Political and Social Activist Mark Benschop on Friday morning led a small protest against the proposed hike in electricity rates by the Guyana Power and Light Company.
The picket exercise took place outside the Wight’s Lane office of Prime Minister Samuel Hinds who holds responsibility for the energy sector. Although the turn out was far less than what the activist may have expected, he was still upbeat about getting the message over that citizens cannot afford a 26.7% increase in their electricity rates.
Benschop told News Source that it is the Government of Guyana that needs to ensure there is no rise in the electricity rates. He said the opposition cannot be blamed for any increases. “This is not a political or racial but it is an issue that needs to be addressed because all are going to be affected by the increases”, he said. The Political activist said he has criticised the opposition on numerous issues but when it comes to the issue of GPL, it is the Government of the day that needs to take the blame for the way the corporation is being managed.
He said the Opposition parties were correct to slash the GPL budget because the company is still to show how it has spent previous sums of money doled out by tax payers. Additionally, he said, the power company needs to become more transparent with its spending and needs to put forward a proper plan that combats line losses. Benschop also called for the multi million dollar salaries being paid to executives of the company to be slashed.
One of the other protesters outside the Prime Minister’s Office on Friday morning was housewife Suzie Wong-Yhip who said that as a mother of two children and a stay at home mom, the GPL increases could mean less food on her dinner table. She said already she is faced with a big problem with the current rates being charged and the increases would only mean added “hardship” on herself and family.
Another rights activist, Mark Jacobs said the increases are “unconscionable” and the government should first look to address the revenue losses being suffered by the power company before it adds 26.7% increase to the bills of customers.
Mark Benschop said he believes the turnout for the protest was small because the Government has been able to drive fear into citizens to stand up for their own rights. Just moments after the protest began, three police officers arrived on the scene to record what was written on the picket cards and to keep an eye on the protesting few.
The Opposition parties have rejected the proposed increases by GPL and have called for the entire GPL board to be replaced. The People’s Progressive Party has also rejected the increases but has laid blame on the opposition parties and their slashing of the GPL budget.
The Private Sector Commission has also voiced its concerns over the proposed increases but has offered to mediate talks between the Government and the Opposition parties that could see the money cut from the budget being restored.
Opposition Leader David Granger earlier in the week said the Guyana Power and Light Company will not be getting “a cent more” from its customers.
GPL management has indicated that the company has not increased charges for electricity in over five years and the company stands the risk of losing viability if new charges are not implemented.
FILED: 14th June 2013