Letters to the Editor

The JPS conundrum

Friday, May 16, 2014    

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Dear Editor,

The Jamaica Public Service (JPS) seems to be at the crux of frustration. A recent news article quoted Gary Barrow, the company's senior vice-president for energy delivery, saying: "We have tried everything to reduce electricity theft." The article further states that: "The company, which some years ago launched a compliance campaign with the tag line 'How Come?', explained that in 2013 it removed more than 197,000 illegal lines, carried out more than 113,000 account audits and meter investigations, and facilitated the arrest of more than 1,200 persons for electricity theft." With all that effort, they are still unable to prevent people from stealing electricity.

JPS then took a decision, as part of a strategy to get more people in communities where more than 70 per cent of the power is stolen to pay for the electricity they use, and reduce the overall cost to paying customers. The company said that it "will make an effort to provide electricity for not less than 12 hours per day, and will remain sensitive to the safety concerns of the residents."

The OUR states that if the company does that, then that will be in breach of their contractual agreement, what are they to do? The company is targeting specific communities. However, of a population of 2.7 million people, over 1 million are living below the poverty line. So, is it that they genuinely cannot afford it, or is it that they can pay but refuse to do so because the option of stealing is available?

The OUR states that if the company does that, then that will be in breach of their contractual agreement, what are they to do? The company is targeting specific communities. However, of a population of 2.7 million people, over 1 million are living below the poverty line. So, is it that they genuinely cannot afford it, or is it that they can pay but refuse to do so because the option of stealing is available?

Some are saying that the 'good cannot suffer for the bad,' while others are saying JPS needs to follow through because they have to be paying for what others are getting free. The company is losing billions of dollars in revenue, and, if that trajectory continues, the company will be left with two options, either they stop providing the service or they increase the tax rate. Either way, they will come under heavy criticism by the public and interest groups. How can they mitigate the problem? What are the other alternatives? Having tried everything and failed, what are they left to do?

JPS has become weary of trying and has run out of ideas. Minister Paulwell proposed that those who are stealing electricity should pay a minimum of $2,000 per month, and over time, it will gradually increase. This idea landed him, 'the stupid idea of the year award'. But are there any merits to that proposal? I think before we judge it, let us examine it. I think Minister Paulwell's intention was to get people into the 'mentality' of paying. This, in theory, is classified as "classical conditioning".

The philosophical question still stands, though, if we stop people from stealing, will that make them pay? And, if they pay, will that stop them from stealing?

Kenroy Davis

Clark's Town, Trelawny

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