By: Dr. Yusuf Dirir Ali, MD
Somalilandsun - A friend of mine, who lives alone, showed me his electricity bill for the month of February, which surprisingly read $150 and 79 cents per unit. My friend spends most of his day outdoors and earns just under US $ 500. My friend doesn’t live in Zurich, Switzerland or Tokyo, Japan, but he modestly lives in Burao, Somaliland.
The reason given by the energy company for my friend’s skyrocketing electricity bill was because he uses a small refrigerator to keep his Insulin ampoules cool.
Our next stop was a self-effacing restaurant opposite where my friend lives and I asked the manger why a dish of grilled fish and French fries was so expensive and much more expensive than what the same category restaurant in the UAE charges, bearing in mind that the UAE is an oil–rich country and people there earn thousand times in a month than what an ordinary Somalilander earns in his entire life. The restaurant manager’s answer was quick and again the energy companies were justly and squarely held responsible.
The supermarket next door was selling imported white plastic containers with table salt weighing 250 grams for 2 US dollars and as we all know salt can almost be freely harvested from the vast Somaliland Sea, which is just about 100 KM away from Burao. Once again, the supermarket manger plausibly blamed the high cost of his table salt on “the electricity stupid”.
Despite the oil prices hitting rock bottom globally, the electricity prices in Somaliland and especially in Burao remain unchanged.
One does not need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that our health, our economic development, the investment coming our way nationally and internationally are all detainees of the Somaliland electricity companies.
The government tried its best to solve this high electricity cost in the face of enraged opposition from interest groups in Berbera. The government finally succeeded leasing the oil depots in Berbera port to local private companies and as a consequence the oil price in Somaliland plummeted to its lowest in decades - this happened, because the corrupt government bureaucrats were removed from their lucrative posts altogether.
Now let me come back on the greedy electricity companies, who take no one hostage and are enriching themselves by charging the poor consumers as much as they wish. This happens, because the government did not foresee the impact of the big electricity companies merging into one-big-fat-electricity-monopolizing company. As we all know, such monopoly is against fair, competitive and open market economy and is also an out-and-out illegal under the Somaliland constitution.
Do you remember my poor friend with diabetes and whom I told you that he was being immensely punished for storing his insulin in a small Chinese refrigerator? The expensive dish of grilled fish or the costly imported table salt I told you earlier?
The harm caused to our poor citizens and our national economy by these gluttonous electricity companies does not end here, but it goes much deeper than that. Even our Allah given entrepreneurship are shackled by these materially insatiable electricity companies.
Again, the geographic location and its richness of natural resources make our country a good host of both local and international investment companies. But that potential of ours is not here yet, because of the ravenous shareholders of these electricity companies.
To deal with this electricity problem, the government must breakdown these mega electrical companies or keenly force them to invest on clean and economic renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, which are abundant in our country through all the seasons of the year.
If that fails then the government must work hard to find alternative national or international companies, who will invest and exploit our natural renewable energy sources.
Investing on clean energy will give more people an access to electricity and as consequence anyone investing on renewable energies will make more profit than what our electricity companies make today.
Investment on renewable energy also means attracting local and foreign investment, keeping home the money we spend on foreign oil. Similarly, we can make computers affordable to our schools and children.
And because of the low cost and clean electricity, we will be able to improve our healthcare system by investing on medical equipment, which are now out of our reach, because of electricity being an exorbitant problem.
If all these measures fail, the citizens of this country will have no choices, but to file a class action law suit against the electrical companies (the first of its kind in Somaliland) and in that way we will force the electricity companies make huge refunds to all the Somaliland consumers.
There is no doubt in my mind that, a high electricity cost is killing our country.
Dr. Yusuf Dirir Ali, MD
Copyright: Somalilandsun, 2016. www.somalilandsun.com