One of the most outrageous, if not the most outrageous news items to have emerged recently in Jamaica was the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) new anti theft strategy. According to the company, it has now embark on a policy whereby the company will be cutting the number of hours of electricity it provides to communities where more than 70 percent of the electricity supply is stolen.
While it is a well known fact the power and light company has struggled over the years to curb and reduce the number of incidence of theft, certainly this discriminatory policy is not the way to move forward. This misguided policy also seeks to punish those customers who are up to date with their accounts by providing them with only 12 hours daily supply of electricity.
This cannot be right, ethical or fair. What are the rights of the paying customers of the Jamaica Public Service Company? Are these rights being infringed upon by reducing power to these customers for 12 hours daily? What about the schools and places of business which are located in these areas? It is clear that the long term implications of this extreme policy have not been thought through properly. What about the morgues, the hospitals and health centers and police stations? Obviously these facilities cannot operate without a reliable and consistent supply of electricity.
The policy is discriminatory in principle since it targets specific geographical areas, such as, Trench Town, Denham Town, Olympic Court off Waltham Park Road, sections of Spanish Town Road and Maxfield Avenue. The flawed policy appears not to have much legal footing and should be challenged in the courts if the company does not withdraw it immediately.
The Jamaica Public Service Company needs to be reminded that electricity theft also occurs in uptown, gated communities as well. Discrimination is alive and well in the twenty first century in Jamaica. It is clear the Jamaica Public Service Company is at the frustration level; however, their paying customers should not be penalized nor called upon to bear the brunt of their lack of vision.
It is arguably that the light and power company over the years has tried various measures to curtail the theft of electricity; however, a significant part of the problem is the freeness mentality which has been cultivated over the years and which has found support from the political directorate. It is sad, however, it appears that there is a connection between “free” electricity and voting and the time has come for our politicians to move away from this backward policy and adopt a more progressive agenda. We are clearly in a crisis mode and this calls for insightful leadership.
If ever there was a policy that is indefensible this is it. This anti-theft strategy needs to be revisited and alternative measures be found to reduce the incidence of electricity theft.