By Robert A. Emmanuel
During the deliveries of two passionate speeches in the Parliament yesterday, Prime Minister Gaston Browne and Leader of the Opposition Jamale Pringle both called on the opposing party to work with them to address the longstanding issue of water production and distribution.
The issue of water has been a political football between the two parties in recent years with both of them blaming the other for not doing enough to address the issue.
The issue arose once again in Parliament on a debate over an amendment to the September 2020 resolution where the government took on about EC $169 million of financial liability to allow the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) to improve utility infrastructure on the island.
Pringle said that while the issue of amending the resolution was uncontentious, the broader debate remained over the inadequate provision of water services.
“Let us stop playing the politics and accept that ‘hey, I cannot solve it’ and let us all come together to see how we can all come up with a solution.
“What I am proposed we do is to create an agency that deals with water production and leave APUA to deal with the management of the distribution,” he said.
The Opposition Leader called for a bipartisan approach to come up with the best solution.
“I am quite sure, rather than installing their own [reverse osmosis] plant, hotels would be eager to invest in a fund where they don’t have to involved in the production of their own water and have that plant to maintain,” he said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Browne agreed with the Opposition Leader that there was a major issue in water distribution but noted that was also an issue with “indiscriminate” usage of water.
“Because water is artificially low in terms of its pricing, you find that our people just use water indiscriminately. Now if we do not address the issue by having appropriate pricing, then it will be a moving target.
“So, no matter how many RO [Reverse Osmosis] plants we introduce into the country, people will continue their profligacy and I am raising this point to say that water prices must increase,” the Prime Minister argued.
He also claimed that he will extend a formal invitation to the Opposition to work with the Cabinet on developing solutions to these issues.
According to Utilities Minister Melford Nicholas, much of that funding had not been accessed by the government and the changes to the resolution will address it.