UNC speakers dominate San Fernando RIC consultation

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

UNC senator Jayanti Lutchmedial speaking at the Regulated Industries Commission public consulaltion on the proposed T&TEC rate increase at the San Fernando Community Centre on Saturday. – Lincoln Holder

Opposition speakers dominated the San Fernando leg of the Regulated Industries Commission (RIC) consultation on Saturday afternoon, with a recurring appeal not to impose the proposed electricity rate increase.

The call was supported by representatives from the OWTU Ozzie Warwick and Movement for Social Justice political leader David Abdulah as well as by Rhondall Feeles president of the Single Fathers Association.

Although there was an absence of the drama which led to the premature end of the Chaguanas leg of the consultation last Wednesday, party members came prepared with placards, but were not given an opportunity to use them. That session was disrupted by people shouting and dragging a replica of coffin into the hall. Police had to escort RIC chairman Dawn Callender and other executives from the event.

An official of the RIC told the Newsday there will be no rescheduling of a consultation for Chaguanas.

On Saturday, Opposition MPs Barry Padarath, David Lee, Dave Tancoo, joined by UNC senator Jayanti Lutchmedial, Penal/Debe Regional Corporation chairman Dr Allen Sammy, councillors past and present, queued up before the open microphone to denounce the proposed rate increase.

Questions were posed as to the futility of the exercise, as some felt the increase was already approved and just waiting to be imposed.

Faced with criticism about the role of the RIC and accusation of being politically influenced by the ruling party, Callender said the commission’s work was not directed by any government agency.

She said the scope of the RIC as defined by the RIC Act was very limited but it guarded its independence very fiercely.

Callender clarified that “we do not work for TTEC. We have a monitoring responsibility for TTEC but we do not work for TTEC.”

She said the commission’s role was to interface with consumers, the service provider, which is TTEC in this case, and any sitting government, as governments provides subsidies, incentives and decisions affecting the other stakeholders.

Lutchmedial told the RIC team, including executive director Glenn Khan, that if its stated role as a regulator was to ensure prudent and efficient management as far as practicable, why did it not seek to ensure they collected the outstanding billion dollar debt owed by government before imposing a further burden on pensioners and the poor.

She said despite what was being said about the cost to commercial consumers not being passed on to residential consumers, she predicted that the burden will be felt when the rate is increased and ordinary people go to the supermarket, doctors or pharmacies to make their purchases.

Tancoo agreed that checks should have been done before to ensure the efficient running of TTEC before any determination is made to increase rates.