Cabinet empowered to fix power bills mess

Published August 29, 2023
A man speaks with fellow traders during a protest against the surge in petrol and electricity prices at a street in Karachi on August 28. — AFP
A man speaks with fellow traders during a protest against the surge in petrol and electricity prices at a street in Karachi on August 28. — AFP
Traders shout slogans while holding a banner reading ‘the tyrants who take milk from the mouths of children’ during a protest at a street in Karachi on August 28 against the surge in petrol and electricity prices. — AFP
Traders shout slogans while holding a banner reading ‘the tyrants who take milk from the mouths of children’ during a protest at a street in Karachi on August 28 against the surge in petrol and electricity prices. — AFP

• Information minister promises ‘real relief’ as energy ministry finalises proposals
• ‘One-slab benefit’, tax reduction, payment via instalments among likely relief measures
• Demonstrations against inflated electricity bills continue across country

ISLAMABAD: In light of protests against inflated electricity bills, the energy ministry has finalised a list of proposals to provide relief to the inflation-hit populace, which would be presented in a meeting of the federal cabinet for approval, said interim Information Minister Murtaza Solangi on Monday.

The minister told Dawn that the public protesting the hike in electricity tariff was in distress and the government would do something to alleviate their suffering, else the two-day-long meeting on the issue of inflated bills would be futile.

In reply to a question about relief, Mr Solangi said it would be a ‘relief in a real manner’, not just breaking up monthly instalment to ease the burden. He admitted that the government was helpless in light of the accord with the International Monetary Fund and that a bloated circular debt would not serve any purpose.

“If we have taken the responsibility to run the country even for a limited time, we have to give some relief to the masses,” he said, adding that he felt responsible for “every good and bad decision” of the interim government. However, the minister was reluctant to give details about the relief to be given to the electricity consumers — especially those whose deadline for the power bill was August 28 (Monday).

A source, however, shared some aspects of the likely relief measures with Dawn. According to the insider, the government could convert these bills into instalments as well as adjusting some of the amounts in power bills of winter months because of low power consumption during one cold season. Similarly, some taxes may be reduced while one-slab benefit could also be extended to consumers. The facility of free electricity units enjoyed by Wapda and other institutions is also likely to be withdrawn.

According to the information minister, PM Kakar held a meeting with the relevant stakeholders on Monday. “The media should inform the masses about the reasons behind the increase in electricity bills,” Dawn.com quoted him as saying. The minister resolved that the cabinet would decide in favour of passing on the relief to the masses.

Meanwhile, a source said interim Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar did not preside over the meeting. Instead, he asked the ministers for energy, finance, information and others to hold a meeting and come up with a solution that would be presented before the federal cabinet today (Tuesday). “The federal cabinet is empowered to give even out-of-box solutions,” the information minister said.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2023

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