While details surrounding the negotiations were not revealed to the media, Minister for Communications and Works Hon. Mark Vanterpool announced that government is working towards having the contractual agreement that was signed between the former administration and BiWater, now Seven Seas Water BVI Ltd, amended.
The Minister disclosed that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed to review the BiWater contract, and that this would essentially result in a lower water rate for Government. However, he abstained from elaborating further on the nature of the proposed changes to the agreement.
He did however explain that the proposal requires support from the company’s lender, Barclays PLC and UK Export Finance (UK EF). “The only delay in the finalization of that is for the lenders to BiWater…As soon as they have finalized, they will sign off on the agreement we are discussing. Hopefully, that is imminent,” he explained.
In consideration that Hon. Vanterpool on more than one occasion made statements in the House of Assembly criticizing the BiWater agreement and the price government pays for water, the media repeatedly question the nature of the compromise that was reached, but the Minister has not disclose much.
He told reporters: “I continue to say that I don’t want to comment specifically on it. So I wouldn’t answer anymore questions on the matter….We were not comfortable and the other party was willing to negotiate with us and come to this position. Obviously negotiations have give and take…but the price is expected to come down significantly than what it is now.”
“It’s just a MoU; nothing binding on either side. It shows that we have come to a point where we have agreed to reduce the price of water to the Territory. That’s where we are. It has not been an easy discussion and negotiation,” the Minister added.
He also promised that specifics on the matter will be later disclosed: “The BiWater agreement, which is a 16 year contract, is the one that we have been working on in that regard…I don’t want to comment on the specifics as yet, until the agreement is signed…But we will benefit significantly from the changes, once we are able to finalize,” he said.
The announced discussions to alter BiWater prices came as no surprise considering that the review of the contract was one of the Government’s 2011 campaign promise. In November 2011, while speaking to reporters after taking office Hon. Vanterpool said: “We campaigned on reviewing it, and we are going to do it. Of course we have to involve the Minister of Finance, our Premier. So we are going to discuss it and look at our files to decide what directions to go…We decide that we would obviously have to get advice from the Attorney General.”