Let’s says that Jamaicans have gotten hot under the collar during the COVID19 pandemic over something not new but just hitting them between their eyes: the cost of electricity. Now, the pandemic has forced many to address the simple, but clearly not obvious, fact that electricity bills usually go up if you use more current. Now, many people have enjoyed using current at their workplace or school, mainly, and having to stay home for weeks on end has resulted in many appliances being on all day and maybe night, or just for longer periods. Thus, higher bills. Well, from the time people started getting April bills, the sirens went off, and have been ringing since, with online petitions, rants, screaming at representatives, letters to the papers, including one that pointed to the problems of illegal connections:
Now, the billing is not straight forward, so usage alone doesn’t help explain swing in bills. One key component is the exchange rate movements. But,…wait for it…another obvious, but not clear to many, factor is that when people steal current someone else has to pay. That gets factored into the billing: it’s a standard business practice to cover losses from theft, and is common in retail businesses.
Jamaicans, often the last to twig the obvious, are now crying ‘Foul, ref!’. (Remember, fewer that 50% of high school students are proficient in maths and only 40% of students graduate with any qualifications. You beginning to understand the consequences?)
Now, our local electrify supplier, Jamaica Public Service (JPS), has many basic problems besides dealing with the ‘throw up’ lines and whole communities living high on the hog and getting electricity for free, often abetted by local politicians. JPS failed Communication 101 many times and has had to reset the paper, even stay back a year. When every Jamaican from Morant Bay to Negril was howling about their light bills after the first month of COVID19 lockdown, JPS went to the playbook and pulled out the explanations…but like what happens to fried dumplings if you forget the baking powder, all the blah about fuel surcharges and exchange rate was good but the simple point that tief a nyam unnu suppa was left out. Maybe, someone stole the crayons from the offices. So, Jamaicans spun around, naturally, with arguments that showed they had not consumed more, yet their bills had risen like Telstar into the stratosphere. All the while, now, the Office of Utilities Regulation was mounting investigations into complaints about rising bills. But, yet another remedial student in Communications 101, OUR didn’t think it a good idea to alert the public to this until some MPs jumped on the wagon (it’s not just about football) and started to get their rumpus in a crumpus. That one of them was the Attorney General and another the Minister for Energy, should mean no one was surprised that the guns of Navarone came blazing from JPS and OUR letting the world know that “we’re on it”. Jeepers!
So, everyone aboard the JPS audit now. I almost expect to see the opening credits of Casey Jones:
Given the clear sensitivity of the issues, and the fact that even an astrophysicist couldn’t work out what the bill really meant, it didn’t seem to occur to JPS that the ‘elephant up the lightpole’ ought to have been made clearer and explicit a long time ago. This is not a new problem and JPS CEOs have battered their heads against walls lamenting the practices of electricity theft. In fact, late yesterday, JPS went a little roughish and started ‘calling out’ the thieves on Twitter:
Earlier this week, though, the new CEO thought it was a good idea to try to bridge the communications gap—‘We have heard you, we are taking immediate steps to improve and are committed to regaining your trust and confidence.’
So, belatedly, JPS has decided to take a leaf out of the government media play book and go live to the public on social media, tonight. Should be fun, so get nuff popcorn. It’ll be just before the government usually updates on COVID19, so the audience should be prepped for another fun #COVID19Life Friday night 🙂
I suspect many Jamaicans are miffed about their paying for current thefts for the simple reason that stealing would have made sense for them, too, instead of doing the right thing and having a proper account and behind over backwards to pay up each month. Nothing like missing a trick that could save money. Morals be damned!
Atop all that is the daily reality for many that JPS is not always current with current—#MaintenanceOutageAdvisory must be trending:
“The campaign serves to highlight the impact of infrastructure and other theft which has plagued the utility providers in the water, electricity and telecommunication sectors. The intent of the campaign is to highlight consumer responsibility and explain the impact of this larceny which not only impacts bills, but also causes service disruption and injuries…Comments on the post suggest that the OUR is unfair in allowing the JPS to pass on to its paying customers additional charges related to the loss/theft of electricity.”—-OUR
I’ll say this for Jamaicans, the nation is one of slow adaptors, but once they get a head of steam up for a tussle with power, stand clear. Now, those who say that Jamaicans are also a bag a mout’ are also right, but hey, let’s be positive. Let the acronyms fight it out and give the people what they really want—lower bills. Failing a speedy resolution, look out for a flurry of interest in getting homes in some less-fashionable areas. Garrison addresses could be a new wave of interest in post-COVID19 Jamaica.