ISLAMABAD: Two major opposition parties lashed out on Saturday at the government over its plan to meet conditions set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) through promulgation of ordinances envisaging sizeable increase in electricity tariff.
In a strong-worded statement, spokesperson for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Marriyum Aurangzeb asked the “selected prime minister and his rented mouthpieces” to stop telling lies and declare openly they were “about to drop a Rs884 billion electricity bomb” on the nation.
She said that Imran Khan was the “first” prime minister who was “robbing” the nation through ordinances. The incompetent government was now bringing in “new ordinance(s) to loot the nation”.
Ms Aurangzeb also criticised the government for trying to change the constitutional scheme of secret balloting for Senate elections through an ordinance that was trashed by the Supreme Court.
Move aimed at meeting IMF conditions
“It is an act of utter insensitivity, apathy, shamelessness and arrogance to legalise kleptocracy and whimsical increase in tariffs and costs of utilities and everyday commodities, including food. Increase of (about) Rs6 per unit of electricity through ordinance is equal to burying the people of Pakistan alive,” she said.
“The people of Pakistan should get ready for an uncontainable flood of inflation in the country,” said the former federal minister.
The PML-N spokesperson said the government that had been imposed on the people should take steps to check the skyrocketing prices of cooking oil, ghee, eggs, chicken and lentils, instead of “making up lies” about the opposition.
After presiding over a hefty increase in the prices of wheat flour, sugar, medicine and other items, the government was about to drop a Rs884bn electricity bomb on the people, added Ms Aurangzeb.
Pakistan Peoples Party’s parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman also took the government to task over its plan to issue three ordinances to comply with the IMF directives.
“New ordinance will give right to Nepra [National Electric Power Regulatory Authority] to bypass even cabinet and keep hiking electricity prices on IMF’s orders. Rs884b will be collected from consumers at a whopping Rs5.6 tariff hike in a series of new charges taking electricity bills up by 36pc minus taxes,” she tweeted.
In another tweet, she said the housing projects that the government was projecting as its own welfare scheme for labourers was in fact launched by the last PPP government in 2012. The Workers Welfare Fund land was purchased in 1996 by the late former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Just like the Benazir Income Support Programme that they have rebranded as Ehsaas.
“Ordinances, not laws, to be issued soon for Rs290bn taxes. As per IMF orders. This is actually a money bill which really should not be an ordinance,” she added.
In a statement, PPP Secretary General Nayyar Hussain Bukhari also rejected the proposed “surcharge on power consumers”. He regretted that under tough IMF conditions, a move was afoot to collect Rs150bn surcharge from electricity consumers.
Mr Bukhari lamented that all subsidies were being withdrawn from the people, who were already drowning “under a tsunami of price hike”.
He said that frequent hikes in gas and power tariffs and petrol price were leading to closure of industrial units and also adversely affecting exports.
In a move meant to fulfil the IMF conditions for securing release of $500 million tranche, the government has decided to implement the withdrawal of corporate tax exemptions and putting in place a mechanism for automatic electricity tariff increases of Rs5.36 per unit over the next 27 months through presidential ordinances.
“In order to show the resolve of the federal government regarding the implementation of the Circular Debt Management Plan (CDMP), and streamlining the tariff determination process, it will be essential to introduce the amendments… as early as possible. It is, therefore, proposed that said amendments may be introduced through an ordinance,” said a summary moved by the power division to the federal cabinet for approval.
The ordinance will be called “Ordinance to Further Amend the Regulation of Generation, Transmission and Distribution of Electric Power Act 1997”.
Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2021