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Young frustrated african american man looks at bill, worried about troubles with payments
Community Articles, Finances, Uncategorized,

Light bills send shock waves and frustration in Turks and Caicos

TCI Government can ease the burden by providing fuel credits like the Government of Cayman

Introduction

When the residents of the Turks and Caicos Islands received their light bills on June 30th, they were shocked and expressed their frustration about on social media. The utility company, Fortis TCI issued a press released and stated that due to the war in Ukraine, it drove the price of fuel up and hence there was a 23% increase in the fuel factor compared to the May 31st bill. Many residents, however, were not satisfied with that explanation and said they wanted to know why their consumption was high. Based on this, I decided to do an analysis of my utility bill and offer some suggestions on what we, Fortis and the Government can do to have a lower bill.

An analysis of my bill

My June 30, 2022, bill revealed that I consumed 1,770 kwh of electricity resulting in a bill of $912.44 including $425.69 for the fuel factor.  The bill for May 31, 2022, was $570.63 and my consumption was 1,211 kwh of electricity. Therefore, my consumption increased by 559 kwh of electricity. While the rate of .275 per Kwh remains the same, the fuel factor rate increased from .1962 in May to .2405 in June indicating a 23% increase as reflected in the press release from Fortis. I must admit I expected my bill to be higher this month because we were using the AC many nights in the month of June compared to May. Of course, I didn’t expect it to be over $900 but I didn’t know what the fuel factor would be but then again, I should have not been surprised since everything else has increased. My mortgage payment went up by more than $700 and the fuel at the gas station has increased significantly.

Despite these justifications, I was still not happy with my bill, so I decided to review my bill for the same period in 2021 and 2020 respectively. In June 2021, my consumption was 1,506 kwh and my bill was $596.07 of which $181.92 was the fuel factor portion. Interestingly, the fuel factor rate for June 2021 was .1208 which is about half the rate of the fuel factor of .2405 for June 2022. In May 2021, my consumption was 1,333 and the bill was $498.35 of which the fuel factor was $136.70. The fuel factor rate for May 2021 was .1026. If you noticed, my June 2021 bill was just a little higher than May 2022 but the consumption for June 2021 was higher than May 2022 by 295 kwh.

In June 2020, my consumption was 2,190 kwh of electricity and my bill was $796.07 of which $226.67 was the fuel factor. As you can see, my consumption for June 2020 was a lot higher than June 2022 but my bill was lower. The reason my bill was lower is that the electricity rate in June 2020 was .26 and the fuel factor was .1035 whereas in June 2022, the electricity rate was .275 and the fuel factor was .2405.  Now my bill for May 2020 was $858.88 and my consumption was 2,280 which was the highest so far. The fuel factor was .1167.

What can we as consumers do to reduce our bill?

We know that the more we consume electricity, the higher our electricity bill will be. Therefore, we must find ways to reduce our consumption. Of course, this will be a challenge this summer where the temperature is extremely hotter than usual and so many of us will be tempted to use the air conditioner. Ironically, some consumers have claimed they have not increased their consumption, but their bill is high. I cannot comprehend this, but I know as a consumer, I am going to sign up for my online account so that I can monitor our consumption daily and act based on the results of the consumption.

Fortis TCI website has several tips on what we can do to conserve energy. Make sure your lights are turned off when you are not using them. Use compact fluorescent bulbs. Use irons that have automatic turn off features. Use flat bottomed pans. If you have a cooking time for your food, turn your stove off before the designated time. Turn off your computers if you are not using it. Fortis also has renewable energy programs known as Core and programs respectively. Alternatively, I believe you can install your own renewable energy and solar programs or even wind resources.

What can Fortis (our utility company) do?

Currently, Fortis is using diesel to generate and distribute electricity to the residents of the Turks and Caicos Islands. As a result, the company relies totally and heavily on fuel. Whatever fuel cost that the company incurs, that cost is recharged to all their consumers in what is known as the fuel factor which is standard practice. For this cost to reduce, Fortis needs to reduce their reliance on diesel and move to more renewable energy resources.

I know customers can log on to monitor their usage daily but perhaps Fortis should implement a system that customers can be notified automatically on a regular basis about their consumption especially if their consumption exceeds its regular usage.

What can the Government do?

