Electricty supply problems far from over

AlterPresse, 30 September 2003

Union leaders from the state-owned electricty company talk about the current situation and voice their opposition to any future privatisation of the company.

Port-au-Prince, 30 Sept. 2003 [AlterPresse]—The additonal 30 megawatts of electric power made available to Port-au-Prince at the beginning of September should help relieve electricity supply problems in the capital, according to Lionel Jeune, president of the union of workers at the state-owned Electricity of Haiti company (EDH, Électricité D'Haïti).

However, in an interview granted to AlterPresse, Jeune warned that the same problems could return at the end of two years, if measures are not taken to make EDH operational, stressing that the availability of the additional 30 megawatts additional is due to a contract with the international company, ASERVIN.

The union leader revealed that the contract signed with private companies for the provision of electrical energy for Port-au-Prince did not involve the personnel of EDH. Lionel Jeune warned against a possible privatization of the company's services. If it is a project to privatize EDH, we will be firmly opposed to it, he declared.

According to Jeune, EDH faces an acute financial crisis. More than 500 transformers have broken down. EDH does not have means to replace them...employees have not yet received their wages for the last half of August, he said.

He did not specify if the problem of the broken transformers is the origin of the prolonged blackouts in certain districts of the downtown area and on the periphery of the capital. Most of these districts have been without electricity for up to five days.

According to the union's spokesperson, Harry Clerveaux, the new EDH director, Charles Albert Jacques, who was named at the beginning of September following a number of work stoppages by EDH workers, will have a difficult task. Clerveaux has recently been reinstated at EDH after a period away from the company.

Clerveaux said that the technicians who maintain the primary cables are carrying out dangerous work. The union's spokesperson alerted the new EDH director to the existence of bad advisors who, according to him, do not work for the benefit from the company.

In less than two years, falling electricity cables have caused the deaths of at least 26 people. The tragic accidents on 7 February 2002 in Carrefour Feuilles and in July 2003 in Petit-Goave have been attributed to the negligence of EDH which ignored the population's calls to repair high tension cables.