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KARACHI: Business community has criticised the government for the astronomical hike in power rates and sought withdrawal of hike in tariff. The frequent increase in electricity tariff would make the Pakistani products uncompetitive in the international market, they said. They say that the hike has come when people are already reeling under the impact of increase in the prices of essential commodities.

At this juncture when the people of the middle and low income bracket are struggling to make ends meet, the government has raised power tariff which is unjustified. The recent increase in the power tariff of Discos and KE by Rs1.95 per unit is shocking being the cumulative impact of 3 consecutive huge increases in just 3 days calculated as Rs4.33 per unit under the garb of monthly fuel prices adjustments, quarterly tariff adjustments and base tariff adjustments.

It is a massive burden on the masses, said economic and financial analyst Ateeq Ur Rehman. A record number of complaints against overbilling of the gas utility charges are also adding salt to the wounds of the common man despite the fact that there was dire shortage of gas supply in the last several months, he said.

He said that in Pakistan commodity prices are on the rise due to food security, huge increase in power tariff, enormous surge in prices of POL products, overbilling and shortage of gas supply, conflicts and weather shocks. Also, rising food prices have a strong influence in pushing the people below the poverty line.

Ateeq added that we are at present struggling with a series of interlinked and unprecedented public health and economic crisis. Millions are expected to fall back into poverty and quite persistent efforts are needed for preventing people dying from hunger.

Government, for reaching an agreement with IMF for the next tranche release, should also look for successful collaborative initiatives to control Inflation, economic slums and woes of the masses. President of Korangi Association of Trade and Industry (KATI) Saleem-uz-Zaman has demanded of the government to reverse the decision of price hike in electricity tariffs.

He urged Prime Minster Imran Khan to immediately take notice of current decision of electricity price hike and to review the policy for the sake of industrial and export prosperity of the country. He said that while industrial sector has already grave concerns over higher rates of energy, petroleum and other commodities, this new decision of increasing electricity would be a great setback for industrial production which has already been suffering from the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said that the industry was buying the most expensive electricity in the region, and due to this, competitiveness was being compromised in exports market. National Business Group chairman and Pakistan Businessmen and Intellectuals Forum president Mian Zahid Hussain termed continued power tariff hike a mini-budget which is unacceptable.

Power tariff hike by Rs1.95 per unit will be translated into over Rs4 per unit after adding taxes etc. which will result in added pressure on the masses and the business community, he said.

Mian Zahid Hussain said that the decision will hit production, exports, employment and result in inflation which will reverse the recent gains on the economic front which was result of initiatives of the PM. He said that power tariff hike will promote theft while masses will have to face a burden of Rs200 billion.

He said that now the government is not sparing lifeline customers who will pay Rs3.95 instead of Rs2 per unit. Those consuming up to 100 units will now pay Rs7.74 instead of Rs5.79 while the people consuming up to 200 units will pay Rs10.06 as compared to Rs8.11.

The consumers consuming up to 300 units will pay Rs12.05 per unit against the earlier price of Rs10.20, those consuming up to 700 units will have to pay Rs19.55 while they were paying Rs17.60 earlier while those using more than 700 units will pay Rs22.70.

He said that the IMF has also planned to burden masses with another Rs200 billion with another power tariff hike which will take place shortly. Masses are facing the double whammy of petroleum price hike and power tariff hike, therefore, the business community rejects any decision which avoids controlling line losses and theft of Rs400 billion to put all the burden on honest consumers.

He noted that around forty-six thousand cases of power theft have been registered but not a single offender punished which indicate the interest of the government in providing relief to the masses.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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