BU’s position regarding Barbados’ heavy reliance on fossil fuel generation has been articulated several times. The fact that successive governments have demonstrated a high level of ignorance by not prioritizing an alternative energy policy belies our boast of being a highly educated nation. If it is one thing we have become good at in recent years is finding reasons not to get up from our tailbones and find solutions to problems. We have become intoxicated by the good life; however such is defined.
One issue which has been raised since this DLP government assumed office is the price mechanism used to determine energy prices. Barbadians have been informed by the government that the policy of the previous BLP government of subsidizing the energy price was unsustainable and that the Barbados National Oil Company (BNOC) had become technically insolvent as a result. We have had to take the word of our policymakers because empirical information has never been made public as far as BU is aware.
The wall of silence which has surrounded the issue of how government price energy is compounded by the not insignificant electricity bills which consumers have been receiving from the Barbados Light & Power (BLP) in recent months. The public outcry has forced the reclusive Sir Neville Nicholls, head of the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) to defend a recent decision by the FTC to give BLP a 10% return on its rate base. The revelation that BL&P generated 45 million dollars in profit has not helped to placate Barbadians labouring under the prevailing hard economic times.
The question which has piqued the curiosity of many Barbadians is why has the energy price in Barbados been rising when crude oil price on the world market has been decreasing?
In mid-April an indicative price of crude oil was listed at USD109.00 and a check of Bloomberg as at opening 18 August 2011 quotes Nymex Crude at USD86.00. Conversely, the price of gas at the pump in mid-April in Barbados was $3.17 per litre and the most recent increase 15 August 2011 pushed the price to $3.36 per litre.
In the absence of a clear communication from government concerning its energy policy, Barbadians have been left to speculate as to why energy prices have remained high relative to the price of crude oil on the world market. Barbadians, who from recall can be described as taxpayers, deserve answers to reasonable questions from the government it elected to carry on its business. Could it be the BNOC speculated that oil prices would rise when the Libya skirmish erupted and decided to enter into forward contracts for 6 months and this explains the situation we find ourselves? If this is the case is it not better to come clean with Barbadians?
The silence of this government on critical issues has been an alarming characteristic of the Stuart administration. It seems even the ‘blustery’ Minister of Agriculture David Estwick has been called into silence of late. The DLP government is making it more difficult to be re-elected in an environment which is already so given the economic challenges being experienced.
An expectation by many is that the current budget debate – a lacklustre affair so far – will be used by Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart or Minister of Finance Sinckler to apprise Barbadians – taxpayers – on this matter. If we are lucky we may get to hear the announcement of the Chief Justice of Barbados, another matter which Barbadians have been forced to speculate.