A Letter to the Editor of BP from Stephen G. E. Burrows

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Stephen G. E. Burrows

My people of the Bahamas and all of you who come to our islands to share with us in our successes and our failures, I hope we will become one people who are willing to take up our crosses and work together as a true unit, for a better life.  The whole world needs all of us to make ourselves the one family God intended us to be from the beginning.

The sad fact is, we will never be united because we have not taken God seriously.  Christianity has only mocked the name of Jesus the Christ and used the name in the spirit of convenience, appealing to the weak-minded brothers and sisters who will not or cannot seek the face of God for themselves.

My main reason for writing to the people of the Bahamas is that our people do not know enough about B.E.C. as a government corporation.

I joined the then newly established Bahamas Electricity Company in 1956, which was owned by a handful of the old white Bay Street boys, who began to pave the foundation for a better Bahamas.  In those days there was a Bay Street Power Station on the waterfront, just east of the British Colonial Hotel, next to the old straw market.  This was during the days just after the Second World War when the world was recovering from the serious rebuilding of most countries which were destroyed by the great fools who thought they had the power and the glory to lead and to rule.  The world was still under the great financial depression.  The Bay Street Boys were under great pressure at that time due to the fact the young, black lawyers who had no experience in nation-building, business or industry were now becoming interested in government.

When the Bay Street Boys realized that these lawyers were planning to challenge their leadership in government (through the country’s workforce in the formation of labour unions, etc.) it became too much for them to bear.  They then turned their business of producing electricity over to the then government of the Bahamas, the UBP.  The UBP did not buy the company, however.  Instead, they turned the business into a government corporation and named it The Bahamas Electricity Corporation.

The then Governor of the Bahamas was an English man.  But during that time in the mid to late 1950s the demands for electricity began to increase quickly.  So the black lawyers and the PLP, a new force of authority, along with the fast-growing labour unions, quickly motivated the country’s work force to fight for their so-called rights, which meant we must be given more money for our labour and given less work, more time off from work, more sick leave and the unions in turn would show who is boss.

In the late 1950s and even before then, the white foreign general managers, Mr. Kennedy, Mr Bradburg, along with Mr. Bromfield, were very good managers who treated  staff with respect, made themselves available and reached out to us.  We also had our first black (and great) manager, Mr. Fred Moultrie, who was trained in the First World War and made it easy for many of us to become more responsible and to take on good training.  But in those days the demand for electricity was small compared with the demands of today which gave us more time to learn about the maintenance and the operations of many types of machinery.  Still, only a few had the right interest in being the best we could be.  This was the foundation of B.E.C.  Now let me give you the public some history on what caused so many weak links in the structuring of this very vital business of producing electricity for the Bahamas.

The first power plant built on Bay Street was not built with the vision that this island would ever have been what it is today.  The power plant on Bay Street had four diesel engines and three of them were from different engines’ manufacturers, which was already not a good plan for the operation, as it later contributes to wastage in replacement parts, maintenance, etc.  The station at the time was producing only about 300kW.  After the Second World War ended, everything changed.  The British government had built two new power plants in Nassau – one in Oakes Field airport to train the British war pilots because it was unsafe to train them in England during the war, and the other plant was at the Winderfield Airport for the same purpose.  When the British government built and installed their engines for the plants, two in each station, all four engines were made by the same manufacturer, of the same type and size, and they stocked all the spare parts to be used when needed, which is good business.

These four engines were given to the Bahamas government after the war, free of charge.  Each engine produced 200kW, which gave the corporation 800 free kW and gave the Bahamas Electricity Corporation the ability to produce 1100kW.  This meant that the installed capacity of the corporation just after the war was only just more than 1mW.  As demand grew, other plants were built—one in Coral Harbour, one in Lyford Cay, then after Nassau Beach opened it was forced to sell out to B.E.C. But right after the corporation was turned over to the government, labour unions and greedy politicians with no Godly pride had no clue on how to operate the corporation successfully and efficiently, and were unaware of the cost it took to operate it or the need to produce a good product to its own home-town customers in the sense of selling the product at a reasonable cost, which should be the main responsibility of the government – to make sure everything that is done is in the best interest of its people and consumers.  This was the beginning of B.E.C.’s mismanagement.

