By Stanford Conway
Chairman of the People’s Action Movement (PAM) and shadow minister of Agriculture, Housing and Land, Chesley Hamilton said that Prime Minister (PM) Douglas failed to plan properly and adequately for recent changes experienced by residents of the twin-island Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.
Hamilton, at the time, was commenting on the PM’s recent statement the Government could not continue to subsidise fuel at its current cost and plans were afoot to seek alternative energy sources and, “…very shortly we have to make the necessary adjustment to the prices so that this is not borne by the Government but by the people.”
The PM also said the same would be done with regards to electricity, noting the energy charge, to date, was not passed on to the consumers.
Hamilton said that the PM did not have all his ducks in a row and, “he continues to fly by the seat of his pants in handling the economy, the electricity problem and the challenges of a changing global environment.”
He added that the PM failed to plan properly and adequately for those changes and in addition to the sugar industry’s aftermath, the electricity problem was testimony to the Government’s incompetence.
“It is the Prime Minister who fired Halva Hendrickson a few days before the election. He gave a rebate of $500 and said that the electricity problems would be fixed…they are not fixed, they continue to get worse because we are still renting generators at escalating costs.
“We cannot cope with subsidising, yet the Government, in its haphazard planning, has two statutory corporations in the Frigate Bay Development and the White Gate Corporation that has now ended in the electricity business for the LaValle Project when the general population cannot afford electricity,” Hamilton said.
Meanwhile, President of the St. Kitts and Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Anthony Abourizk, said that the Chamber understood the difficulty faced by the Government in subsidising fuel cost, but it was concerned with the impact it would have on the cost of living.
“Based upon what the Prime Minister stated in his press release, dated October 12, with the statement that they will no longer subsidise electricity prices in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis and that they can no longer afford to subsidise fuel cost in the federation, it is somewhat of a concern, and understandably so, to the private sector.
“We understand that it is very difficult for Government to subsidise with the given facts that fuel cost has been spiralling in recent times, however, we must take into consideration how it is going to impact the cost of living of both people and businesses in the federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, which already faces huge costs due to the import and other duties structure,” said Abourizk.
The PM said that the Government normally spend some EC$15M annually on diesel and other associated products, but that amount had already been expended in the first half of the year and an additional EC$10M had to be provided for the purchasing of petroleum for the remaining six months.
Douglas intimated that because of the escalating cost of fuel, the Government was actively pursuing a number of initiatives with regards to alternative fuel sources.
Hamilton said that the people of the Federation was dealing with a lot of smoke screens and mirrors created by the Government to cover its impotency and incompetence and, there was a need at this time for the dispensation of new ideas.
Going back to the Halva Hendrickson’s case, Hamilton said the Government was recycling failures.