THE SOONER the Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) is privatised the better it will be for everyone. The politicians would no longer be able to interfere in its decision-making, dictating its pricing policies and using it for conducting state welfare policy. And the political interference in appointments and promotions, which is the standard practice, would also stop.
But until it is sold off, the politicians will carry on behaving like ‘shareholders’ of the Authority. Of course, if they behaved like normal shareholders, seeking the maximisation of profits, they may have made a positive contribution to its operation, keeping costs low and ensuring high productivity; they could also have exploited the monopolistic status to charge even higher rates.
Instead the sensitive and caring politicians have been using the Authority as a charity vehicle for buying votes. This attitude was displayed at the legislature earlier this week, with deputies urging the management of the EAC to rescind the decision to charge interest on bills that were not settled on time. But the generosity of deputies did not stop at that. They also demanded that the EAC included the unemployed in the category of ‘vulnerable consumers’ who were paying lower electricity rates (discounted by 20 per cent) than the rest of the subscribers, after a decree issued by the Christofias government.
This is a ridiculous practice. If the state wanted to help vulnerable consumers it should contribute 20 per cent towards their bill instead of ordering the Authority to charge less and urging it not to cut the supply of vulnerable consumers who did not pay their bills. What will the state do when the Authority is privatised? But the deputies seemed to want the EAC to also carry out means-testing of all its subscribers so as not to charge interest on the bills of people who lost a big chunk of their salary or were being paid €600 a month in wages.
It is all for effect, because the interest charge on a late bill might be a couple of euro. Should the Authority waste its resources, means-testing its customers, which should not be its job, in order for deputies to boast that they saved the lowly paid one or two euro per bill? Needless to say that we have never heard deputies complain about the extortionate salaries being paid to EAC staff, which also affects electricity rates. The parties want an electricity supplier that pays its staff obscenely high salaries and pensions but also gives discounts to the poor and needy. And of course the rest of the EAC’s customers are forced to pay higher rates to fund the politicians’ charitable acts.
Is it any wonder the parties are so strongly opposed to privatisation?