KARACHI: The leadership of the Businessmen Group (BMG) and the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry rejected an unprecedented increase in electricity tariffs of up to 80 per cent on Monday, saying it had created a miserable situation not only for the public but also for the business community.

At a press conference, BMG Chair­man Zubair Motiwala and KCCI President Muhammad Idrees demanded the withdrawal of the power tariff hike, fuel adjustment charges, and reintroduction/incre­ase in fixed charges so that the industries and consumers could survive.

They expressed grave concerns that the base tariff has been raised by Rs9.8972 per unit, which has jacked up the per unit cost from Rs19 to around Rs30 per unit, indicating an unprecedented hike of 50pc. “This has increased the base tariff for electricity by Rs30 per unit, which is subjected to 17pc sales tax, excise duty, and income tax. If all these components are combined, an unbearable minimum impact of 65pc to 80pc would appear in the electricity bills,” the business leaders said.

They feared that if electricity tariffs continue to go up at the same pace, the per unit tariff may reach anywhere between Rs55 and Rs65 in the next couple of months.

They said variant tariffs have once again been restored for the industries under the policy of peak and off-peak hours, which was suspended in the past, and a uniform tariff was applicable throughout the day so that the industries could carry on their production at full capacity without any interruption.

The restoration of peak and off-peak hours would create a very difficult situation for the industries as they would either have to curtail their production or suspend operations during peak hours and then reengage labour for the resumption of pending work during the remaining non-peak hours. It happens only in Pakistan, where such a mess usually surfaces due to poor decisions and policy-making by the National Electric and Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra), which never listens to consumers and only fully facilitates distribution companies.

They appealed to Prime Minister Shebaz Sharif to look into Nepra’s matters as many decisions taken by Nepra were purely against the consumers and, in recent history, the regulator has never favoured the consumers. Consumers’ points of view were never taken seriously at the so-called public hearing. Nepra’s rules must be redefined and a consumer representative must also be included in Nepra’s panel for public hearings.

They noted that the industries of Karachi were paying at least Rs10 more than what was being charged by the industries in Peshawar, which was sheer discrimination.

They said fixed charges were unacceptable, which would further increase the cost of doing business because fixed charges were applicable as per load on operational and inoperative industries, which, instead of being encouraged to reactivate operations, would be compelled to stay closed.

They said the government should come forward and provide relief by pardoning electricity bills for a period of at least two months with a view to supporting the flood-affected people during the relief and rehabilitation activities.

Published in Dawn, August 30th, 2022

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