Govt agrees to 'defuse' electricity tariff bomb
03 October, 2013
ISLAMABAD: The government has shown its willingness before the Supreme Court to review the recent increase in power tariff.
On the other hand, the Supreme Court has warned the government that it must review the notification for increasing power tariff otherwise it would intervene.
A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, has made it clear to the government that it must rescind the notification, which it termed illegal, before the court intervenes. It directed Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Muhammad Asif to review the notification and submit a written reply on the review by Friday (tomorrow).
The chief justice told the power minister to abstain from targeting the burdened masses and instead concentrate on recovering Rs 441 billion dues. He also said that the court's intervention in governmental affairs was not a good thing, therefore the government should itself resolve the tariff issue and withdraw the notification.
The court noted that nobody can issue the notification regarding increase in power tariff except the National Electric and Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA), and the authority has disassociated itself from the recent notification. "You tell as what is the legal status of this notification," the chief justice asked Khawaja Asif.
The chief justice observed that NEPRA had recommended a decrease in power tariff but the government went for an increase instead. Responding to the chief justice, the power minister said that the government could review the notification for increase in power rates. The court also told Asif that strict investigation should be conducted against the people involved in power theft.
Khawaja Asif informed the bench about issues being faced by his ministry, such as non-payment of bills, and gave the example of Peshawar where, according to him, only 3 percent of consumers pay their bills. The chief justice said that the federation should help the provinces collect revenue.
Justice Iftikhar said that the government should evolve an effective mechanism to curb power theft instead of raising the electricity rates and shifting the burden to the masses that pay their bills. While assisting the court on the matter, Attorney General Munir A Malik submitted that NEPRA is an independent and sovereign authority and determines the prices. He further said that if the formula presented by NEPRA had been accepted the domestic consumers could get electricity at Rs 14 per unit.
The government had on Monday notified a significant hike in power prices, ranging between Rs 2.93 and Rs 5.89 per unit for domestic consumers. An official of the Water and Power Ministry said the raise in the power tariff would help the government generate revenue from consumers, a move that will reduce the power subsidy, in accordance with IMF loan conditions. Under the raised tariff, the domestic consumers using more than 200 units will have to pay Rs 14 per unit against the old rate of Rs 8.15 per unit, an increase of Rs 5.89 per unit.
Consumers using more than 700 units would face a hike of Rs 2.93 per unit in the tariff. Bulk consumers will have to pay Rs 18 per unit, instead of Rs 15.07 per unit. The consumers of the Peshawar Electrical Supply Company and those who use less than 200 units per month are to be exempt from the hike in prices. Minister for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage Pervaiz Rashid said on Tuesday the government was taking difficult decisions instead of printing currency notes, which would have resulted in inflation and price hike.
Rashid said the government would give Rs 135 billion subsidy to 9.2 million households consuming 200 electricity units or less. He said there was no change in the power tariff for domestic consumers using less than 200 units. However, partial subsidy on more than 200 units or higher power consumption had been withdrawn.