lighting as Manning legacy
Minister Patrick Manning was reported on Friday tying up
loose ends and planning for five more years in office.
Mr Manning actually has been in continuous possession of
the national chief executive position for more than five
On Friday, he must also have weighed the achievements and
the failures of his extended period in government.
A comprehensive assessment is due of Manning Administration
II, the first being his relatively short-lived 1991-1995
In the second time around, controversy has attended many
of his administrations decisions and policies.
One little-noted, achievement, however, deserves praise
and appreciation for the positive difference it actually
has made or potentially can make to the quality of life.
The street lighting programme, implemented by T&TEC
in the name of Prime Minister Manning, must itself be recognised
as a literally brilliant legacy.
As reported by Public Utilities Minister Pennelope Beckles
on Wednesday, 110,000 street lights have been installed
or replaced over two years.
The minister did not make clear what the target figure was,
or the national geographical extent of the street lighting
But successful mobilisation of the equipment, the labour,
materials and other resources, over just two years, to bring
light to streets and roadways where darkness had prevailed
must count as exemplary performance.
At least in urban and suburban areas, better street lighting
must have contributed to safety and security. Brighter roadways
have also imparted to long-suffering citizens a sense that
the relevant authorities not only care but also are capable
of translating such caring into effective action.
Ms Beckles estimated the cost of the programme as $627 million.
Indisputably, improved lighting of the streets and roads
was made possible not only by enlightened prime ministerial
commitment, but also through the funding of a deep-pocketed
As the Public Utilities Minister tells the story, T&TEC
at first estimated the Prime Ministers street lighting
programme to take seven or eight years.
Insistent ministerial leadership, however, resulted in T&TECs
outperforming its own estimates, and outstripping its historical
achievements. In 60 years, the electricity commission had
installed or replaced just 65,000 street lights.
Responding to the injunction, Let there be light, T&TEC
also is busily illuminating parks and recreational facilities.
At a PNM campaign walkabout last week, Ms Beckles had advertised
the success of the street lighting programme.
Just, then, however, the Regulated Industries Commission
was reporting its authorised findings about the T&TEC
financial bottom lines.
It appeared the electricity utility had recorded an $85.5
million deficit, marking the 2005-2006 gap between revenue
Not a sustainable financial performance for a utility charged
with securing, in an expanding economy, expanding residential,
commercial and industrial needs for electrical power.
As the aggressively watchful regulator, the RIC called attention
to the fact that the increased rates it had stipulated for
residential light bills had not really been implemented.
The regulator, in pursuance of its statutory mandate, has
set standards of performance for T&TEC. To meet such
standards of public service and efficiency, however, the
utility cannot do without the additional tariff revenue
for which the RIC determination also had provided.
The Manning government has blocked implementation of the
higher rates for residential electricity users, with predictable
ill effects for the T&TEC capacity to do as it has been
The RIC also pointedly called attention to the Governments
responsibility to fund power supply developments that it
had mandated T&TEC to carry out.
The Prime Ministers street lighting programme is one
such development. While accepting deserved praise for its
success, Ms Beckles must undertake to ensure the Government
also is seen to put its money where its mouth is.