The Government of the Cayman Islands recently announced that they will provide a fuel cost credit for fuel factor rates that go above 15cents per kwh for the months of Jul, August and September to residents whose consumption is between 101kwh and 2,000Kwh. If the residents’ consumption is below 101 and greater than 2000, then they do not qualify for the credit. If the rate is above 15 cents, the Government will pay the difference for the residents. I think this is a great initiative and the Turks and Caicos Islands Government should do something similar.

I know several months ago, the Government announced a $15million initiative, however, I don’t think anyone is seeing any impact. The main reason this initiative is not impactful is because the price of the goods has increased significantly higher than the initiative.  Therefore, I think the Government should review that initiative and replace it with something else. Perhaps they can remove the Customs Processing Fee for the summer and remove the taxes on the fuel that are imported for the summer months. The residents cannot have a great life if they are spending all their income and savings to accommodate the rising costs of fuel, groceries, electricity, and interest rates.

The Government needs to say something to people and assure them that there is no price gouging and that the fuel factor rates are reviewed and approved by the Energy and Utilities Commission.

Conclusion

Whether or not we want to accept this, the Russia/Ukraine war is having an impact on the supply chain and the price of products such as fuel. I don’t know why people are experiencing an increase in consumption when their activities were the same or less in the prior months. This is something that you as consumers need to check immediately. In fact, go to Fortis and let them review and investigate your consumption. Alternatively, get an electrician to examine your place and check your breakers and meters. Fortis, say they do not estimate consumption and the consumption is based on the actual readings displayed on the meters. In the meanwhile, though, I think the Government holds the key for a reduction in our bills by providing relief for the residents.

Flags at United Nations Headquarters - New York, USA
Community Articles, Politics, Social Issues, Uncategorized,

Dear United Nations – please don’t put any more pressure on the Caribbean Region

Ask the First World Countries to help Haiti or better yet help Haiti yourself

Introduction

Recently, a vessel carrying 842 Haitian migrants was headed to the USA but ended up in Cuba. The boat was abandoned by its captain and was drifting at sea. Soon thereafter, the United Nations released a statement encouraging Caribbean Countries to do more to help Haitians that are fleeing Haiti. One way the Organization suggested that Caribbean Countries can help is to offer individuals fair asylum procedures if they need international protection.

The release also stated that UN is working with Governments in the Region to strengthen their asylum system. Unfortunately, the report did not list the Governments who they are in discussion with, but I hope Turks and Caicos Islands Government is not one of them

Let me say this, I empathize with the people of Haiti given the circumstances that they faced in Haiti, but the Caribbean region should not have to bear the burden. Therefore, I challenge the United Nations, to ask the First World Countries such as the USA to help Haiti with asylum or better yet United Nations should try and see what they can do to help the improve the condition of Haiti. After all, one of the purposes of the United Nations is to help solve international problems such as helping the poor.

No need to pressure the Caribbean Region.

The world classifies the Caribbean as third world countries even though I personally don’t think we are third world. However, the point I am trying to make is, if we are third world then why would an organization such as UN put pressure on us to do more to help Haiti. Quite frankly, I don’t know what Caribbean countries they are talking about, but we know that the Haitians do not normally flee to other parts of the Caribbean other than the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands.  I cannot speak for the Bahamas as I don’t live there and don’t know much what takes place there, but I can speak for the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). The TCI is not able to accommodate or provide any refugee status to the people of Haiti. We are a small country with only 40,000 people, the majority of which are already Haitians. This is a national security threat and should not be considered.

We are already following the UN agreement by providing free elementary and secondary education to immigrants and this is already creating a burden on us. Because of this, immigrants are finding ways to get their children in the country and placing them in the public schools The public schools are overcrowded on the island of Providenciales and so many locals are now putting their children in private schools which is costing them thousands of dollars while it is costing the immigrants nothing. This also is creating social conflict among the locals and the immigrants particularly the Haitian community. I wonder what the Right Most Excellent JAGS McCartney would have done to deal with this situation if he were alive.

Ask the USA for help

I don’t believe that the Haitians are leaving Haiti to live in the Turks and Caicos or the Bahamas. I think they want to be in the USA and who knows perhaps they are being told that they are on their way to the USA. The USA is one of the most powerful nations in the World and is not too far away from Haiti. The UN should not be putting any burdens on the Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas to the help the Haitians. They should be working with the USA to see if they can help provide asylum opportunities for the Haitians that flee. After all, that is where the Haitians really want to be.

