Colombo Telegraph

Lights Out! – Some Questions To Ranawaka Arachchige Patali Champika Ranawaka

By Padraig Colman

Padraig Colman

What can we do to improve the standard of customer service in Sri Lanka? While big issues like press freedom, the 18th Amendment, 13th Amendment are clearly important , can we little people make a difference to ordinary life without going to the barricades?

I have some questions I would like to put to the  Minister of Power.

Why do my lights keep going off every few minutes?

I could understand why power cuts happened during the drought. I can understand it when excessive rain or wind brings down overhead power cables. I am very tolerant and patient. I am willing to accept that living in a beautiful but remote place has its disadvantages.

We always have a good stock of candles. Torches and rechargeable lamps are placed at strategic intervals around the house. Generally speaking, we are philosophical about power cuts. Years of experience of power cuts means that  our expletives have become  quite mild when we are suddenly plunged into darkness and we fall over the cat.

The kind of power cuts we are getting now are quite different. They are usually quite short in duration but happen many, many times throughout the day and night. This means that the rechargeable lamps are not particularly useful. There is often not enough electricity during the day to charge them and they use up what is charged because they light up during the night when we are asleep.

Life support

I do not know how people with serious illnesses cope with this erratic supply of electricity. The domestic disruption we encounter may not be so great in the cosmic scheme of things but do we not have the right to get a decent service when we pay our bills promptly?

As a paying customer, I would like to sit at my computer at whatever time I choose and earn my livelihood, manage my finances through internet banking …

**!@#$!%!!***

I was just interrupted AGAIN!!!!!

…as I was saying- it would be nice to watch DVDs when we choose not when the CEB decides. We are customers, we pay our bills promptly. We want our freedom!

Can I sue?

I recently acquired a new refrigerator at great expense and considerable time and effort (more about that in a future Gripe Corner). The poor thing is doing its best but it is making some extremely distressed noises as a result of being constantly  switched on and off according to the whims of CEB. It is an established fact that such treatment is bad for electrical equipment.

My computer is also suffering because of these constant interruptions. However, disciplined I  try to be in saving my work, valuable items have been lost irretrievably because of CEB’s unreliability. My USP should allow me fifteen minutes to save documents and close down in an orderly fashion but the battery must have become drained because of the frequency of the power cuts and my PC shuts off instantaneously.

Compensation would be in order.

Why do the lights go dim from 18.30 to 21.00 every day?

For many years now, it has been impossible between 18.30 and  21.00 to roast a chicken or bake bread or make a pizza. I cannot work on the computer because it switches itself off. Why is the electricity supply so weak at those times – every day?

FU King Kustomer

When I  visit my local CEB office, I see many signs telling employees that “The Customer Is King”.  I’m afraid they don’t make me feel very regal. The mysterious FU Charge on my monthly bill seems more to the pint. They seem to be saying FU to the customer by putting up prices all the time and reducing the quality of service.

I have just received my latest CEB bill. As is my normal practice, I have paid it online immediately I received it from the hand of the meter reader.  I notice that the FU Charge is almost 30% of the total bill. Can the Hon. Minister tell me: What is the FU Charge and how is it calculated? Can he give me some information to take to my local office to help me get some value for my money?

CEB and ease of doing business

Whatever about the irritation and inconvenience to individual consumers, think about the drastic effect on the Sri Lankan economy as a whole.

The World Bank places Sri Lanka at number 81 (out of 185) on its leagues of Ease of Doing Business for 2013. This is an improvement of 15 places on its ranking for 2012. However, ”Getting Electricity” has shown no improvement  –  takes 67 calendar days for a new business in Colombo to get electricity. Other observers have highlighted the unreliability of the electricity supply once acquired. Nearly 75 percent of urban manufacturing firms in Sri Lanka to own a generator, a significantly higher proportion than competitor countries such as China (27 percent). Generators cost the equivalent of 12 percent of their fixed assets absorbing resources that could otherwise be invested productively in their core business.

Answers please Mr Minister!

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