The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC), late on Wednesday, finally approved a long-everted increase in the power prices a day after the Prime Minister Imran Khan returned from Saudi Arabia visit with an economy-boosting support package.
The revised power rates, which may go as high as 15 per cent, will generate an additional amount of Rs 145 billion annually.
Finance Minister Asad Umar okayed the politically unpopular decision after the deliberation of the eighth meeting of ECC, and the third in two days. In previous meetings, the committee had not reached a consensus upon the matter of price hike.
So, after extensive deliberation, the committee agreed on a Rs 1.20 per unit (10.3pc) average increase in base tariff.
The hike was inevitable as this was among the ‘tough decisions’ the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had urged Pakistan to take to qualify for a bailout package.
The new prices, however, seem fair concerning its effect on the lives of an ordinary man. The economic committee did not increase the rates for those using less than 300 units to facilitate domestic consumers.
The government has exempted schools and hospitals from the revised electricity prices. It has also cut the costs for the agricultural sector by Rs 5 per unit. This step will boost the declining agrarian growth in the country.
Similarly, the industrial sector has also been given a relief regarding the revised electricity rates.
New Power Prices
Here are the newly approved electricity rates:
- · Domestic Consumer using 1-300 units – No increase
- · Schools and Hospitals – No increase
- · Domestic Consumers using 300-700 units – 10 per cent increase (Rs 1.20 per unit)
- · Domestic Consumers using 700-1500 units – 15 per cent increase
- · General Industrial user – 78 paisa per unit increase
- · Export-oriented industries – 9.75 paise per unit (fixed price)
- · Agricultural Sector – Up to Rs 5-10 per unit decrease
- There’s a slight increase in sales tax as well
As per an official from the finance ministry, ECC would table the summary of the revised prices before the federal cabinet on Thursday (today) to get the final node before a formal announcement.
The finance minister had declared the hike as ‘inevitable’ due to the growing circular debt and economic challenges facing the country.
However, the government has speeded up the process to fix things up.
The average 10pc increase in the power tariff will help the government to control the exponential build-up of circular debt.
Moreover, the PTI government, by its electoral promises, has kicked off reforms in the power sector.
The ECC has assigned the Power Division a target to reduce the line losses and increase the recovery of the bill. The committee has asked to Division to come up with a strategy to achieve the objective.
Earlier, a desk audit conducted by the Auditor General of Pakistan highlighted four power distribution companies (DISCOs) that incurred line losses of Rs147 billion last year.
These companies were Pesco, recovered 74.83%, Hesco – 52.31%, Sepco 39.62% and Qesco only recovered 15.42% of the current billed amount.
A 20% Hike
Separately, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) has also announced a hike of 20 paisa per unit in the power tariff.
The increase, on account of fuel cost adjustment for September 2018, is true for all power distribution companies, except K-Electric, a statement from NEPRA said on Wednesday.