By Khurshid Ahmad, Weekly Pulse, August 19, 2013
The government of Pakistan Muslim League N at one hand has opened the flood gates of inflation while on other hand it tries to mollify the suffering masses that the pace of price hike would be kept in single digit. How this miracle will happen they don’t have the clear answer.
Recently the Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif approved tariff hike ranging from Rs 2 to Rs 6.59 per unit of electricity. The rates are for the commercial consumers of power. The electricity rate for the domestic consumers will be increased in coming October.
The industries in Pakistan would have to pay 22.45 percent or Rs 3.30 more for the consumption a unit in peak hours. While up to 20 KW the tariff has been increased to Rs 6.28 per unit or 64.61 percent. For industries the consumption of up to 500 KW will cost Rs 5 or 55.56 percent more.
The rate for the Azad Kashmir has been substantially increased by 117.05 percent. Kashmir’s industry will hardly absorb the huge tariff hike mainly in the current circumstance where availability of power is the questionable. “It is the price of government’s mismanagement and corruption that common consumers are paying and will have to pay in future”, says Zulfiqar Abbasi, former president of AJ&KCCI when asked how the industries will react to the extra ordinary price hike.
Abbasi, like majority of Pakistani, sees the corruption major cause of the problem. Burgeoning corruption has made the life of commoners miserable says Abbasi adding that the corruption and mismanagement of electricity department of the AJ&K is widespread, from meter readers to the chief engineers all are involved in power theft. It is general perception that the electricity supply department officials have become billionaire.
The rates increase in Pakistan is also cause of concern for the industries. Industrialists believe that the move is likely to have serious repercussions on the economy and masses as well. The prices of output, according to the businessmen, are likely to increase by 30 to 40 percent which will fuel further poverty in the country. Pakistan’s industries are already suffering due to deteriorating law and order condition, multiplicity of taxes, interrupted supply of gas. Further the export industries will not be able to compete with other competitors in international markets. Country’s industries particularly large scale manufacturing sector consumes more than 40 percent of the total electricity being consumed.
Contrary to pre-election tall claims of reducing inflation and ensuring supply of electricity at cheap rates the PML N has now backtracked, showing its true colors. The recent hike will further paved the way for the total closure of tumbling industrial units which have been suffering during PPP regime. Due to previous government’s careless policies many industrial units have been relocated in countries including India and Bangladesh. Punjab was big victim of load shedding.
Was there not any other option available with the government than increasing power rates? Is the question every concerned person keeps asking. The major problems like other government departments are the corruption and mismanagement. The electricity supply companies’ officials are involved in money making through corrupt means and they are also responsible and encourage power theft almost in all parts of country.
It is not unknown for the companies’ high ups about those involved in power theft and can easily be brought to justice. Effective measures must have been taken to stop power theft in first place rather than further burdening those consumers who honestly pay their utility bills. Total reorganization of all departments can provide better option.
It is not prudent to raise prices as a first available option which will ultimately have tickle down effects, prices of all commodities will automatically increase in coming days. To perform this simple job even a services of an accountant could be hired instead of spending millions of rupees on full-fledged ministry. The dream of reducing poverty from the country will not be materialized. The domestic consumers will have to wait till October when noose will be tightened around their necks.
Remedy: Treat the corruption at par with treason, because both are fatal for the existence of the country. Government needs to set an example in this manner.