The government has no plans to privatize the Water Authority but will consider extending water pipes to homes currently surviving without the necessity, Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts said Wednesday.
Speaking in the Legislative Assembly’s finance committee, Mr. Tibbetts said he was not aware of any plans or desires to privatize the authority that provided water to the public at a cost of between 14 and 15 percent lower than the Cayman Water Company.
“In saying that, I will say that there is a rationalization exercise going on which is across the board but I don’t know of anything at present, and I can also say that while I’m careful in choosing my words, but I think it’s a safe comment to say there would have to be very, very serious consideration for a matter like that to occur,” Mr. Tibbetts said.
Accounting firm Ernst & Young is currently carrying out a review, commissioned by government, that look at areas where government services could be outsourced to the private sector and opportunities to combine or eliminate outdated government agencies.
Cayman Brac and Little Cayman MLA Juliana O’Connor-Connolly said she was relieved to hear the government had no plans of privatization of the Water Authority.
“I hope we never see the day that that happens because, if nothing else, the biggest thing about it is consumers will see an elevated price within this country and at this particular time and in the foreseeable future, I do not see that as a very prudent adventure,” she said.
In response to requests from North Side MLA Ezzard Miller, Minister Tibbetts also announced he would consider suggestions for pipe extensions into districts currently going without.
Mr. Miller said there were properties in areas around Frank Sound and North Side that still went without water because they had been occupied before the roads had been constructed and under a former policy, the Water Authority did not provide pipes unless a road had been gazetted.
“These people are willing to pay for the water but they can’t afford to pay for the infrastructure and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask the Water Authority to put in infrastructure where there’s going to be four or five houses that are going to benefit from it,” Mr. Miller said. “Undeveloped lots would develop quicker if there was water there.”
Minister Tibbetts said the Water Authority policy stated it would pay for the costs of the first 100 feet of pipes but residents would have to pay for additional connection after that. However, he said under the current circumstances the board would exercise some flexibility and suggested home owners submit their requests to government.
Mr. Miller also requested the government find a way to provide water to those families who could not afford it.
“Would the Water Authority, being the good corporate citizen that it is, put up pipes in the districts, particularly North Side, East End and Bodden Town, where people who need water and can’t afford to buy water could go and get the limited quality of water on a limited period of time?” he asked.
“The important part of it is to monitor and control it because we don’t want people going and getting free water and selling it on the street for $3,” Mr. Miller added.
Mr. Tibbetts said government would consider the request.
The Water Authority will also spend about $1.1 million a year to extend Cayman Brac’s pipe distribution system and is currently extending Cayman Brac’s desalination plant to allow for the production of an extra 60,000 gallons of water per day through the use of an addition of a refrigerated container at its West End works.