THE National Assembly was informed on Friday that major relief would be provided to electricity consumers as the government had decided to reduce the fuel adjustment charges (FAC) per unit to less than one rupee.
Minister for Energy Khurram Dastgir, while speaking in the House, said that the FAC for the upcoming electricity bills would be Rs0.22 per unit, while in the next bills, it would be kept less than one rupee per unit.
This is, indeed, music to ears of the general public as inflated bills had become a source of sleepless nights to almost each and every consumer – domestic, commercial, agricultural and industrial.
There was no denying the fact that the bills for June, July and August were beyond the absorbing capacity of the consumers and they upset household budgets in a major way forcing families to compromise on their essential needs to be able to pay electricity bills.
The Government, especially Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, surely deserves credit for realizing the gravity of the situation by offering significant relief to those consuming 200 units and then raising the limit to 300 units.
It is, however, not yet fully clear whether the relief was a waiver of fuel price adjustment charges or its deferment for subsequent months.
One thing, however, has become clear during this controversy that Pakistani consumers were not strong enough financially to absorb such shocks and the authorities concerned should take into consideration financial health of the people before signing reckless accords with the multilateral institutions like IMF and the World Bank.
However, the relief that the Minister for Energy foresees for the consumers is contingent upon three factors – continued appreciation of the rupee against dollar, stability in prices of the oil in the international market (which is a big question mark after decision of the OPEC to cut production) and ability of the government to convince the IMF for revision of tough conditions in the wake of situation arising out of floods.
The government would also incur losses on account of subsidies it recently announced for the export sector and it is to be seen how the authorities propose to manage the situation as per satisfaction of the people.