Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Fixed Utilities Bills

Not many people have the privilege of having a fixed water and electricity bill each month. However, those living in the 68,586 units, which constitutes Puerto Rico's public housing system, (residenciales públicos or caseríos) now have this precise luxury. Public housing residents now have the option to pay between $30-$50 each month (depending on the size of their apartment) for electricity, and between $10-$19.71 monthly for water. Those who agree to these fixed monthly bills must also agree to pay at least $10 per month to pay off what they owe in their outstanding utilities bills. This new law introduced by Gov. Luis Fortuño has provoked a huge public outcry.

Puerto Rico's water and electricity companies are both government owned and are both incurring budget deficits. At a time when oil prices are not on the lower end of the spectrum, it doesn't make much sense at all for the governor to offer fixed prices for both water and electricity. Critics have accused the governor of attempting to buy votes from public housing residents come election time. It also goes without saying that those of us who pay our utilities bill on time will end up paying for those who don't, and also for those who pay way below market prices. Households "stealing" water and electricity by tampering the meters are rampant. Thus, utility bills on the island are quite expensive. The irony is that almost 90% of those who live in the island's public housing system don't pay their utilities bill at all.

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