Later in 1992 just before the FNM government took control of the Bahamas, then Minister Vincent Peet who was in charge of B.E.C., along with our General Manager, Mr. P.I. Bethel, requested I take over the task of B.E.C. management in Eleuthera, to enable the younger managers and engineers to go back to England for further training.  Eleuthera’s financial conditions were way down and I was given the responsibility to bring it back to good standing.

So myself and the young engineer Clarke Allen went straight to work, finding many things out of place there.  Strange enough, we found that the government had an outstanding bill in Eleuthera left over from the former government for over two million dollars ($2,000,000); and in Nassau a bill for more than twenty nine million dollars ($29,000,000), also left over from the government before them.  Since my job was given to clean the mess in Eleuthera, not Nassau, I contacted the newly appointed Hon. Minister Frank Watson, then acting Deputy Prime Minister, and reported that his government was in arrears to B.E.C. in Eleuthera for over $2,000,000, indicating the bill must be paid to avoid disconnection  in all government offices.  The Minister assured me he would secure a payment for same.

Not long after, our financial controller reported that the government had made a payment on the outstanding bill for Eleuthera.  A few days later, news got to me that when Prime Minister Ingraham found out what was taking place, he boldly stated that B.E.C. is a government-owned corporation and does not have to pay any such bills.  That same Prime Minister Ingraham then stuck a fifteen million dollar ($15,000,000) per year fuel tax on B.E.C., a government corporation, and later added a surcharge.  He also then took away the free customs duties from B.E.C., a government corporation, which left B.E.C. with no opportunity to make a profit on any given year.

I then surmise:  if the government is so out of whack, it is no wonder B.E.C. managers spend many millions of dollars every year on highly expensive parts they never use, or can’t use because they have been left in places to rust for too long; and when wrong parts are ordered they untruthfully claim to the authorities that these parts have already been used.  Heavy wastage has been going on with every generation and no one wants to change it.

Since retiring and with the intent to assist in restoring good business knowledge and practices to the corporation, I wrote the government to offer myself to train our young people in engineering, engine-building and maintenance.  My offer was rejected, the government claiming they are “already training them.”   But Iask the question:  training them to do what?

The reason I question is, I know for a fact we have already in the system too many smart professional engineers with some of the best degrees the universities have on the market, serving the industries in pride and dignity.  However, the Bahamas has not done well in training their professional engineers to perform as good, wise and productive employees in this vital industry.  And there may be a reasonable excuse due to the fact the nation may be too far gone into the easy way of life, and we are not open to the spirit of change.  This is why money comes into the country and goes right out, back into the same hands it came from.  Or maybe the other excuse is, we have too many little islands out there doing their own thing the wrong way.

But who wants change?  No one.  “Change” is only talk, used at the most convenient times by leaders who have no respect for the people they should serve in the best interest of the true needs all around us every day.  B.E.C. professional engineers are too smart and too lazy.

The members in government are not for the people, because they do not know how to serve their people in the respectable way that they should.  But those who have been voted into that place expect all of us to see them as honourable people, paid to serve us with dignity, while they themselves can only see us as black, dirty doormats and city rats.

This nation must rise up and see how evil politics is and how all religions all over this world are driving their people into the streets in madness, because our leaders are only power-hungry devils, using our young people to fight and kill anyone who challenge their authority.  We think that Christianity is about Jesus the Christ of God.  But it is not of God.  Christianity is built around the Pope of Rome and the Queen of England.

All religions are dangerously evil and full of religious foolishness, every one of them.  They are all different and deadly!  In democracy, people do not govern themselves in a nation, they choose people out of the nation to govern them.  But the people we choose to govern us are not wise and industrious, neither are they creative enough to lead even the dead.  All religions were born dead and full of crap.  And the most dangerous religion is Christianity.

We are led to believe that Democracy brings us freedom but Iask, freedom to do what? to vote?  Vote for who, to do what?  Where did this word democracy come from?  It came out of the mouth of devils, making you think you are in fact governing yourselves if you vote them into a place of authority when you have to bow down to them as to your masters just like slaves.  It is all a game of bigots in the same black robes and the white mops on their head for us to see them as lords of great authority.  That is how dumb we are in their sight.  But there will be change.

