Bahrain targets firms dodging utility bills
Manama, January 5, 2012
Private companies in Bahrain that haven't paid their utility bills will be targeted first in a new drive to recoup money after the Electricity and Water Authority (EWA) revealed that $201.5 million in unpaid bills had not been collected.
However, a phased plan to get back the money was announced yesterday in which the EWA will first go after non-paying companies in the trade, industrial and tourism sectors.
Well-paid members of the public who haven't paid up will be targeted in a second phase of debt collection.
Underprivileged households are being left until last and will be asked to settle outstanding bills under an easy payment structure in a third phase.
Details of the plan were agreed during a key meeting chaired by His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa.
The Premier said the government was keen to make sure only deserving families benefited from subsidised services, including utilities. The latest EWA figures show that 10,000 low-income families receive 'highly-subsidised' electricity and water services, according to a statement.
It also said Bahrainis were paying 50 per cent less than the actual production cost of electricity and 20pc less for water.
Officials have defended power cuts for people with outstanding utility bills, saying it is only being done as a last resort.
The Electricity and Water Authority (EWA) defended its actions yesterday, a day after MPs criticised the electricity cuts that have affected needy families.
'The government already supports 10,000 families by paying some of their monthly bills,' said an EWA statement. 'We have also introduced a 24-month instalment scheme to help people repay their outstanding bills.'
The authority also stressed that the cuts are being made after a lengthy process is completed to ensure people pay their outstanding bills. It also said it does not discriminate in providing services to members of the community.
'We have to go through a lengthy administrative process that starts with first giving customers warning and then issuing red bills to encourage them to pay,' explained the statement.
'Text messages are sent three times consecutively to customers to avoid power cuts by having the bills paid. Now there are plans to help people get more facilitation to repay bills based on directives by HRH Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa and Energy Minister Dr Abdulhussain Mirza, which will be implemented according to individual cases.
'People with pending payments can visit the EWA customer service centres to either pay or get easy deals on paying their bills.'
Dr Mirza is expected to attend parliament's session on Tuesday to explain why people are being cut off without warning.
Minister of State for Shura Council and Parliament Affairs Abdulaziz Al Fadhel said on Tuesday that the bureau's report showed the EWA had failed to collect pending bills.
The EWA said collecting debits was being done after the issue was highlighted in the Financial Audit Bureau's report for 2010. – TradeArabia News Service
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