Wehner describes promised wipe-off of electricity debts as a swindle and a political ploy to help ALP hold onto power

George Wehner, the United Progressive Party (UPP) Mobilization Officer, is cautioning residents that the Prime Minister’s promised wipe-off of electricity arrears is nothing but a political ploy designed to help his administration hold onto power.

Last weekend, Prime Minister Gaston Browne announced the Cabinet decision to wipe-off such debts to the utility company and promised that this initiative would come into effect within weeks.  However, he did not commit to a specific deadline.

Further, he promised that households whose electricity had been cut would be reconnected.

This means the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) will be forfeiting millions in revenue – even though it has loans to repay – a source says.

Wehner says that residents should not be fooled by desperate promises – which he terms a swindle – since the APUA does not pay consumption tax on fuel purchased from the West Indies Oil Company Limited (WIOC).

According to the Mobilization Officer, the people should not be tempted “by low-hanging fruits” since this is just politicking on the eve of an election.

Wehner notes that this wipe-off could have been offered during the COVID-19 pandemic; however, at that time, the Government chose only to grant a moratorium on the disconnection of utility services.

In March 2020, APUA announced that it would stop disconnection of electricity and water and would also reduce household electricity bills by 20 per cent as part of its COVID-19 relief efforts.

When that offer came to an end in February 2021, the Authority encouraged consumers to settle accounts that were in arrears.

They were also advised that, “to avoid disruption of service,” persons who were unable to settle should set up an appointment with the Credit Control Department to discuss a payment plan.

After the Browne Administration has pauperized the people, Wehner says, it is trying to bribe the people with an electricity wipe-off.

This is not the first time the Labour Party Government has put forward such a programme.  A similar “inducement” was offered during the 2018 general election campaign.