The Keith Mitchell-led administration in St. George’s has given the clearest indication that the island’s sole water utility, the National Water and Sewage Authority (NAWASA) will not be privatized in a hurry.
Speaking to reporters at a recent post-Cabinet Press Briefing, Public Utilities Minister, Gregory Bowen said that NAWASA has exemplified enough potential to be overlooked for privatisation by Government.
The Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) has suggested to Government that NAWASA be under privatisation although private investors might be reluctant to get involved in it.
According to Minister Bowen, NAWASA “is doing well as compared to the other (state-owned) institutions and so there is not a big push from the IMF nor the Government to say well we’ll privatise it”.
He said, “if someone comes with a significant sum of money, we must not take the attitude and the Government will not take the attitude, so this (company) must remain (with) Government”.
“… If someone comes in and says I want to invest in NAWASA, we shouldn’t hold it and say no. The more it gets towards the private running organization, the better,” he added.
The senior government minister stated that government will welcome investment since the intention is to “make things better” for NAWASA.
“…We have the big hotels coming on stream… all the hotels in the south must be able to be serviced with water,” he said.
“So we have a general agreement that we simply must make it (NAWASA) a lot more efficient but allow persons to invest”, he added.
The ruling New National Party (NNP) has promised to construct three five-star hotels in the south of the island after winning the 2013 general elections.
Government has recently appointed a new Board of Directors to look after the affairs of NAWASA.
The Chairman of the Board is Terry Forester with the other members being Daniel Roberts, Ann David-Antoine, Margaret Frame, Michael Mason, Senator Chris De Allie, Fitzgerald Matheson and Cynthia Charles.
The Public Utilities Minister also gave some insights in the projects that NAWASA has been embarking upon.
He mentioned the Spring Garden ($2 million), the construction of a new Water Treatment Plant for St James/La Digue which is 6% completed, a $2 million dollars project for Mt Agnes involving the construction of a new water treatment plant, $1.4 million to be spent in Richmond Hill for the construction of a new storage reservoir to improve the quality and quantity of water to Marian.
Minister Bowen disclosed that these projects will be financed by funds from NAWASA and not through borrowing.
He said the utility is now in a better position to undertake the projects since government has started to pay-off the millions owed to it over the years.
“…Government is paying up its unpaid claims…. NAWASA says let me strike a balance with you, you pay me, everybody pay me as well and I will ensure that a significant component of the amount that the Government would’ve owed me will go into these projects,” he added.
According to Minister Bowen, the Government “is biting the bullet” in order to clear its outstanding debts to all Statutory Bodies.
He spoke of the deal worked out is for the statutory bodies to turn around and use the monies from government to engage in capital projects.
CARTAC, an arm of the IMF has submitted a report to the Mitchell government in which it called on the regime to seriously address NAWASA’s outstanding pension liabilities to workers in the order of EC$52 million.
According to the report, this figures “make NAWASA insolvent” and that current pension payment to past workers of $EC3 million a year will rise to over EC$7 million per annum by 2025.