Premier Joseph Farrell said his government has been paying the electricity bills for low-income households since April.
Speaking on Let’s Talk with PRO Jenzil Skerritt, the premier said 246 households benefited from the support during the months of April, May, and July.
Farrell said that everyone was affected by the power disruptions at Montserrat Utilities Ltd. and he is happy that some of the issues have been resolved with the purchase of parts needed to synchronise the systems.
The government provided the funds to MUL to have the engines overhauled and additional support has been allocated to purchase the parts to connect the 750KW solar power farm in Lookout to the national power grid.
MUL, he explained, had been unable to pay their fuel bills at one point due to households only making partial or no payments. More customers have now started paying their bills, which enabled the company to pay some of their outstanding bills at Delta Petroleum for fuel.
“We are not ignorant of the rising costs of goods and services here and we are not insensitive to increased prices in basic food items. Prices have risen across the world. Montserrat is not immune,” Premier Farrell said on the ZJB Radio programme.
The premier said they have heard outcry from various circles for government to do more but it is a balancing process.
Presently, “there is very little duty on food items. There’s been a call for us to take off customs duty and remove consumption tax. The government has very limited financing options. If you take off duty, how do you raise funds for our portion of the budget, pay salaries, assist the vulnerable, provide medication for the hospital?” Farrell asked.
“If we do away with all our revenue streams, how do we provide for the public? There is a balancing process. We have a little money, and we are stretching it,” the premier, who has responsibility for finance added.
Last Thursday, the Cabinet agreed to a 1.5-million-dollar payout to MUL to assist households with electricity for the next three months, starting in September. Farrell said the money was taken from three other areas. They took $500,000 from the budget for the recruitment of Cubans medical staff, $500,000 from the small capital project vote and $500,000 allocated to salaries from unfilled vacancies in the first quarter.
The money will be given directly to MUL, and payments will be made against customer bills on a tiered basis. Customers from lower income brackets will have a higher percentage of their bills paid off.
“Some income brackets will get more but everyone will get,” the premier said.
If the reduction in bills gives customers some disposable income, the premier said he hoped residents would spend it wisely.