Electricity bills or electric shock


Waheed Hussain

People are angry. They are sick of inflation and price-hike. Every new day comes with the fresh financial challenge to the citizens. The power and energy sectors prices have turned the public helpless and mad. No doubt there is a method in their madness.

The unlimited and sudden increase in the prices of electricity have completely crushed the masses disturbing their household budget, which is unmanageable.

The rising gape between the income and expenditure is pushing the lower middle and salaried classes into poverty. Even the middle and upper middle classes are feeling the heat of perpetual increase in inflation.

When someone, either state or non-state actors take away the day-to-day food and other facilities from the public, what would one expect that how would it react?

When people are being pushed to the wall, they would react, and react in harsh manner. When huge number of people gather for the same cause without a leader they could turn into mob and ultimately violent as well.

In this time of historic inflation in the country, when they are forced to pay thousands of rupees to power and energy companies, how would they be able to manage their families’ budget?

This is the cause of conflict and disagreement between the power supplying companies and the consumers. There is many a slip between cup and the lip.

When they pay 40 to 50 percent of their income to the energy sector in shape of utility bills charges or the petroleum prices what would they eat?

How would they meet their other expenses including house rest, children school, college or university fee, and health facilities (when the government hospitals are inefficient without health facilities, and the private hospitals are out of reach of the general public, in case of serious illness, they might be forced to sell their precious assets including property for getting the treatment)? Unfortunately, today majority of our population is passing through the same pain and agony.

In such a dismal condition, how the public could afford to pay thousands of rupees for the electricity bills?

When the purses and pockets got empty, the masses came out of their houses and took to the streets. They moved towards power supply companies’ offices and installation to record their displeasure and anger over new rates and additional taxes added to their monthly electricity bills.

The protesters burnt their bills, chanted slogans against the power companies and government. The media reported that in some areas, the protestors tried to attacked the companies’ offices, installations and employees.

Series of incidents were reported in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Karachi, Multan including numerous small cities and towns throughout the country. As result the power supplying companies requested the home department and police to provide security to their offices and sensitive locations.

If we see the current month electricity bills and conduct a comparative study-analysis, it is observed that the rate of per unit electricity has gone up to Rs. 37. While writing these lines I have collected a bill of a consumer for the month of August 2023. The bill belonged to a family of five members residing in a two bed-rooms portion in Islamabad. It was informed that the household uses only one air-condition.

In the month of August, the family consumed 924 units of electricity and received Rs. 52,000 bill.

The breakup of the bill amount is as follows: units consumed 924, cost of electricity, Rs. 34118, fuel price adjustment, Rs. 1415.42, F.C surcharge, Rs. 2984.52, QTR Tarif adjustment Rs. 1153.98, PTV fee, Rs. 35, GST Rs. 6886, GST on Fuel Price Adjustment Rs. 255. The payable amount is Rs. 50450. The actual price of the electricity as mentioned above is Rs. 34118, while over Rs. 16000 are various kinds of taxes being imposed by the government. We have to keep this fact in mind that in this bill per unit cost is Rs. 38, which in 2018, it was Rs. 16. So, if the rate had been Rs. 16 the total cost of the units consumed would have been Rs. 14784. If the government includes Rs. 4000 taxes, the bill would have been just Rs. 19000 or so. The calculation reflects that Rs.31000 are being taken extra from a single household.

That is the trouble and agony the masses are going through. By no means this kind of legalized (Jagha Tax) would be justified.

Since 2018 the power and energy sectors have witnessed the unprecedented increase in the prices. The last 16 months’ PDM government was a nightmare for the public.

The so-called experienced cabinet ministers including the speedy Shahbaz Sharif blamed PTI, held IMF responsible for new taxes and inflation in the country, however, those Ian Steyn didn’t shoulder any responsibility of the situation. Even a kid knows that increase in the electricity prices were being agreed by the previous government with IMF. Therefore, the caretakers have no fault at all.

The care taker Prime Minister Anwar ul Haq kakar held several meetings with the power and finance divisions to provide some relief to the masses in their present electricity bills, but the IMF is reluctant to allow the government to provide any concession to the already over-burdened masses. The margin of relief is very low. The care takers are between devil and the deep blue sea. On the one hand the overburdened public while on the other hand the IMF SBA program agreed by the out-going government. It was agreed that in the current financial year the government will generate Rs. 1800 billion extra from the power sector to reduce the circular debt. It was informed that government has a plan to reduce August-September bills from 30 to 33 percent and adjust the amount during winter’s six months from October 2023 to March 2024 in staggered manner. The decision has yet to be taken, however, one thing is very clear that in the given economic situation of the country, the government has no option to go against the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

On-going political instability has been adding to the economic worries. The increasing hopelessness among the masses is dangerous. They don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.

What is the solution. All the stakeholders of the state should think beyond their ownself. They have to give up their personal likes and dislikes. They should kill their ego (a jehad against the Naafs). Nobody should be winners or losers, let the people of this great country be the winners.

Instead of reinventing the political system let us hold free and fair elections, providing people a chance to elect their representative and let the new government start working with fresh energy and vision, to bring the country out of present political and economic quagmire. We need to give people a hope.