Time for change at Belco
I think I have mentioned this to you once before that I never believed that emancipation was honestly about freedom, and that it was nothing more than a change in the way in which economic policies would be carried out.
Thatís the main reason why I believe that the Crown never compensated the so-called freed slave. The old oligarchs that governed Bermuda over the centuries have always managed to find ways to entrench themselves one way or another, deep into Bermudaís political, economic and social infrastructure.
It is going to be very difficult for any new government to be going through reams and reams of legislation that have passed in Parliament over many decades, or to find ways as to how they can loosen the grip these people have on Bermuda through the protection of the legislation they had created.
As far as I could remember, I donít think that the governments of the past have ever passed any such legislation that mirrors that of the antitrust laws in the United States, to protect the rights of free enterprise in Bermuda from being overrun by out-of-control conglomerates.
To give a case in point, in 1982, AT&T was forced to settle the Justice Departmentís antitrust lawsuit by agreeing to divest itself of the 22 Bell System companies it had control over.
Mr Editor, I found that piece of information in your newspaper. I would like to bring to your attention a piece of legislation that was passed in the House known as the Labour Relations Act 1975, part three, essential services. In this case, I am referring to the Bermuda Electric Light Company, which is a privately owned company that has had a monopoly on supplying electricity to Bermuda for more than 100 years. This company is one of those that when it comes to labour disputes, it falls under a provision in the Labour Relations Act that covers essential services.
I really donít have a problem with Belco being made an essential service. Where I do have a problem is us, the public, being used in guaranteeing the safety of the profits of shareholders, I truly resent that and it makes me feel like we, the public, are being held to ransom.
I have also resented that over the years, Belco has seen the need to pick the pockets of the public instead of putting aside some of the monies from those huge profits that they have been pulling in for decades for upgrading their plant.
I donít think Iím wrong, but I do believe that Belco is the biggest, or at least one of the biggest, bill collectors in Bermuda ó next to the Government. I do realise that Belco is an essential service because it is the only electrical supplier that we have, I just donít like the idea of being held to ransom and forced to pay my hard-earned monies to buy equipment for Belco because of a shortfall in the shareholdersí paycheques. If I owned a car that was coming to the end of its life and I was making good money, I would be expected to save my own money to buy my own car. I wont expect the public to come to my aid to buy me a new car while I keep and save my money, Belco is a private company and as far as I see it, the public should not be subsidising the shareholders.
Mr Editor, I honestly believe that the time has come for Belco to become the sole property of the people of Bermuda, and all the monies that are paid into that company are used to run and maintain its function absolutely. What will need to be done is for the shareholders to be paid off, then letís free the people of Bermuda from the constant burden of being held hostage every time Belco thinks it needs money.
My suggestion is that a publicly owned electrical supply company and utilities board should be set up, whose job it would be to make sure that Belco not only remains as an essential service but is an efficient service for the people of Bermuda and not be used as an economic burden hanging heavy around our necks.
E. McNEIL STOVELL
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