Pacific Daily News

HAGATNA, Guam (Aug 2) – Guam residents already pay far more than the national average for utilities as a percent of income, and looming rate increases will force this amount even higher. Across the United States, households spend about 4 percent of annual income on utilities. In Guam, 8 percent of household income goes to power, with another 2.5 percent for water and sewer.

What's especially frustrating about these ever-increasing costs is that residents aren't realizing better service or a better product even though they're shelling out more and more money. Consumers would be a lot less concerned over higher rates if it meant they were getting a much better, more consistent level of service.

The Navy has expressed concern over the Guam Power Authority's electricity not being clean enough, and far too many of us have to deal with brownouts and power outages on a far too regular basis. Water problems, such as the lack of decent water pressure in southern villages and other areas of Guam, have persisted for years. Sewage backflows are still a common occurrence, stinking up streets and neighborhoods.

Despite the failure to provide better service and end products, the Guam Power Authority and Guam Waterworks Authority continually ask for more and more money from ratepayers to sustain less than optimal operations. Yet what have the utilities done to minimize costs and maximize efficiency? Have they made any effort in that regard, or is the automatic response to further burden consumers?

The many problems at the utilities can be boiled down to one common cause -- a history of poor management. For years and years, administration after administration, GovGuam essentially poured money down the drain by keeping government managers in charge of these essential services instead of doing the one thing that would improve utility services and end products: comprehensive outsourcing.

Continual rate increases won't fix the lingering problems at the utility. What's needed is much better management, and the government has shown throughout its history that it's incapable of meeting this requirement. What the island needs are private-sector partners with the necessary experience and management capabilities to come in and take over.

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