Unsustainable power tariff

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IN a shocking development, the Government increased the power tariff by 15% or Rs 1.95 per unit on Thursday as per its commitment with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) but shifted the blame on the previous Government. As in the case of repeated hike in the prices of petroleum products, the Government has tried to console the consumers by claiming that the due increase because of capacity payment amounted to Rs 2.18 per unit but it decided not to pass on the entire burden to the people.
It is regrettable that the planners and decision-makers seem to be oblivious of the fact that the power tariff is becoming unsustainable for all categories of consumers including domestic, commercial, industrialists and agriculture and is set to choke the economic growth if the tendency of increasing prices of electricity for the sake of relief of debt tranches is not shunned. Price-hike has already reached a dangerous level and together with increase in the prices of POL products twice in a month the latest hike in power tariff would push millions below the poverty line and compound economic and financial woes of others. It is all the more alarming that this is not the final increase in electricity tariff, which would go further up due so-called fuel adjustment practice and the terms agreed to with the IMF. It is a lame excuse to apportion the blame on the PML(N) Government, which initiated power projects that have ultimately brought an end to persistent and longstanding power shortages to an end and made the country surplus in electricity generation. Hardly anyone would buy contention of Energy Minister Omer Ayub Khan that the agreements signed by the previous government in the power sector were based on bad intentions and corrupt practices, as PML(N) Government banked on its strategy for resolution of the energy crisis with a view to winning the general election 2018 (and with the bad intention of passing on the burden to the next government). Anyhow, what the present government has done to undo the wrongs of the past and improve the situation during the last three years except increasing power and gas tariff and its inability to check rampant electricity theft and mounting circular debt. There is also massive corruption in power distribution companies and there would be no need to increase tariff if the government takes effective measures to weed out corruption as theft is done in collusion with corrupt officials.

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