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KARACHI: Chairman of Businessmen Group (BMG) Zubair Motiwala and President of Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI) Muhammad Idrees, while stressing the need for continuous support to exports, have said that before issuance of any kind of notification the prime minister should look into this matter on an urgent basis so that the uncertainty due to the electricity tariff hike announcement could come to an end.

While appreciating the prime minister for taking notice of public and business community’s complaints/ protests on inflated electricity bills, they said that the exorbitantly high electricity tariffs need to be rationalised as the suggested increase in electricity tariffs would prove to be disastrous for trade, industry, SMEs and the public.

They appealed to the prime minister to look into NEPRA matters as many decisions taken by the body were purely against the consumers and in recent history the regulator has never favoured the consumers.

Why is it that all the decisions taken by NEPRA favour DISCOs and KE only, they asked. This also needs to be seen and the recent decisions of charging FCA and bringing back the fixed charges, which were abolished long time ago but have been arbitrarily reintroduced, must also be deferred, they said.

Mentioning that consumers’ point of view was never being taken seriously at the ‘so-called’ public hearings, Chairman BMG and President KCCI demanded that NEPRA rules must be redefined and out of NEPRA’s penal of three judges at the public hearings, one should be a representative of consumers through Chamber’s recommendation.

In the end, they reiterated that all actions taken by NEPRA should be withdrawn.

Chairman BMG and President KCCI said that the business community was grateful to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif for taking cognizance of the electricity tariff but while we appreciate, we would like to apprise that the abnormal increase would actually prove to be a disaster for the industries, especially Small & Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs) who are purely dependent on electricity and no alternate source including gas was available to these energy-starved SMEs.

This country badly needs SMEs who must be promoted at any cost as it is a well-known fact that SMEs are the backbone of any country’s economy. They said supporting the SMEs should be the highest priority of the government.

They further opined that trade cannot absorb this kind of exorbitant increase in electricity tariff and the commercial users will suffer badly; hence, it has to be rationalized. The increase had been suggested when the dollar rate jumped from Rs180 to more than Rs240 which was abnormal and due to foul play of exchange players but now as it has come down and is likely to descend further; therefore, the increase in electricity tariff does not make any sense at all.

They mentioned that the Karachi Chamber along with industrial associations and all Chambers of Commerce of Pakistan were of similar opinion that as the exorbitant increase in electricity tariffs cannot be absorbed; hence, we urge the Prime Minister that this needs a rational exercise and a careful revision because it can prove to be fatal for many industries and would lead to a massive unemployment across Pakistan while the exports will also suffer badly.

They also pointed out that although ECC approved electricity rate at US$9 cent per kWh to export-oriented sectors from August 1, 2022 but this decision was withdrawn which was an imprudent move as the cost of doing business in Pakistan was already too high as compared to our regional competitors. The government must keep in mind that during the last two months, the exports have been constantly decreasing; hence, electricity rate at US$9 cents per kWh to export-oriented sectors must continue; otherwise, the country’s exports would keep on descending and create more problems for the economy, particularly the rising unemployment.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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