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KARACHI: Business and industrial community rejects another hike of Rs 7.5 per unit in electricity bills. President Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI) Iftikhar Ahmed Sheikh has strongly condemned NEPRA decision to allow an increase of Rs7.0562 per kWh as adjustment in fuel charges component for the month of January 2024 which was totally unacceptable as it would not only raise the cost of doing business but also intensify hardships for common man who was trying really hard to somehow meet both ends in the ongoing era of inflation.

President KCCI stated that it was highly unfair to allow an additional sum of Rs7.0562 per kWh to be charged from all categories of consumers for January 2024 with an excuse of variation in fuel charges.

All the citizens as well as members of business community have already paid their bills for January 2024 so NEPRA has advised to take variation in fuel charges for January 2024 under a separate head in bills of March 2024 which would not only affect budgeting of almost all the households but also terribly raise the costs for the month of March for all types of manufacturing units all over the country, he said, adding that the business community was already battling hard for survival due to high cost of doing business which has made Pakistani goods uncompetitive in the international markets and unaffordable for common man.

Iftikhar Sheikh, while urging the government to take notice of all the wrongdoings going on at NEPRA, stated that the regulator has been fearlessly and mercilessly giving go ahead to raising tariffs regardless of thinking of the repercussions on the economy, trade, industry and the lives of poor masses who were finding it impossible to pay their electricity bills.

“The unbearably high electricity bills have created a terrifying situation wherein the industrialists find it unfeasible to keep their units operational, hence, many SMEs have completely closed down whereas the industries have also curtailed their activities, which has resulted in making thousands, in fact millions of people jobless all over the country.

He feared that large number of individuals, after losing their jobs and seeing unbearable electricity bills, would have no other option but to either default bill payment, confront electricity service provider staff when it comes in for disconnection due to non-payment or go for Kunda connection or come out on streets to protest and create law & order situation which would ruin the entire fabric of society.

The circular debt continues to go up and has crossed Rs5.73 trillion only because of the fact that efforts were hardly being made to deal with theft and line losses.

They are trying to avert further increase in circular debt by raising the tariffs which is not a wise move as the hefty bills would further worsen the situation by encouraging the public to go for theft all over the country”, he added.

He appealed the government to refrain NEPRA from taking such anti-people and anti-business decisions which have brought businesses at the verge of collapse and endangered lives of the poor public.

Pakistan Business Forum (PBF) rejects another hike of the electricity bills upto Rs 8 per unit as notified by NEPRA, this another unexpected hike will put the burden of Rs 70 billion on the people of Pakistan and this is unacceptable.

Vice President and Chief Organiser, Ahmad Jawad observed that the Discos’ losses and inefficiencies stood at Rs 77 billion during July-December 2023-24 as compared to Rs 62 billion in the same period of 2022-23, showing addition of Rs 15 billion in total circular debt stock. The total amount of losses, inefficiency were Rs 160 billion during FY 2022-23.

Discos under recoveries reached Rs 149 billion during first half of 2023-24 as compared to Rs 62 billion during corresponding period of 2022-23; however, their cumulative under recoveries stood at Rs 236 billion as of June 30, 2023.

Jawad also said policy makers sitting in Islamabad were failing to read the writing on the wall. "Out-of-box thinking is required to emerge from the economic crisis

PBF warned that if energy prices are not slashed by approximately 43 percent, various industries may not survive as high input costs would lead to the loss of export markets, and eventually trigger industrial closures.

Pakistan already reeling from sky rocketing inflation from the last three years. Similarly international competitiveness of Pakistan textiles and apparel exports is being continuously eroded by ever-increasing energy prices that, on average, are over twice than those of competing countries. One should understand price hikes have made Pakistani exporters “uncompetitive” in the export markets by a large margin.

PBF Chairman South Punjab, Malik Suhail Talat said “if the government is not coming up with the right set of policies to keep the industrial wheel in motion, a large chunk of the country industries would eventually fall victim to high input cost and close down.

As Independent power producers (IPPs) on take-or-pay basis are causing enormous financial burden on consumers across the board, be it households, commercial or industrial users.

He said that the power sector circular debt issue should be resolved holistically without escalating electricity cost, as its size has more than doubled during the three and a half years in spite of raising the power tariff multiple times in the past.

At present, oil and gas sectors are reeling from Rs 1.8 trillion worth of circular debt whereas the power sector has a circular debt close to Rs 2.5 trillion.

He said government is compelling us for a shutter-down strike across the country to protest against the inflated electricity bills and rising inflation.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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