Islamabad: The All Pakistan Business Forum (APBF) has urged the government to withdraw the inflated electricity bills, abolishing all kinds of surcharges, taxes, duties, levies, and monthly & quarterly adjustments, as the rising cost has led to widespread discontent among the business community.
APBF President Syed Maaz Mahmood said that due to the significant depreciation of rupee, the import of industrial raw materials had become very expensive which was pushing up the production cost.
He said that the government has made energy cost highest in the region and stressed that to save the industry, the government should renegotiate PPAs with IPPs in the best national interest.
He stressed that the government should take urgent measures to stabilize the value of rupee in order to save the industry from further troubles. He said that instead of hiking the power tariffs, the government should focus on controlling the transmission and distribution losses and power theft besides improving the performance of power companies to save the consumers from further burden.
APBF Chairman Ibrahim Qureshi was of the view that the government could mobilize the required resources through increasing the number of taxpayers, reducing line losses and power theft, and ending exemptions to narrow the fiscal deficit instead of increasing the power tariff.
Ibrahim Qureshi said the last increase in power tariff left the industrial sector, particularly the export industry like textile, uncompetitive in comparison to regional competitors. This may lead to the loss of more export orders and render many more people jobless.
Despite the tariff surge, he said, power companies would not be able to recover the targeted revenue loss of around 28-30%. At the same time, it will force many consumers to stop paying their bills, which have become unbearable. He asked the government to undertake fundamental reforms in the power sector to make electricity affordable. Besides, the government should launch a crackdown on the habitual power bill defaulters like putting them behind bars.
The APBF president said the latest increase in power tariff would prove counterproductive as it has taken the cost of industrial production up by at least 30% or more in one month. He pointed out that a large number of industrial units had closed down in the past one year due to the government’s strategy to cool the overheated economy. Not a single company is operating at 100% production capacity these days.
Syed Maaz said that the business community held peaceful protest rallies against the soaring cost of living, including higher fuel and utility bills and record depreciation of the rupee against the dollar, which has led to widespread discontent among the trade and industry.
He said that the traders shuttered their shops, striking over soaring energy and fuel bills stirring widespread discontent. There were widespread market closures on Saturday in Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar, where abandoned bazaars were posted with placards decrying the unreasonable increase in electricity bills and taxes. Everyone is participating because the situation has become unbearable now. Some relief must be given so people can put food on the table.
Maaz Mahmood observed that the rising interest rates, uncertain rupee value, soaring fuel prices, higher gas and power tariffs, and unabated food inflation were extremely serious issues that needed to be addressed by the government on a priority basis. He said that since the arrival of the caretaker government, dollar has gone out of control now.