EWA bills reprieve for Bahraini families urged

More than 500 families were currently paying large sums to clear bills that have been left unpaid for years

  

Unpaid utility bills of Bahraini families could be scrapped if the head of the family dies, if a parliamentary proposal gets the go-ahead.

A group of MPs believes that the current system of the Electricity and Water Affairs (EWA) asking widows and children to pay the accumulated bills – sometimes amounting to BD3,000, though over a period of years – was inhumane.

Khalid Bu Onk, who is spearheading the proposal along with five other MPs, stressed that more than 500 families were currently paying large sums to clear bills that have been left unpaid for years.

“Imagine grief-stricken widows and children who have lost their breadwinner being forced to sign documents to pay the bills in instalments,” he said.

“The Housing Ministry has started a system under which if the breadwinner dies, then remaining payments are waived, and that should be the case with electricity and water too.

“A widow aged in her 60s shouldn’t be threatened with cuts or forced to change the account to her name or one of her children; this is inhumane.

“Grieving families should be spared further agony and the bills of 500 families currently facing hardship should be dropped.

“Payments could be made through a special fund set up for the purpose.”

The GDN reported earlier that people may have the option of insuring their utility accounts under a proposal approved by the Northern Municipal Council and sent to Electricity and Water Affairs Minister Wael Al Mubarak for review.

The move, spearheaded by the council’s technical committee chairman Abdullah Al Qubaisi, is aimed at protecting families from accumulated bills if the head of the family dies.

The GDN reported at the time that councillors have urged the EWA to consider insuring the utility accounts of customers, similar to the way banks did for the loans they gave.

Banks take out loan protection insurance to avoid relatives from being burdened with unpaid dues in case the primary account holder dies.

“The Northern proposal is good, but costly, as it would see all 442,380 EWA accounts in the country get insured under an across-the-board deal,” said Mr Bu Onk. In January, Mr Al Mubarak had said that more than BD128 million was still owed to the EWA.

Subsidised Bahraini household accounts owed BD45.1m while unsubsidised Bahraini accounts owed BD38.4m.

The amount due from expatriate households reached BD5.6m and businesses owed BD38.9m.

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