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Gov't considers selling stake in JPS to clear debt

Published:Wednesday | February 28, 2018 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter

The Government is contemplating plans to offset a $9-billion debt owed to the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) for streetlights by selling its 20 per cent stake in the light and power company.

Finance and the Public Service Minister Audley Shaw told members of parliament that the final decision to sell Government shares in the JPS rests with the Cabinet but noted that the approach would be to offer these shares to the public.

At present, the Government owes the JPS more than $7 billion for streetlights while the National Water Commission and other government agencies owe the company another $2 billion.

At yesterday's meeting of the Standing Finance Committee of Parliament, St Andrew South MP Mark Golding highlighted a severe shortage of streetlights in his constituency, noting that residents were exposed to criminal elements while going about their lawful business. He urged the minister to lobby the JPS so that streetlights can be installed in the area.

Shaw said the Government was currently negotiating with the JPS to pay its debt, adding that the JPS should install streetlights in areas where they are needed.

The finance minister also reported that the programme to install light-emitting diode (LED) streetlamps across the country is going well with the JPS surpassing its target of 35,000, last year. He said the company installed 36,455 LED lights.

Of the 105,000 streetlights across the country, Shaw said one-third has been retrofitted with LED lamps. Another 17,000 LED bulbs will be installed this year.

Shaw also suggested that customers be charged a small amount on their bills to defray the cost of installing more streetlights across the country. He noted that this move would serve to enhance national security.