What? Me, an electricity and water meter reader?

I was chatting with one of my gym mates at JPMC Gym last Sunday. He used to work at the Empire Hotel but now runs his own workshop. He was telling me how most motorcar workshops in Brunei have of late gone very quiet. Apparently Bruneians who used to go to car workshops to do minor repairs and servicings and other things needed for cars have stopped going to workshops. The concensus among workshop owners is that the current crackdown on electricity bills recalcitrants have apparently affected the spending power of Bruneians. They are now putting off going to motorcar workshops foregoing servicings and other minor works. It's interesting to note the multiplier effect of one policy change. I just wonder which other sectors are affected.

What electrical department has been doing is forcing Bruneians to confront the one thing they have been putting off - not paying their electricity bills. Paying electricity bills have been a low priority all this while but now has become a high priority. I even know of some who deliberately pay only a fraction of their electricity bill because DES allows them to. The outstanding amount would no doubt become larger because they are still using electricity. Part of the blame should be on the department itself for allowing the built up of these bills. If they had been rigorous in the past by charging interest rates and other charges like the Telecommunications Department, everybody would have been paying their bills and DES unpaid bills would not have reached more than half a billion dollars.

I was a bit worried too. Even though my electricity and my phone bills are up to date, the last time I received my water bill was some 11 months ago and the one before that was another double digit months apart. So I asked the water services counter for a reprint of my latest bill statement, but to my surprise, the counter clerk could not do that. Apparently I had no bill to pay because the water department has never sent anyone to read my water meter for the last 12 months despite the fact that my house faces the main road and that there is absolutely no way any water meter man could have missed it unless he was Mr Magoo's brother or someone with really serious eye problems. So, they kindly gave me this booklet full of postcards of which I am supposed to fill in with my meter reading at the end of every month and they will then send me the monthly bill based on that reading. At first I thought since I am already doing that for my electrical bills so what's another meter to read. Though with everyone asking me to be their meter readers, I am thinking I should get a discount at least!

I asked the head honchos of DES and the Water Department what actually happen to people who don't pay their bills? According to DES, it will continue to supply electricity as long as those people discuss with DES of how they are going to settle their bills - how many instalments, how much etc... And the water department - similarly they will do that but with water services, they can actually put a restrictive devise so that the waterflow will greatly reduce but not stopped completely. So the Brunei Government is actually still quite generous in making sure that the public still receives their water and electricity despite not paying for it.


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