Finance
JM | Oct 23, 2020

What Michael Belnavis can teach us about the future of fuel allowances

/ Our Today

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Former Mayor of St Ann’s Bay Michael Belnavis. (Photo: JIS)

By Al Edwards

Former Mayor of St Ann’s Bay Michael Belnavis had to relinquish that position for among other things spending municipal funds on a charging port station for his Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid. 

He has said that the St Ann Municipal Corporation did not acquire a vehicle for him so he replaced his BMW X6 with a 2019 model of the Porsche Cayenne. Some will raise eyebrows and ask why does a mayor need a Porsche?  

Well, a mayor is not expected to dispense his or her duties in a bland vehicle. There is a certain status that goes with being a mayor and an image to be conveyed-particularly in Jamaica Many have paid attention to the brand of the car and how Belnavis was allowed to get away with such an egregious act as a public official. 

However, there is another issue that needs to be examined. For decades now both corporate professionals and public officials have received fuel allowances which invariably cover petrol or diesel expenses for their vehicles which are needed to transport them in the course of carrying out their duties. 

The 2019 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid. (Photo: Motor1.com)

With the advent of electric vehicles (EVs) and e-hybrid plug-ins, how will that be addressed?

It may be prudent to put in place solutions that take into consideration this new paradigm. As this new century progresses, and the ravages of climate change become an economic reality, an alternative to the company gas card will have to be found. Turning in those receipts may well be substituted for electricity bills.

“I think we are at an inflection point. The car companies have announced that they will be investing US$300 billion in EVs.” CEO of EVGO Cathy Zoi

According to Bloomberg, by 2030 electric vehicles are expected to surge to 30 million worldwide and INSIDEEVs says 1.9 million were sold last year. CEO of EVGO Cathy Zoi said: “I think we are at an inflection point. The car companies have announced that they will be investing US$300 billion in EVs.”

Zoi went on to add that there are around one million EVs on American roads today with another six or seven million expected in the next five years. Bloomberg estimates that EVs will make up 10 per cent of sales in 2025 with that expected to rise to 30 or 40 per cent in 2030. So what should drive these EV sales? 

CEO of EVGO Cathy Zoi. (Photo: YouTube)

“The cost has to be competitive; the range has to be strong and there has to be charging infrastructure everywhere,” reckons Zoi. For many public officials perception is reality and Belnavis’s decision to install a charging station at taxpayers’ expense is folly – no question. He cannot simply say it is not in the regulations. 

People were always going to be concerned and rightly ask questions. He has said the opprobrium he faces is a case of “bad mind”. Many are questioning where he secured the money to buy a Porsche. 

Again, that is not the issue given that Belnavis has been a successful businessman for many years and continues to be so. What has escaped many is that at an installation cost of J$80,000, he would indeed be making considerable fuel cost savings. 

Now that is a mayor leading by example! If it takes around $12,000 to fill the tank of a Porsche every week or every two weeks, the installation costs would go some way in reducing that bill and pay for itself. CEO of the St Ann Municipal Corporation Rovel Morris has said the charging station for Belnavis’s Porsche has been taken down. 

Perhaps it would have been better to keep it, allow other officials to use it, and see to it that the council is recompensed accordingly. We are going to see a lot more EVs on Jamaican roads – and a lot more charging facilities.

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