BEL ELECTRIC OVERCHARGE !

In 2011 when the UDP Government of Belize expropriated the Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) from the Canadian based Fortis International, all of the UDP cronies and supporters rejoiced. They saw this move as another grab tub; same as was done with Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) which was expropriated in 2009. Prior to the expropriation, BEL management back then, was requesting for an increase in rates since their operational cost had increased due to the serious drought the country experienced that year which made the hydro dam useless, coupled with the then rising cost of fuel used by the sub stations around the country.

In addition the high cost of purchasing electricity from Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE) in Chetumal, Mexico. CFE’s selling price was relatively high because they also use fossil fuel and their fuel acquisition price was increasing. The UDP government back then, refused to allow the increase of rates to Fortis owned BEL and instead the government chose to nationalize BEL a few days later.

What the expropriation did was ripped the company (BEL) from the hands of the rightful owners (Fortis) and to date the government and people of Belize have paid over $163.M plus returning 30% of BEL back to Fortis. This allow them veto power over major decisions such as making sure BEL keep purchasing power from BECOL, the hydro dam, which is owned by Fortis.

 

Upon taking over BEL though, the government through its regulatory arm, the Public Utilities Commission immediately approved an increase in the rates to the public consumers by 10%. This is the same increase that the Fortis had requested and the government had refused a few weeks earlier. In addition they laid off quite a number of long serving employees to make way for their UDP unqualified cronies.

Ever since being taken over by the UDP government BEL have been struggling under the heavy staff (cronies) burden while the Belizean people struggled under the high and exorbitant electricity rates. In addition BEL has been borrowing heavily from the Social Security Board and other domestic and international lenders.

 

In 2013 BEL declared that their profit was $18.0m. That was a shock to everyone as the company was struggling. None the less they claim it was because they had used more hydro power and purchase less power from CFE. In 2015, 2016, 2017 BEL has declared $36.2M, $27.2M and $17.7M in net earnings.

These earnings are astronomical for any company in these hyper economical difficult times. While Belizeans are struggling to pay their electricity bills via artificially high electricity rates BEL and their shareholders that includes Fortis is laughing all the way to the bank.

In profit they have sucked out $80.0M in three (3) years which have forced the private sector to price their goods and services astronomically high in order to cover the expenses of their operations which included the humongous and gouging electricity bill.

 

Just the thought of such obscene profits make every Belizean upset with this government. Now to make matter even worse the UDP government, via the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) have approved for an increase in electricity rates by 5%. This is a continuation of the UDP government gouging Belizeans using BEL. So much so that many households cannot afford to pay the present inflated bills and are promptly disconnected, and the same situation exists with small businesses which have had to close down due to high electricity bills. Note for further emphasis the government is charging 12.5% GST on every bill that exceeds $100.00.

Therefore a bill for $100.00 in July will now be $106.00 with the increase plus the new GST charge of $13.25 making the total bill $119.25. Prior to July 1, 2018 such a consumer was paying $100.00. Note as the bill increases the GST increases exponentially, example a bill of $200.00 prior is now $238.50 and so on.

 

As mentioned earlier, the Government of Belize is the majority shareholder of BEL and therefore will get the lion share of the net income that has been earmarked by BEL directors for dividends payment, which averages $.30 per share. What have the government done with this huge sum of the gouged money? Will they squander it on their cronies for Pibil and tacos?

 

Why couldn’t the electricity rates be lowered instead especially during these hard times compounded by the UDP government abnormally taxing the fuel at the pump. Why are Belizean households being held at ransom to pay these huge obscene bills in tandem with BEL racking up huge obscene profits off the backs of hard working Belizeans, while many businesses are allowed to close (246 businesses since 2015).  Many of these businesses closed because they could not pay their operational costs along with the huge energy (electricity, petrol, butane, etc.) bills.

 

Those questions are easily answered when one look at how high the rates are and even when this government purports to reduce it, it is still the highest in the region. These high rates are the only reason the profits $80.0M could have been earned in the last three (3) years. BEL stated that the reason they made the huge profit was because they had lower acquisition cost of electricity. BEL have kept the rates artificially high so that large dividends can be paid to this broke UDP government so they can fill the pockets of all their cronies and hangers on. Belizeans are not only going pay back for the squandering and stealing of the Petro Caribe loan, but now they know they are providing more money (dividends) for the government to steal via the high gouging done by BEL due to abnormally high rates. 

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