Sat | Mar 24, 2018

Don't run up huge street light bill

Published:Friday | June 24, 2016 | 12:00 AM


My heart was warmed and my spirits lifted when, in the current Sectoral Debate, Energy Minister Andrew Wheatley announced a $1.5-billion initiative to provide electricity for 25 communities.

It is good to provide new customers with access to electrification, and, as the story makes clear, the project is being pursued under the Street Lighting, Installations, Loss Reduction and Community Renewal Initiative of the ministry. However, the cost of provisioning of public street lighting falls under the local government ministry. It is not lost on us that recent publicly reported stories point to the local government ministry contending with more than $3 billion owing to the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) from street lights alone.

So here we have two separate ministries touching a project, and with a poor track record in terms of expense management. For sure, this abominable past ought not to detain this new push at rural electrification.

Rather, it demands that there be proper and effective coordination and collaboration between the ministries, the local government operatives, the JPS, and community stakeholders to ensure that the new and additional street lights brought on board do not add to the run-up of the huge bill owing to the JPS.

As the project will not be implemented instantaneously, it would be good to have the Ministry of Local Government demonstrate that it is already reducing the $3 billion owed rather than having the liability increase; and that the public be made aware of the effective steps being taken to identify street lamps that are blazing during the daylight hours, and that there is an implemented project or process to have them turned off in the day or otherwise economically and efficiently regulated.