Monday, March 21, 2011

Who pays for street lighting? That is Rs3B of the CEB Rs5B profit

It may be interesting to note that the CEB incurs approximately Rs3B per annum in street lighting charges which it is unable to collect, for whatever reason, and then charges this from the Treasury as an amount due from the Government. This is part of the top line revenue of the CEB which if it provided as an noncollectable item would immediately change the CEB Rs5B profit to a Rs2B profit and that is all accounting gimmickry anyway when it is faced with such a massive payment to the CPC for the use of fuel.

I can turn the Rs5B profit to Rs10B loss on a purely prudent accounting policy, so that the figures bandied about by the Minister of Energy is mere gobbledygook, to hoodwink the masses. Tell me how a Rs55B loss in one year can turn into a Rs5B profit the next without such gobbledygook accounting adjustments!!!

Be that as it may lets get back to the main point of street lighting, and who should pay for it. It should be open to debate and a reasonable basis agreed upon. Some of us have street lighting in the neighborhoods we live in and others are not as fortunate. It does not depend necessarily on the density of population, just more on political patronage, where one is able to persuade a local politician to put street lighting in exchange for a promise of a vote!

I believe all street lighting should come into the budget of the local councils, who are the providers of garbage disposal, and related local services. That is how it is managed all over the world, and I do not see why it should be any different in Sri Lanka. There should be accountability too so that locally measures can be in place to ensure low cost CFL lighting is used, and the lights come on only after dusk and get switched off at dawn, either remotely or on a sensor that detects the level of lighting. Additionally local authorities that use solar street lighting will not be charged, as they will have alternative modes of this provision.

So just think of the logical reasons why it should not be passed on as a burden to the treasury, who have no control over the use or abuse of street lighting and it is the CEB just passing the buck, as it is easier than collecting amounts from errant local councils, who even try to get free electricity for their own offices!

Someone should look into this aspect of the budget deficit and in this light if we look at all aspects of the budget deficit we can find simple ways of saving the treasury from these little expenses that add up to a huge deficit.

Sadly there does not seem to be anyone in this government who understands that the deficit in fact needs to be reduced and that there are measures that can be taken to reduce this, as the corruption rampant in bureaucracy prevents people taking some small unpalatable decisions that may affect the electability of these officials in the future due to the promises made to electors from funds they actually are robbing from the treasury.

Over to you readers for some opinions and suggestions.

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