Fuel prices, power outages and failed promises

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

And so the Government has increased the cost of fuel once again. 

The increase announced by the Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti, this week is the latest in a year where fuel prices have continued to rise. 

You wonder if they will decrease ever again. Probably not before Christmas.

Which is alarming for the very reason that every time fuel prices increase, we know the cost of living increases also. It’s just the way it works.

The fact is that fuel prices dictate the cost of basic goods, and businesses cannot be blamed entirely for off-loading that cost onto consumers. Someone has to pay for it and it’s only the nature of the beast that customers pay.

Which is why the Government must do its best to ensure fuel is made available at a most reasonable price, so that members of the public – especially the poorest of the poor – are cushioned against this menacing blow they are being dealt with today.

According to the Minister’s announcement, the higher prices are the result of the “Mean of Platts Singapore M.O.P.S.) setting the November prices.” 

The statement goes on to say that things are not helped “with a further weakening of the tala by 0.7 per cent against the US dollar.”

Finally, the Government blames tension in the Middle East over Iran. They also point to “O.P.E.C’s ability to control production which have led to further increases in world crude oil and product prices.”

Whatever. To be fair to the Government, there are times when fuel prices are beyond their control, where a small country like Samoa, is at the mercy of the suppliers. Keep in mind that it doesn’t just happen in Samoa, it happens to other countries as well.

The problem is that when we talk about fuel, we are talking about more than just motor vehicles and transportation. Fuel increases affect the cost of basic food items, services, cost of doing business and basic utilities like water and electricity. 

Yes, as long as Samoa continues to rely on fossil fuel for electricity, every time the diesel price increases, there is a likelihood of electricity prices rising as well. Which is precisely what we have been seeing this year.

Speaking of electricity, it’s hard enough having to contend with high electricity prices. But when electricity supply fluctuates every so often – and when it is knocked out for the best part of the day like it happened last Sunday – frustration will inevitably set in and questions begin to emerge.

For instance, for all the millions of tala the Government has been spending on their different power stations, why do these problems continue to exist? We are talking about the Fiaga Power station, the Fuluasou Station and many other electricity developments throughout the country, which the Government has been making a song and dance about for years. And not to mention the solar panel projects they have been talking about.

And yet people of this country continue to be disadvantaged by an inconsistent electricity supply. Folks, every time electricity fluctuates, a family loses a refrigerator, a T.V. or an appliance of some sort. Every time the power is suddenly disconnected, businesses lose valuable equipment, production hours for thousands of workers are lost (someone has to pay for that) and most tourism businesses, who sorely need electricity, lose money and customers. We can go on and on.

Now following the latest outage last Sunday, the E.P.C’s Chief Executive Officer, Tologata Tile Tuimalealiifano, said the problem was triggered by a system failure when E.P.C’s solar and hydro systems could not meet the demand.

“So what happened is because solar and hydro is new, these are the things we implemented towards our target to 100 per cent renewable,” he said. 

“We are learning the new adjustments to the systems but the main objective to maximize renewable energy.”

What is he talking about? Do these public servants realise that while we are not all electrical experts, what we do know is that their statements and comments don’t make any sense?

 Let’s talk about solar power for instance. These solar power projects have been a talking point for several years now. Again, we are reminded that the Government has been talking about them, as if they will solve all our problems. They have been saying for years that they will only help decrease the cost of electricity. Has that happened? Absolutely not.

And now E.P.C. is blaming them for power outages, which have been happening since time began. What are we? And who’s fooling who here?

Ironically, Tologata said the blackout on Sunday was an “emergency” and not a scheduled power outage. Really? Who cares if it was an emergency or a scheduled power outage? 

When the country is spending millions on those electricity projects, power outages are not supposed to happen. That’s why millions are spent to prevent them from happening at all times. 

Continued Tologata: “We are working with Tesla from the lesson learnt on Sunday how we can improve the automatic system to address the issue so this does not happen again.

 “Everything we do is a learning process as we go. The current situation, it’s about 50-60 per cent that is generated from renewable, proportionate to the diesel generator.”

Whatever that means, let’s just remind E.P.C. once more, about those millions that have been spent during the past few years, on the countless electricity projects they have been talking up. 

Maybe they should stop treating these projects “as a learning process” and start taking them very seriously. Members of the public – including the business community – are tired of paying the price for incompetency and these failed promises. What do you think? 

Have a wonderful Friday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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