Remarks by The Honorable Alfred Sears, K.C – WSC Corporate Business Workshop & Strategy Meeting – December 15, 2022
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am happy to have been asked to bring remarks here today at this extremely important business plan workshop and strategy meeting. This meeting marks a pivot point for the Water and Sewerage Corporation, and we trust that by this meeting’s end, we’d have accomplished all that we set out achieve.
This work has certainly been long overdue. The Water and Sewerage Corporation has been in the business of providing potable water to New Providence and Family Island consumers since 1976 and to date, very little has been done to upgrade the legislation that governs the Water and Sewerage Corporation, nor has the tariff schedule been adjusted since the 1990’s.
It is paramount that we move to adjust the tariffs to reflect the major changes that WSC have undergone in recent years.
The WSC has steadily increased it supply of high quality desalinated water over the last two (2) decades with desalinated water now accounting for over 97% of the WSC New Providence water supply and over 60% of the WSC Family Island water supply. High quality desalinated water has almost wholly replaced the prior water supply system that relied on groundwater resources. Our residents have expressed that they are happy to be receiving high quality desalinated water as compared to the prior groundwater supply which became increasingly brackish over many decades due to overpumping. The tariffs, however have not been adjusted to reflect this paradigm shift in water supply and quality over the last two (2) decades.
Further, legislation to regulate the installation and use of private wells and abstraction of groundwater is long overdue. The use of groundwater resources by residents and businesses utilizing unregulated private wells remains a serious risk to the health and welfare of our citizens and is a direct competition to WSC in areas where extensive capital investments were made to provide piped potable water but the residents have decided, with no authorization from any licensing authority and no monitoring by any governmental agency, to extract and utilize groundwater, which is a national resource, for their private personal purposes with no payment of any fees to anyone. In addition to this issue, the WSC is not presently regulated by URCA and any adjustment of the existing tariffs will have to be presented to Parliament.
As you can imagine, these pose serious issues for the growth and development of the corporation as a viable and fiscally sustainable entity. To this same end, it is important to note that Government Subventions to WSC have increased dramatically in the past twenty years from 10 million dollars in 2002, to 84 million dollars in 2022. New Providence water purchases account for the lion’s share of the budget at 40.2 million dollars. Family Island water purchases follow at 9.8 million dollars, debt service and post-Dorian Capital works accounts for 5.2 million and 8 million dollars respectively. Other costs include 3.3 million dollars allocated for Eleuthera Tanks and another 17.5 million for MIYA NP NRW payments.
While this figure reflects efforts by the Government to reduce large outstanding debts owed by WSC to major strategic partners such as Consolidated Water, MIYA Bahamas Ltd. and Aqua Design, the subvention amount is still not substantial.
The Ministry of Finance has advised WSC that given the high level of subvention requirements, WSC must seek capital works funding from the Inter-American Development Bank and/or the Caribbean Development Bank; however, a Corporate Business Plan is a condition precedent for any new Loan Agreement. Further, the Ministry of Finance has requested that WSC share its Corporate Business Plan to address the un-sustainable subvention levels. This is also important as the Bahamas is reviewed annually by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and they do comment on the need for prompt governmental action to address the subvention levels for State Owned Enterprises.
WSC has selected K&M Advisors and their Managing Director, Mr. Nils Janson, to lead the Corporate Business Plan process given Mr. Janson prior involvement with WSC up to 2016 where he was a part of the Castalia Strategic Advisors who prepared the 2016 WSC Corporate Business Plan. Mr. Janson also has extensive knowledge and experience with water and electricity utilities throughout the Caribbean and is well known to both the Inter-American Development Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank.
We expect that the Corporate Business Plan will define the agreed action steps required inclusive of legislative and regulatory amendments, tariff adjustments and structural adjustments within WSC to put WSC on the path to becoming a world class water and sanitation utility that meets and exceeds its customers’ expectations, is financially viable and operates in full compliance with all environmental and regulatory standards.
I pray that this strategy meeting proves fruitful for the WSC and I expect that this will truly mark the turning point for the corporation.
I ask for God’s blessings here today and wish you all the very best.