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Prime Minister P.J. Patterson has called for prompt action to be taken to expand the power generating capacity of the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) to avoid load shedding.
The Prime Minister, who was addressing a post Cabinet retreat press conference at Jamaica House yesterday (Jan. 9), said that a decision had to be taken immediately to increase the capacity of the JPS “by a 120 megawatt unit or a total of units that will contribute 120 megawatts, and we are looking at coal as the fuel source, giving due consideration to clean technologies, which will mitigate negative environmental impact.”
He indicated that the Ministry of Commerce, Science and Technology, which has responsibility for the JPS, would present to the Cabinet, a submission with time bound actions for improving the efficiency of converting fuel for power generation by the JPS.
With the National Water Commission (NWC) being the single largest customer of the JPS, the Prime Minister said, it was being recommended that the NWC develop a comprehensive proposal to significantly reduce the demand for electricity.
The proposal, he said, could be submitted for consideration by the Petro Caribe Fund, which had been established to deal with projects of this kind. He pointed out that the savings from the efficiency gains could more than help to repay the loan from the Fund.
In terms of energy savings methods, the Prime Minister informed journalists that Cabinet had approved the introduction of ethanol as a fuel enhancer and the Ministries of Finance and Planning and Commerce were to prepare a submission for Cabinet consideration in the 2006/07 budget, aimed at encouraging the use of lower octane fuel and favouring a transition to a more efficient transport fleet.
The proposal should inform discussion on the development of a new tax regime as it relates to the petroleum sector. Prime Minister Patterson said it would perhaps be necessary to have a rational discussion on the matter at the national level.
“It cannot remain a political football that every time a decision has to be taken (on the fuel tax) we end up with lock downs and national road blocks. The fact is that the local tax structure does not reflect current realities, particularly within CARICOM. The tax level fixed according to product type is on the decline when compared to the increasing price of petroleum products,” he added.
The Prime Minister told the media that at the Cabinet retreat, ministers accepted in principle, the need for a new taxation policy as well as the idea that a predetermined amount of the proceeds from the increases on petroleum products should be used to establish a dedicated road maintenance fund.
He noted that, “when we look at the magnitude of what is going to be required to lift our arterial and parochial roads to the requisite standard and to maintain them, we are talking about billions of dollars which the annual budget in its present form simply cannot afford, so the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Commerce should complete the analysis and finalise the discussions and present options, which can be discussed for a new tax regime.”
To this end, he said the Jamaica Information Service would be charged with the responsibility to design a public education programme of medium to long-term duration, which would introduce the idea of a revised tax regime for the petroleum sector.
“We have to increase the use of solar water heating at both the institutional and household levels and some suggestions were put before us, with respect to funding by the National Housing Trust with the safeguard that any loans made available to them by subscribers would be used for solar heating provisions, and not for other purposes. So we are inviting the NHT, as a matter of policy, to provide loans for solar water heating systems and that might require that existing borrowers might have to get a second loan for this purpose,” the Prime Minister pointed out.
He said the government would also be requesting that all future NHT housing schemes incorporate solar water heaters as well as other housing schemes that are subject of a joint venture with the National Housing Development Corporation.
The government would also be prepared to facilitate loans for institutions, which by definition, are not NHT beneficiaries, he explained.