Help Haiti yourself

According to UN, Haiti is faced with “violent-gang related activity, internal displacement, natural disasters and lack of opportunities.” I believe that given the size of Haiti and the natural resources that Haiti has, Haiti has great potential. By UN encouraging Caribbean Regions to help the Haitians flee, this will promote and encourage more Haitians to flee especially if they are aware that asylum will be granted to them. This is not the solution to the problems in Haiti. Therefore, the United Nations should see what they can do to improve the economic conditions of Haiti. If the economic conditions improved, the Haitians would not want to leave their country and perhaps if the economic conditions improved, there may be less internal displacement and violence.

Conclusion

The Caribbean Region particularly the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos need help. Too many sloops are entering our countries, some are detected, and some are undetected. Those that entered undetected are creating a burden on our health, educational and financial situations. Even those that entered that are detected are creating a burden financially because we must pay a significant amount to repatriate the Haitians. Why doesn’t the United Nations help us to deal with this burden?  United Nations if you want the Caribbean countries to help Haiti, why don’t you also help the Caribbean countries to achieve their goals which is one of your purposes for existence. With that said, why doesn’t the United Nations come to the Turks and Caicos and educate the public about the pros and cons of independence. Why doesn’t the UN speak on behalf of the BVI whose democratic rights may be taken away from by allowing the Governor to run the country.

Team of work showing unity with their hand together.
Christian Articles, Focused, Purpose, Uncategorized,

Do not let your allegiance to a political party drives you to animosity

Respect the opinions of others and stop letting politics divide us

Introduction

In most countries, there are two main political parties and the citizens aligned themselves with one of the main parties. In some countries, there are distinct philosophical differences between the main political parties. However, in the Caribbean, particularly in the Turks and Caicos Islands, there are no fundamental differences between the two main political parties, but we have allowed our allegiance to these political parties to drive us to animosity. Even if there were differences, we should not allow our political allegiance to cause us to hate others and assassinate the characters of others.

The current political process is designed to divide and conquer us, and we have fallen for it. It is time we open our eyes and realize that fighting over political parties does not make any sense. There is nothing wrong with an individual preferring one of the parties and so we must learn to respect the choice of others.

Divide and conquer

Based on my observations, one of the greatest factors for the division in the country is due to politics. Some people are not talking to others because of politics. Some people rather attack individuals than to attack the real issues in the country. As a result of the attack on individuals, a division is created, and hatred takes place. You see when you attack one individual, you are not only impacting that one individual, but you are also affecting the family and friends of that individual and so you have a country divided over politics. Do we want a divided country? If we are divided, how much can we accomplished. Perhaps, one of the reasons we the citizens are so far behind is because we are too divided over politics and so we cannot unite on tackling some of the main issues affecting our country because we see everything as blue and yellow.

Our country is too small to be divided over politics. The church is divided over politics and unfortunately some are using the pulpit to promote and attack the political parties when there are members who are split over political choices. Stick to the word of God and stop being political. Now of course, if any Government plans to pass laws that are contrary to word of God, then yes, we need to use the pulpit to deal with it. We must always encourage the country to pray and repent of their sins and you can do this without attacking individuals or the political party.

Family and friends are divided over politics.   In 2007, it was a wakeup call for me when one of my closest friends ran on a political party that I did not support. Do not let the love for a party destroy your relationship with your family and friends which leads me to the next point which is we should respect the opinions of others.

Respect the opinions

Everybody has an opinion about something. However, the moment someone expresses an opinion especially if it is about the decisions or the lack of decisions the Government is not doing, that person will more than likely be attacked.  You see we must learn to respect the opinions of others and try to see what message you can get from those opinions. I started writing when the previous administration and I have been attacked multiple and I even lost friendship with some individuals, individuals who I thought were matured enough to accept and respect my opinions. Somehow, they thought I was against the Government. There is a new Government now and the format of my writings have not changed. You see some people believe you are like them because some of them cannot see anything beyond their allegiance to that political party.

Conclusion

We are too obsessed with the two main political parties where it is almost like a cult for some. Because of obsession, we cannot see anything wrong with the party we support but we use our energy to see the wrong in those that oppose the party we support. As a result, we become bitter, angry, and upset with others which leads to division in a country. Too many of us preach unity publicly but secretly we are plotting the downfall of others because of their political preference.

