four; so when you take that volume of water, if you take it at the rate that you and I pay, the actual value of that water is substantially more.”

“If the government even pays half of that, the CWSA will be in a far different position, and you and I will be able to continue to pay rates as we’re paying today.”

According to Cummings, Prime Minister Dr. Gonsalves aimed to score political points, when he pointed out in parliament that the government does not pay water bills.

“In his response, the Prime Minister states that the government has no bill for the CWSA. My dear people, for quite some time now, the water and sewerage authority in providing a vital service to government institutions agreed with the governments; not now, that instead of the CWSA billing the myriad of agencies for the service, the CWSA would consolidate those charges into one bill and the ministry that has responsibility for that service, which is the Ministry of Health and the Environment, will be billed on a quarterly basis for that service. This has been and continues to be the procedure.”

“While the CWSA sends out monthly bills to us as consumers and VINLEC does the same to us and to all agencies, the CWSA very early saw the wisdom of sending a single bill to one ministry, the parent ministry.

In presenting its estimates to the Ministry of Finance on an annual basis, the Ministry of Health includes the payment for the charges; water and sewerage charges, as well as solid waste charges for the CWSA.”

“They could talk and dance on the head of a pin, is when you get your bill at the end of February, you will understand what I’m talking about.”(JJ)

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