Electricity tends to shock us in amazing ways. We don’t have enough of it, either at homes or in industries, and yet we get abnormally huge bills for whatever little we consume.
It must have been the calls for civil disobedience raised from the protesting parties and their leaders in the capital that forced the prime minister to take notice of the exponential bills. He had to institute special committees to look into the matter which then led the government to confess that “excessive over-billing was done” and the new meters were faulty in that they ran 30 to 35 per cent faster than the old ones.
We tried to focus on the cost side of electricity in today’s Special Report because we thought there has been enough talk of the supply side, distribution side and recovery of bills issues. We have even attempted Special Reports on the scope of alternative energy sources in Pakistan at some length. However, it turns out the power sector is in deep mess because there is a plethora of issues, all interconnected and there is no way you can discuss the cost side alone.
In a nutshell, the consumers of electricity in Pakistan today are not paying to the government the actual cost of electricity. There is a huge subsidy — the difference between the cost of production and what is paid by the consumer — that is paid by the government. Alongside this straightforward discussion are the thefts and line losses which cannot be managed by the inefficient and corrupt distribution companies. In one of the articles here, economist Asad Sayeed simply explains how the government is then forced to increase tariff in order to reduce subsidy and that, in turn, increases theft and the vicious circle continues.
Besides, the move from hydel to thermal in the last twenty years has also aggaravted matters because we import fuel at huge costs for thermal generation. And then, of course, there are the defaulters; the government departments and the provinces.
So, till such time that well-meaning “deep seated structural reforms” in the words of Asad Sayeed are put in place that take care of all the problems stated above, the average bill-paying consumer will keep getting a rough and unfair deal.