Another step was taken towards attaining new service standard regulations for water and sewerage at a workshop held on Wednesday 18th September, at the Ministry of Infrastructure Conference Room. The session hosted by the National Water and Sewerage Commission brought together various parties with a vested interest in the securing a universal agreement. The commission’s executive director, Kelly Joseph outlined the process.
“The purpose of the workshop is that, as we indicated in the tariff review notice, was that there was going to be certain standards. What we have done is that we have had service standard draft documents in circulation for a number of weeks and what we’re doing today is to get the feedback and comments from the various stakeholders.”
While the meeting was intended to focus on licensees and not individual distributors, talk could not help but turn to the island’s sole water distributor, WASCO.
Castries South East representative Guy Joseph was on hand, standing in for the leader of the opposition. After clarifying that his views were personal and not reflective of his party, Joseph posed a question to the meeting’s facilitator, Lydia Elliot.
“Does this bill limit Wasco to the point where it cannot go into the business of bottled water?”
“That’s a policy decision which I don’t think that I am competent to respond to but as it is I think Wasco has a particular license to provide a particular service and I don’t think bottled water might be a service that is provided to somebody with a license who is providing the general supply,” Elliot explained.
SMJ Beverages Paula James also sought to understand the possibilities surrounding this new consideration.
“If Wasco down the line decides it wants to bottle water wouldn’t they have to form another company to do that separately so that it does not contradict with them providing a service?” posed James.
“Well I think there might be different regulations that would govern persons who are licensed to supply water, bottled water. But this one deals with persons who provide services as we know it. Persons down the line may want different rules and regulations for government. So it’s not to say that Wasco will not be permitted but there may be different regulations to govern that,” responded Elliot.
Chairman of the National Water and Sewerage Commission, Truscott Augustin, weighed in on the debate.
“Government owns Wasco and decides that they should go in that direction. It seems feasible and a viable option but this is fraught with legal complexities because they would be subject to challenges. In the first place Wasco would have to supply water itself. They would have to pay the price they sell it to Duboulay etc. Other than that it would constitute unfair competition. Also there’s the situation that it would seem ironic that Wasco would have an efficient water bottling agency and mainstream Wasco remains as is. How would the population take that?” Augustin challenged.
Joseph was positive that the outcome of the session would be productive and a positive step towards a final, binding document.
“We’ll be able to arrive at some consensus and once we get consensus we’re going to include those comments in the final document. What will happen is that that once we have included those comments we will re-circulate the document to those persons who are in attendance today and we will finalize it. Then we will send it to the Attorney General’s office for vetting and then to the minister for enactment.”