Repressive, not inflated bills

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PRIME Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday sought a detailed report from authorities concerned regarding complaints about inflated electricity bills.

Chairing an emergency meeting with regard to complaints about inflated domestic and commercial bills, he asked officials concerned to present a detailed report on a priority basis along with recommendations for solution of the problem.

The notice of the complaints taken by the Prime Minister and his directions for a report on an urgent basis is reflective of the sensitivity of the issue that has assumed critical importance for the common man.

Both domestic and commercial consumers have been complaining about heavy billing for the month of July and further increase in fuel adjustment charges for August and base tariff means they would receive another shock in the next monthly bills.

These are not ‘inflated’ bills in the ordinary sense of the word as normally such terminology refers to wrong, excessive or cumulative reading.

There is nothing wrong with the reading, which is normal for these months for a majority of the consumers but the total amount of the bill with the addition of fuel adjustment charges and so-called quarterly adjustment is repressive and has made most of the people to cry as the bill amount is beyond their capacity to pay.

The bills of the commercial consumers were on the higher side also because of addition of fixed sales tax, which has since been withdrawn, providing major relief to them.

It is to be seen what the officials concerned would recommend to provide genuine relief to the domestic consumers as the Government is unlikely to withdraw FAC and quarterly adjustment because of unending pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

What the Government can do is to provide targeted subsidy on account of FAC and quarterly adjustment for July, August and possibly September, based on remarks of the Finance Minister Miftah Ismail that the amount of the electricity bills would start coming down after three months.

Apart from immediate relief, medium and long term plans should also be drawn to bring down the electricity tariff significantly as the existing rate is not sustainable for an economy like Pakistan.

Exploitation of huge hydel-power potential, utilization of local coal and greater reliance on solar energy could make a real difference.

 

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