President of the Chamber of Industry of Commerce, CIC, Mr. David Lake, on Saturday 16th June, 2012, expressed the grave concerns of the local business community, when he addressed over 200 private sector and government leaders, at the 30th Annual Private Sector Gala, held on board the Freewinds Cruise Ship, which was docked at Port Zante.
The CIC president reminded members of the Chamber and other invited guests that his review of the local economy was being done against a backdrop of a global economic decline and its attendant adverse effects that have impacted business and Government alike.
Lake cautioned however, that despite the successes to date of Government’s Debt Restructuring Programme, the confidence of many local investors has been shaken. “Under these circumstances many of us have had to rethink our strategies and undergo some form of restructuring to our businesses in an effort to avoid closing our doors,” expressed the CIC official.
But Mr. Lake did not hesitate to share what was a key concern of his members, when he made it clear that “High electricity rates in particular are having a crippling effect on our bottom lines. He said some businesses have even highlighted the fact that their electricity bills are now higher than their entire payroll.”
“In my acceptance speech as incoming President, I said that I have made a personal commitment to spare no effort in the relentless pursuit of an enabling environment in which businesses would develop and thrive. As a Chamber we must act and be at the forefront of efforts to help the business community to better cope with what we consider to be business threatening factors.” Lake said high electricity bills feature prominently in this regard.
He said he is of the view that the Government should seriously consider putting in place concessions for Renewable Energy products and systems.
In addition, said the CIC boss, effective collaboration between Government, the Private Sector and SKELEC to accelerate the implementation of solar and wind energy from residential and business premises, provides the best opportunity for short term relief. It is his opinion also that geothermal energy should be pursued for the medium to long term, to wean the country off of its reliance on fossil fuels, but this requires a dynamic approach that emphasizes incorporating new and emerging technologies and continuous energy conservation and recycling practices.
“However, we must not fool ourselves into believing that a totally green solution will happen overnight. Renewable energy equipment is certainly not cheap therefore Government needs to act as a catalyst for investment in this area. In this regard we have written to Government requesting duty and tax concessions on renewable power generation equipment and efficient power usage devices.” These, said Lake include:
- Solar Voltaic Panels
- Hydrogen Fuels Cells
- Wind Energy Equipment
- Solar Water Heaters
- Solar air-conditioners
- Solar Powered Extractor fans
- Low energy LED Bulbs
- Green Energy fluorescent fixtures
He opined that the economy has been in bad shape for some time now and with such a high debt to GDP ratio the Government had very little choice but to approach the International Monetary Fund for assistance.