MONTEGO BAY, St James — Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell has announced plans to revive the Cuban energy-saving light bulb project — aspects of which are now the subject of a court case, in a move geared at reducing the demand for electricity.
"Indeed, that Cuban light bulb project was a risk, but it was a good risk because the OUR will tell you today that they have seen a depression in the demand for electricity. I am going to resurrect that project," Paulwell announced, but without providing a timeline for the re-implementation of the project.
He was speaking at a breakfast forum on Jamaica's energy sector, hosted by the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the Wexford Court Hotel in Montego Bay.
"There are still thousands of light bulbs in Cuba destined for Jamaica. People are afraid to touch it. (But) I am going to go back for them. We need to get those bulbs here. We are going to install them, we are going to do so in a way to ensure that we lower our usage," he added.
The project was plunged into controversy in 2007 amidst allegations of misconduct on the part of those involved in the distribution of the four million energy-saving bulbs -- a gift from Cuba to Jamaica to be given to householders for free.
The allegations saw the arrest of former junior energy minister Kern Spencer in 2008 on several charges, including money laundering, conspiracy to defraud, and breaching the Anti-Corruption Act. His former personal assistant, Coleen Wright, is facing six related counts. A third person, businessman Rodney Chin, was also charged, but the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) dropped the charges and announced that Chin would turn a crown witness.
Yesterday, Paulwell promised that the revived project would be accompanied by transparency.
"...It will be done in a transparent and open manner. Let us not be afraid to take on challenges, let us not be afraid to do things that are right for our country," Paulwell told the forum, noting that conserving energy and reducing the country's energy bill was critical to sustaining an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).