APUA Debt Write-Off Totals Millions

Minister responsible for APUA, Robin Yearwood delivered the “happy news” while making his contribution to the 2015 National Budget debate.

He said a total of 3,697 people — 869 electricity, 1,059 water and 1,769 telephone consumers — had their debts written off at a price tag of EC $8,389,454.54.

Along with a promise to build 500 homes in 500 days, the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party’s (ABLP) Fresh Start initiative was a highly publicised manifesto promise.

Yearwood told Parliament that the amnesty was the action of a caring government.

The utilities forgiveness programme was announced by then opposition leader Gaston Browne on the campaign trail just before the June 12, 2014 general elections.

Browne said then that he was moved to offer the amnesty after realising that many families were “living in darkness.”

The initiative targeted “poor people” who accrued arrears up to December 31, 2013. Just days after Browne was sworn in as prime minister, APUA started the application process which saw hundreds of people applying for the relief.

At the time, Browne sought to justify the campaign promise, arguing that more people would be brought back as active contributors to APUA.

Minister Yearwood revealed in the Lower House that APUA has 31,000 electricity and 22,000 water customers.

Last June, the statutory corporation said it was owed almost $172 million in domestic, commercial and industrial accounts. Financial records up to end of May indicated the accounts department was owed a total of $171,855,000 for both electricity and water.

The electricity breakdown details, $29.9 million owed by domestic consumers and $366,000 owed on the sister isle in domestic arrears.

The ABLP government boasts of having achieved many promises made on the campaign trail but the removal of Personal Income Tax remains a dark cloud over their head. Their promise to build affordable homes has also been challenged by land availability and lack of money.

It has still not been announced how an initiative to forgive property tax defaulters has progressed and consumers of water are still challenged by availability issues despite a promise, months ago, that the situation would have improved within 14 days.

But the government has made good on its promise to pardon those who had difficulty accessing birth certificates, restored the celebration of VC Bird Day as a separate observance and suspended work permit fees for Caricom nationals.


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