Viability of WASCO key issue for new minister

Senator Dr James Fletcher

Minister for the Public Service, Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology, Dr James Fletcher announced the new Board of Directors of Radio Saint Lucia (RSL), the Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO), and the new Chairman of the National Water and Sewerage Commission.
Speaking at a press conference held at the new home of Government Information Service Studios, Hewanorra House, a flamboyant and ebullient Fletcher presented Truscott “Suku” Augustin as the chairman of the National Water & Sewerage Commission (NW&SC). Augustin is a returning chairman of the NW&SC which was officially launched in 2009. The NW&SC exists to regulate the delivery of water supply and sewerage services throughout Saint Lucia.
According to Fletcher, Augustin has done “an excellent work under very trying circumstances to get that commission up and running.” Fletcher added,
“ . . . we have met on a few occasions; Mr Augustin and myself, to discuss how we move forward and also for me to pledge to him the support of the ministry for the work of the National Water and Sewerage Commission.”
He further indicated that they have already started advertising for the appointment of the executive of the Commission. Fletcher continued to introduce the remaining members of the NW&SC: Jeff Deveaux (returning member), Deborah Bushell, Leslie Mondesir (legal advisor) and Victor Girard.
Before introducing the Board of Directors for Radio St Lucia, Fletcher affirmed his confidence in the new board stating that they “presented a very unique and complementary set of skills that could allow the work of the National Water and Sewerage Company to continue.”
Joseph Maxwell is the new chairman of the board of Radio St Lucia (RSL) and assisted by David Hippolyte. Other members of the board include; Veronica Simon, Ronald ‘Boo’ Hinkson, Robert Lee, Rene St Rose (legal advisor), McClaude Emmanuel and Monty Maxwell. Fletcher said, “Radio St Lucia has a unique place among media houses in this country . . . it is the repository of the audio history of St Lucia.”
Fletcher alluded to all of the national events that have taken place in St Lucia post-independence and stated that RSL is the only electronic media that provides consistent coverage of these events. In speaking about the way forward for RSL, Fletcher highlighted some of the issues he would like to be addressed at the nation’s station; “There are certain things in entertainment that Radio St Lucia cannot do–Radio St Lucia cannot be a radio station that plays Kartel, Movado, Martial all day long.”             The minister quickly informed the media that he is a huge fan of these artistes while adding, “I have nothing against these artistes. I listen to them and I play them on my iPad but that can’t be Radio St Lucia’s only genre.”
According to Fletcher, Radio St Lucia has to strike a balance in national development, education and informing, and also entertaining. He also challenged the new chairman of RSL to foster a better working relationship with NTN which is also another government run media house.
The Water and Sewerage Company has been facing a financial debt battle for many years now which is approaching nearly 100 Million; it is no surprise that the new minister will attempt to do what other ministers have tried to accomplish in the past—reduce the operating debt.
According to the minister, WASCO has several issues including infrastructural problems, de-silting of the John Compton Dam and also meeting the pace of development that is taking place in the country. Fletcher indicated that while the decision was taken to keep WASCO as a locally owned public utility company, it does not mean that WASCO must remain government owned. He added that all avenues must be looked at in the efforts to come up with “a workable and a sustainable public-private sector partnership that will allow WASCO to be viable and get the capital that it requires.”
In restructuring and implementing new initiatives to deal with the issues affecting WASCO, Fletcher hinted the possible increase of tariff; “How do we come up with a tariff structure that will allow WASCO to pay for the service that it provides to the public without putting an unnecessary burden on the public and recognizing that there is a category of people who may not be able to pay for any increases in water?”
The chairman of the NW&SC, Truscott Augustin also agreed with the minister stating that the new board of commission has three tariff reviews which are the annual tariff reviews; triennial reviews; and extraordinary review. Augustin further stated, “We have to make the company viable without compromising the poor, therefore, measures will be put in place for persons who are unable to pay for water.”
Fletcher indicated that a social safety net will be put in place to protect those living below the poverty line adding that “no one should be denied access to water because of their inability to pay.”
The new board of WASCO includes; Egbert Louis as chairperson, Allison King-Joseph, Sylvester Clauzel, Thecla Deterville, Andrea St Rose and Michael Willius. The new board was appointed on January 27th 2012 and their first meeting was held yesterday.
The new Board of Directors for the St Lucia Solid Waste Management Authority will be announced at a later date, stated Fletcher.

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