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OBA: recall Parliament to deal with Belco price-hike crisis

Open for business: Opposition leader Jarion Richardson is calling for an emergency sitting of Parliament (File photograph)

The One Bermuda Alliance is calling for Parliament to reconvene for an emergency session in order to tackle the fuel-hike crisis.

Jarion Richardson, the OBA leader, made the appeal to the Government last night, claiming that a solution to the problem could be thrashed out by politicians.

Mr Richardson said that a reduction in electricity fees was “urgent”, and accused the Government of a lack of leadership.

The cost of electricity to consumers rose by around 20 per cent at the beginning of the month after supplier Belco raised its Fuel Adjustment Rate.

Although the increase was approved by the Bermuda Regulatory Authority, it prompted a wave of complaints and protests, with some customers holding demonstrations outside Belco’s headquarters.

Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, promised to take action. Claiming that he felt he had been “kicked in the stomach” by the increase, he pledged to carry out “a much more critical review” of the RA’s methods in approving the rise.

He subsequently threatened to take legal action against the RA after it refused his “suggestion” that the FAR be reduced — although one independent lawyer questioned if the issue could be resolved through the courts.

Last night, Mr Richardson said that decisive and immediate action was needed.

He said: “In these times of unprecedented hardship for everyday Bermudians, it is unacceptable for the current Government to do nothing and point fingers at Belco and the Regulatory Authority as prices skyrocket.

“Principled leadership requires delivering solutions. Everyday Bermudians deserve principled leadership.

“In September, the PLP recalled Parliament for a special sitting to deal with, among other things, classic cars. The Belco fuel increase is far more urgent.

“The time is now for Premier Burt to recall Parliament to legislate a reduction in the Belco FAR increase. The OBA will support the PLP to enact this solution.

“And the Government should use this opportunity to immediately meet with Belco and negotiate an outcome that considers the current economic hardship impacting all Bermudians.

“When families are going into the red in the situation where a monopoly provides vital services like electricity or food, the job of the Government isn't to protect profitability of the company but rather the well being of the community. Let’s stop with the blame game and get this done.”

Mr Roban said he contacted the RA two weeks ago with a series of questions about its calculations and methodology. The RA delivered a response to the ministry by the October 13 deadline.

Mr Roban has remained largely silent on the issue since then. Last Thursday, a ministry spokesman said that the RA’s response was still being reviewed, but there has been no further update, despite repeated requests from this newspaper.

Last night, a ministry spokesman said that a statement will be issued today.

In a separate development, a Belco document outlining why an increase in the FAR was necessary was removed from the RA’s website last week.

An RA spokesman later said that the document, which had been partly redacted to conceal commercially sensitive material, had been “manipulated”.

Commenting on that development, Mr Richardson said: “The document missing is awfully convenient, reducing transparency in a delicate and crucial situation, and that makes its disappearance suspicious.”

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Published October 23, 2023 at 7:59 am (Updated October 23, 2023 at 8:16 am)

OBA: recall Parliament to deal with Belco price-hike crisis

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