We need to open our eyes and stop being blinded by politics. We complained about outsiders taking over and one reason they are taking over is because they are united with one common goal. We are divided over politics so we cannot come together. I repeat open your eyes and see there is no difference between the two political parties. If some of the politicians can get along, why can’t we unite?

Community Articles, Hospitality, Uncategorized,

We have no choice but to open our borders now. We just have to be vigilant.

Introduction

There are concerns by many residents of the Turks and Caicos Islands that the reopening of the borders should not take place on July 22nd, 2020.  I believe the primary concern is due to the thousands of COVID 19 cases in the United States and the USA of course is where most of our tourists come from.

I support the Government’s decision in opening the borders on July 22nd, 2020. Personally, I think the Government should have opened the borders from June. If we do not open the borders soon enough, how will we survive? Tourism is our only industry and even if we venture into other industries, it will take a while before these other industries are able to be impactful in our economy.

Quite frankly, we do not even know how impactful the opening will be on our economy this summer as people are afraid to travel and furthermore summer bookings are not normally as high as winter bookings.  Some may argue it is not high like the winter bookings, why should we open. In this environment right now, every dollar count.

All of us (residents and tourists) just need to be vigilant as we open our economy to the world. This includes practicing social distance, washing your hands frequently and wearing your masks.

The Reality and the Vicious Circle

The TCI proposed recurrent revenue in their budgets is $261 million with expenditure being $302m. Where will the Government get money from if they do not open the borders? Do we expect them to borrow the money? If they do borrow the money, they will need income to repay the loan on a monthly basis? Furthermore, it does not appear the Government has any intention of borrowing.

While it is true that the Government has stated it has $100m in reserves. However, if no revenue is coming in, that $100m can be exhausted within 4 months or so. How did I get the 4 months? If the expenditure is $302m, you divide that by 12 which is roughly 25m a month.

According to the budget, there are 2,268 individuals working for Government with an annual budget of $75million. The Government has publicly stated it has no intention of cutting salaries so how will they continue to pay civil servants if the economy is not open?

It was also revealed that there are between 10,000 and 13,000 employees working in the hospitality industry. While there is a provision of $1200 to be paid to these individuals, that $1200 will not last long. If the borders do not open, how will these individuals survive? Some may argue most of these individuals are work permit holders and send them home. Obviously, if they are not working, they should go home. However, let us look at the vicious circle. Some of these individuals are living in your apartment so that they you can pay your mortgage or enjoy your income. Some of these individuals are going to the beauty salons, the barbers, the grocery stores so these businesses can do well.  Contributions from these individuals are being made to NIB and NHIB. When these contributions are reduced, how will NIB be able to funds in place for us when we retire? How will NIB pay their staff? How will NHIB pay their staff? Where will NHIB get money from to take care of people medically if contributions are reduced. Despite our feelings, we cannot maintain a sustainable economy with just the 10,000 or so locals. All of the gas stations will not be able to remain open. The car rentals will not be able to stay open. Some restaurants will not be able to remain profitable.  One of our largest statutory the Airport Authority is funded primarily by tourism. This body is responsible for a huge segment of employment at the airport. How will they continue to pay their staff? This is the reality.

On Airbnb alone, there are over 300 Turks and Caicos properties registered. What will they do now if the borders do not open? Rent long term? There may not even be a market for long term if it is just us locals remaining in the country. Some of these homes are being managed by property managers who get paid a percentage of the revenue. How will these property managers survive? How will the employees of these property managers survive if they are not working?

Other Countries

I know that we do not need to compare our situation to other countries but in this case as a point of reference, it is necessary.

Jamaica, Antigua and St. Lucia have opened their borders because of their reliance on tourism. Recently the EU has decided to ban Americans from coming there. While the EU will be impacted by tourism, they have other industries to rely on.

Cayman, Bermuda and BVI do not have to open their borders now. These countries have a significant income coming from Offshore Finance and COVID 19 does not really impact offshore finance.

Some countries also have unemployment benefits in which individuals contributed and so they can get unemployment benefits.

Conclusion

The residents are demanding their stimulus package. I believe they are for two reasons, 1) perhaps because they know they are entitled to it and 2) they need the money. When the $1200 is exhausted, how will these individuals get any additional funds if the borders remain closed. How will you and I survive?

The concern about health is valid, however, unless they find a cure or vaccination to control the virus, the virus will be among us. If we open the borders in November or even January, we face the same risks of contracting the virus. Therefore, let us be vigilant as we reopen of the borders on July 22.

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