KARACHI: While already paying close to Rs60 per unit inclusive of taxes, trade and industry leaders on Wednesday warned that the fresh hike of Rs7.5 per kWh will bring industrial and export activities to a standstill.

Terming the tariff hike as anti-business, Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) President Irfan Iqbal Sheikh the country’s products have already become uncompetitive on world markets due to the soaring cost of doing business and there is no way to absorb the added burden.

Instead of burdening regular paying power consumers, the government needs to curb electricity theft and control line losses which would plug leakages from the system and generate revenues for the government.

“Being president of the apex body, I am under tremendous pressure from all 250 trade bodies, associations, chambers and sectors to negotiate with the government on their behalf and persuade the withdrawal of the latest hike, Mr Irfan said.

Say govt must check theft and promote renewables than burdening masses

He said the IMF itself had recently admitted that Pakistan did not receive adequate aid in the aftermath of the most devastating floods of its history then why the government was still not able to present its case?

He deplored that the business community is being incessantly mistreated through the most untimely, regressive and anti-business measures.

The FPCCI chief urged the prime minister and finance minister to immediately take stock of the highly disappointing situation and start the much-needed consultative process with the business community.

Rejecting the tariff hike, Korangi Association of Trade and Industry (KATI) President Faraz-ur-Rehman called for affordable electricity solutions amidst the economic crisis and provide cheaper loans for the acquisition of solar systems to lessen the burden on people and the industrial sector besides combating electricity price surge.

The rise in electricity prices would lead to severe repercussions for industrialists, service sectors, and small to medium enterprises as their incomes have not kept pace with the escalating electricity tariff besides creating problems to operate smoothly due to rising production costs and expenses.

He also urged the government to prioritise renewable energy projects to reduce dependency on conventional electricity sources.

The KATI chief said if the government continues to burden the public and industries with soaring electricity prices and neglect the implementation of renewable energy initiatives, it could lead to economic, political and administrative crises.

United Business Group President Zubair Tufail said the power tariff rise would impact the purchasing power of consumers, leading to a decline in export and investments and potentially resulting in the closure of industries, especially small and medium-sized units.

As the masses are already grappling with numerous challenges like rising utility costs, the increase in power rate could lead to an increase in corruption and theft besides pushing many people below the poverty line, he warned.

The business community, he added, is already facing multiple challenges, including fluctuations in the dollar exchange rate, gas and power load shedding, water scarcity, and a prevailing law and order situation.

Rather than burdening the already struggling masses, the government should focus on ceasing the provision of free electricity, gas and petrol to privileged classes, he added.

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2023

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