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Sunday, October 17, 2021

Public Utilities Ministry owes T&TEC $36mminister

“Stop play­ing the vic­tims!”

Pub­lic Util­i­ties Min­is­ter Mar­vin Gon­za­les lobbed this call to Op­po­si­tion MPs yes­ter­day af­ter they com­plained about ser­vice to their ar­eas– par­tic­u­lar­ly on street light­ing.

He rat­tled off a list of UNC con­stituen­cies which re­ceived at­ten­tion.

Gon­za­les spoke in Par­lia­ment when his min­istry’s $2.55 bil­lion bud­get al­lo­ca­tion was ex­am­ined at Stand­ing Fi­nance Com­mit­tee lev­el.

How­ev­er, Gon­za­les clashed with Op­po­si­tion MPs on var­i­ous is­sues with Fi­nance Min­is­ter Colm Im­bert al­so spar­ring with them at points.

In an overview, Gon­za­les said util­i­ties in the pan­dem­ic were even more es­sen­tial but the fu­ture – though daunt­ing –por­tends a re­li­able wa­ter sup­ply.

Util­i­ties are al­so feel­ing the im­pact of cli­mate change so the sit­u­a­tion can’t be busi­ness as usu­al, but they’re be­ing trans­formed in­to be­ing “fu­ture-fo­cused” and “ client -cen­tric.”

He said trans­for­ma­tion was im­per­a­tive to a cus­tomer-cen­tric, self-suf­fi­cient state with spe­cial fo­cus on the un­der­served, un­served and par­tic­u­lar­ly the vul­ner­a­ble.

UNC’s Dave Tan­coo not­ed Gon­za­les’ min­istry had owed the Elec­tric­i­ty Com­mis­sion (T&TEC) over $176mil­lion.

Gon­za­les said his min­istry has $40mil­lion to ad­dress street light­ing and oth­er re­quests and any out­stand­ing ar­rears would be paid.

He not­ed at the end of March T&TEC was owed $36 mil­lion.

Tan­coo said, “The maths re­al­ly aren’t adding up chief, you’ll on­ly bare­ly meet the ar­rears out of the $40 mil­lion.”

Gon­za­les said if more was need­ed, it could be dealt with in the 2022 mid-year re­view. UNC’s Rudy In­dars­ingh then pressed Gon­za­les whether he’d or­dered T&TEC not to ser­vice Op­po­si­tion ar­eas.

“That’s ab­surd!’’ Gon­za­les replied.

He said every con­stituen­cy was served. “This side and the oth­er side,” he added, re­fer­ring to Gov­ern­ment and Op­po­si­tion.

In­dars­ingh con­tin­ued: “I’m putting it to you that you in­struct­ed T&TEC’s Board to do so (serve Op­po­si­tion ar­eas).

“Some­one is mis­lead­ing you,” Gon­za­les replied. He’d sparred ear­li­er with In­dars­ingh who’d warned Gon­za­les not to vi­o­late T&T’s labour laws.

Gon­za­les had shot back, “Of course I wouldn’t take any ad­vice from you!”

Gon­za­les said what­ev­er funds the min­istry re­ceived was used eq­ui­tably and wasn’t de­cid­ed by whether a con­stituen­cy was PNM or UNC.

He said based on in­for­ma­tion he’d seen in the min­istry a lot of con­stituen­cies had got­ten street light­ing in Op­po­si­tion ar­eas which he said he could list, “So stop play­ing the vic­tim.”

Rat­tling off con­stituen­cies which in­clud­ed most­ly UNC ar­eas, he said he didn’t see Diego Mar­tin West or oth­er PNM held seats on the list .

BFIA Admin
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