THE POWER TARIFFS

The government had finally decided to provide some relief to suffering public by reducing the power tariffs

From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI,
 Islamabad

Apr 19 - 25, 2004

It is really booth surprising and shocking that the decision taken by the Federal Cabinet in the last week of February last to reduce the power rates across the board has not so far been implemented.

Announcing the cabinet decision taken at a meeting presided over by Prime Minister, Mir Zafarullalh Khan Jamali, the spokesman of the Government of Pakistan Shaikh Rashid Ahmed announced at a press conference on 28 February that the reduction in the power rates which will be substantial would be effective w.e.f 01.03-2004. Apparently WAPDA has failed to carry out the order without giving any reason to the public.

Prices of utilities and essential commodities have registered unprecedented increase over the past few years despite comfortable economic situation. The persistent raise in the prices of petrol, electricity, gas, kerosene, edible oil, mutton, beaf, pulses, atta and vegetables has certainly rendered the common man's life miserable as he is finding it hard to make the two ends meet. The price hike coupled with lack of employment opportunities has certainly contributed towards expansion of poverty in the country. Despite projection of poverty alleviation strategy by the government, the plight of the middle and lower middle segments of society has deteroirated as is evident from increase in the poverty, which has risen to 32 percent despite all rhetoric of economic turn around.

It was after a long wait that the government had finally decided to provide some relief to suffering public by reducing the power tariffs for domestic, industrial and agriculture consumers from March 1, 2004.

According to the Information Minister, the cabinet meeting appreciated the performance of WAPDA during the last seven months as it has reduced the cost of the power generation by over Rs. 8 billion by switching over power generation to natural gas in some areas and increasing the hydel power generation by realizing its optimum potential. It has also reduced its line losses by another two percent during this period. The cabinet, however, directed WAPDA authorities to modernize their system providing checks in order to further cut down the line losses which were still higher as per world standard. With employment of a better technology and improved management line losses could be reduced considerably.

Although the details of the power tariff reduction pattern were yet to be announced by the government, yet the decision in principle was highly welcome. It was hoped that reduction will be substantial especially for the domestic consumers, because the common man is under tremendous economic pressure due to the utilities' charges, which are, practically, highest level of poverty as well as the mounting cost of living. It has become impossible for the poor to make his both ends meet in the given situation of price hike.