By Benjamin Flowers
The Public Utilities Commission has approved a water rate increase of 6.9 percent for Belize Water Services Limited. The increase, which was approved on Monday, will be retroactive to April 1. The approved rate represents an increase of $6.90 per $100of water used, and will be in effect at least until March 2015. Caye Caulker, residents who were originally thought to be unaffected will see an increase of approximately five cents.
Rudolf Williams, director of Water and Waste Water at the PUC, explained that the approval should mark the end of the discussion on rate increases for this annual review period. “They (BWSL) do still have the option to take it to court and apply for judicial review if they disagree with our decision,” Williams said. “But I think it is unlikely that it will go any further than this.”
The approval is the culmination of a process which started in December 2013, when BWSL applied for a 16.25 percent increase. The company justified the proposed increase by submitting its business agenda which showed it was planning some infrastructure works worth over $25 million.
In January, after reviewing the business plan, the PUC made a determination that some investments were unnecessary and others could be differed, so the PUC lowered the investment amount to just over $14 million and adjusted the rate increase to 6.4 percent.
In February BWSL objected to the approved rate, and requested that an independent consultant review the company’s business plan and the PUC’s decision on the rates.
The firm of Baker Tilly Hulse conducted the review and found that there was a disconnect between the accounting principles that BWSL used and those that the PUC applied. The firm recommended that the PUC set the standard on which principles should be used, and now require BWSL by Statutory Instrument to adhere to those principles.