We are afraid of change because change may bring hard work.  But we were created to do hard work, so we must not be afraid of it.  That is when we can see the light of day.  But in order to do that we must first open our eyes.

Stephen G. E. Burrows

  • I agree with much of your statements. Even in the last purchase of generators for Wilson City,Abaco. Bimini and Hatchet Bay there are three different types of engines. All the engines should have been able to share key components. There will be a huge waste of money by stocking the necessary parts at each site. History has taught us little.

  • SWS

    this is a very critical assessment by an experienced and highly skilled technician who literally helped build BEC through the decades with intimate knowledge of the operations and management of the corporation. His mention of the waste and mismanagement of the assets is appalling and confirms the extent to which the management of all the government corporations by political influence has contributed to substantial losses of the peoples money. Political influence is the formula bankruptcy as evidenced by the financial performance of not only BEC but The Broadcasting Corporation of the Bahamas, Bahamasair, the Bahamas Development Bank, and the other corporations except BTC whci they are getting ready to sell to a foreign entity for more than a fire sale. As Bahamians who are struggling and will continue for years to come, we have to start being analytical, examining our state of affairs without jaundiced political eyes but with critical, objective thought as to how decisions will impact us now and in the future inclusive of our children and generations to follow. If we don’t begin now, we will be failures who only dance to what is politically or even religiously patronizing.

  • Rick

    I do apologize, I made a grave mistake in my comment, and must be corrected, this statement (We need to rebirth the statement, “a party by the people, for the people”) should read, We need to rebirth the statement, “a government by the people, for the people”.

  • The sad thing is, yes, we need “CHANGE”, a change of heart and a change of thinking in our country today. We can continue to function, run a 21st century nation, with 19th century mentality. Unfortunately, neither of the major political parties have the “WILLINGNESS” and “HUMILITY” to do this, and I mean neither of them, I think this is something we all know. I honestly think if we all can just drop the party blinders and prejudice we can, and will see, this true. We need to rebirth the statement, “a party by the people, for the people”, and emphasize the latter.

  • TT

    Mr. Burrows we really need more people who know the true fabric of this country to stand up. Far from the political hogwash we hear everyday, we need more social leaders with sense. We have too many idiots with a voice in this place. It is the duty of men like Mr. Burrows to guide this country with his skill and knowledge. We do not need another politician to pontificate on our social ills. We need teachers, mentors and historians to cultivate and build what it means to be Bahamian. Thank you so much sir.

  • Excellent and true historical facts about BEC that is written by one who was there to know and has always been respected..The mismanagement at BEC is typical of all governments departments in the Bahamas that procure spare parts that are critical to their operations …..we will never get it right as long as politics is involved !!

  • Watching

    Well written and point well received Stephen. Governments have failed us miserably and will continue to do so. But as we know, politicians and religions feed on the brains or lack thereof of the ignorant and weak. Lots of that here for sure. Keep writing!

  • Stephen, you are so right. It seems as though it has to take a Bahamian of your stature to educate us about the failures of Government and to see that these elected official are only running games on the Bahamian masses. I was in Nassau the other day and listen to Porky Dorsette say that he pays $7,000 per month for electricity which I thought was most appalling.The Government of the Bahamas needs to reduce the fuel surcharge all together and allow BEC its duty free concessions so that BEC can return to making a profit and reducing the cost of electricity. Stephen I wish you well and hope that you continue to contribute to the continued growth of the Bahamas.

  • I agreed with much of your letter Steve, however I view your use of Christianity and Religion as not general or should not be a mix to the text. I read interestingly how you tried to include the Pope , Kings, Rulers of the world, but without the personal religious inserts I support the basis and agree that we are far from being what we must, I propose a question, if B.E.C. is owned by the people why is it that a Minister of the Government is touting about the profits made, should this not be shared with the OWNERS by way of rebates or lower prices.

    For what it’s worth.

  • Excellent letter Stephen!