Mar 08 - 14, 2004

After a long wait, the government has finally decided to reduce across the board the power tariff for domestic, industrial and agriculture consumers from March 1, 2004.

The decision was announced by the Information Minister, Shaikh Rashid at a press conference after the cabinet meeting on Saturday (February 28) in Islamabad. The Minister told newsmen that the cabinet has taken the decision in principle to provide relief to the common man and to reinvigorate industrial activity besides boosting agriculture. It will give impetus to the economy and reactivate industrial and commercial activities through enhanced investment, increased unemployment and enhanced production, Shaikh Rashid said adding that the details of the decision will be announced within a few days.

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 are yet to be announced by the government, yet the decision in principle is welcome. It's, however, 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. The reduction in the power tariff for industrial and agricultural sectors is also essential in order to keep the Pakistani products competitive in the international market as well also to boost agricultural and industrial production in the country.

With SAFTA and WTO knocking at our door, we are faced with harsh commercial realities. As electricity has fundamental role in domestic, agricultural, industrial and commercial sectors, it is imperative to bring its tariff down to boost them.

At the same time, it is desirable, the WAPDA should bring down line losses, which too are the highest in the region. Besides, a systematic and effective formula should be devised to curb default in payment of electricity bills both by public and private sectors. The reports that WAPDA arrears against AJK, Provincial Governments and even the Federal Government Departments run into billions are simply disgusting. WAPDA should also step up recovery of these arrears, check line losses and curb corruption rather than burdening the common man with oppressive tariff.

The nation expects that the reduction in the electricity tariff will not be superficial consolation of the common man for political motives. The poor have suffered enough and deserve due relief.