Water and Electricity Bill Will Be Merged Into One
Thursday, September 20 2012 @ 08:14 AM EDT
Contributed by: Don Winner
The Minister of Economy and Finance, Frank De Lima, announced they are analyzing the possibility of incorporating the water bill with the electricity service bill, after contracts are renewed with distributors in October 2013.
De Lima said the intent of the measure is to reduce delinquencies, and for the IDAAN to get paid for the other 50% of the liquid they are producing, which currently is not billed.
Another issue raised by De Lima is a change to the rates being charged for water service "when the service is improved, because you have to admit that right now water is very cheap, and that's why people waste it."
The minister justified the proposal, because in Panama "we use four times as much water per person compared to the average for Latin America."
The issue also arises under Article 92 of the draft Bill that creates the Water and Sanitation Authority, which the government aims to create, which is currently being revised with the participation of civil society groups, workers and politicians.
The statements made by De Lima on TVN news come while the community is demanding the reestablishment of water service, which was interrupted by damage to underground cables that conduct electricity to the water treatment plant.
This was the second case in less than eight days, which left the capital of Panama City without water supply, and the director of the Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (IDAAN), Abdiel Cano, described the damage as "accidental".
Although the cable was repaired on Tuesday evening, as of late yesterday afternoon there were still parts of the city at higher elevations where water service had not yet been restored. "At six in the morning today (yesterday) we restarted pumping 230 million gallons of water and eight pumps, the supply will be restored gradually as the pipelines become full," he said.
The problem prompted the Ministry of Education to suspend classes in both public and private schools. The measure was also adopted at the universities of Panama and Technology, although these academic activities resumed in the afternoon session.
Julia Suira, who has been on the IDAAN Board for eight years as the representative of the National Council of Organized Workers (Conato), was the first to reject the proposal of the Minister of Economy, noting that "while there is a poor service, they cannot impose higher fees on the users." "At this point people still have to go to the agencies to get their water bills, because if they don't they are subject to a penalty. In other cases, the water service does not even reach their homes," she said.
The former director of IDAAN Juan Ducreux coincided with the approach of Suira, but stressed the need to revise the current rate for investment and to ensure the sustainability of the institution.
Millionaire Investment in plant - Adriano Espino, Chief of the Contracts Division of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) which is responsible Chilibre plant, said that since December 2010, when occurred the phenomenon of "La Purisima", they have invested more than 12 million dollars to improve the laboratories, roofs, ceilings, motor control center, new pumps, filters, dispensers and settlers.
"For safety we have also installed 64 surveillance cameras placed along the ground," he said. He said they will be investing an additional 5 million dollars in equipment to strengthen the operation of the plant, which has been in the hands of the ACP since 22 November 2011. On replacing cables that caused the shutdown of the plant, he said they will replace 500 feet of cable.
José Amado III, a former Director of the IDAAN, said "Those situations come as a result of the normal operation of the plant and make evident the deterioration of equipment." (Panama America)
Editor's Comment: The IDAAN has never been very good at getting paid. Over the years there have been various efforts to improve collection, and to make people pay what they owe. However when the IDAAN technicians show up to remove the water meter and shut off the water, residents just hire some dude with a hacksaw and some PVC pipe to get the water running again. Now they will incorporate all service bills into one. So, if you don't pay your water bill, the electricity gets turned off. As has been reported, the IDAAN does not get paid for about half of the water they produce. And, they can't fix the long term infrastructure deficiencies without the money needed to get it done. So, if they fix the money problem, then they can fix the distribution network.