Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Fawad Chaudhry has sent a missive to Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Atta Bandial, seeking action against Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz for announcing free power for consumers using electricity up to 100 units ahead of crucial by-elections in Punjab.
The PTI leader’s action or move is clearly aimed at protecting his party’s electoral prospects in the country’s largest province, the Punjab, which has been alienated by the then PTI chief minister’s arguably poor performance.
I don’t want to make any further comment on the merits of PTI leader’s argument. Having said that, I have to make the following point: Announcing free electricity doesn’t make much sense because there is no such thing as a free lunch. It is clear that the financial viability of various Discos gets eroded, not because of their inefficiency but due to political expediency.
The Punjab chief minister’s decision also militates against the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF’s) conditionalities as it has demanded the government end energy subsidies before the stalled programme can be revived. India’s Punjab and Delhi (National Capital Territory) can take such populist steps because their economies are faring better as compared to Pakistani Punjab’s. They have embarked on this scheme by deciding to cut wasteful current expenditure and through enhancement of own tax revenue.
Moreover, we must not ignore the fact that India’s foreign exchange reserves are nearing the $ 600 billion mark against our less that $ 16 billion. Hamza Shehbaz Sharif must not be following in the footsteps of Arvind Kejriwal until and unless Punjab’s economy, as well as country’s, begins to show some signs of significant improvement.
Mehtab Khan (Islamabad)
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022