ISLAMABAD - Succumbing to pressure of both apex court and public rage, the government has finally decided to approach National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA), seeking to review the tariff of domestic and tube well consumers and the regulatory authority would issue a decision within 15 days.
Following the controversial notification that led to phenomenal 40 to 210 per cent increase in the power tariff of domestic and agri consumers, simmering public protest demonstrations have so far been reported in various parts of the country, unanimous protest calls from all opposition parties of provincial, federal assemblies and Senate coupled with the suo moto notice took by the Supreme Court of Pakistan has ostensibly forced the incumbent regime to withdraw the controversial notification. Taking cognizance of the matter, Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif also expressed his displeasure and directed the Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to get the power tariff revised in order to ensure that interest of the low-income groups should be protected at all costs.
Yesterday, a meeting was held in the ministry of water and power to take a decision with regard to reviewed tariff and new notification. The meeting discussed threadbare the issue and decided to withdraw the power hike notification and NEPRA would issue a new notification on the basis of revised tariff of the power distributing companies which would be applicable from October 1. It was decided to seek more time from the Supreme Court to rationalise the power tariff. Similarly, NEPRA had shown its agreement under which it appears that the regulator was ready to extend the deadline required for the purpose of submitting a review application. The Nepra had taken its decision in this regard some five months back while the ministry was authorised to submit a review application within 15 days.
Well-placed sources told that ministry of water & power has formally submitted a review application with National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) seeking to review the tariff of power distributing companies (Discos) for financial year (FY) 2013-14. The ministry has also handed over necessary details pertaining to subsidy being given to the consumers. And, NEPRA would include subsidy in the reviewed tariff on the basis of category. They also said that the government in its review application has sough extension in the deadline set for the submission of review application. NEPRA would issue its decision within 15 days and the water and power ministry, without making any change in NEPRA decision, would issue a new revised power tariff notification. The new power tariff notification would be applicable on domestic and tube well consumers from October 1 as the incumbent government had agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), they added.
A senior official at power ministry has confirmed that a review application with regard to review the tariff of Discos has been submitted with the authority, which would be effective from October 1. He also said that the government would provide a subsidy worth above Rs150 billion and NEPRA has been requested to adjust in all categories with major chunk to those consumers use up to 300 units in a month.
The controversial raise in power tariff was made under a four-phased plan to gradually cut the energy subsidies, and it was also in line with the assurance of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to the IMF that power tariff for all consumers will be increased. The four-phase plan is expected to reduce the subsidies from about 1.8 percent of GDP to 0.3-0.4 percent of GDP in three years.
The government has already, in August, approved up to 116 percent power tariff hike for commercial and industrial consumers, for the consumers of Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
The power tariff jolt came ahead of Eidul Azha so it was bound to be even more painful for the already heavily burdened people. The common man and the salaried class found it even more difficult to manage their home budget. The step was set to seriously damage the popularity of the Nawaz government. Different opposition parties and religious groups rejected the power price hike, declaring them ‘anti-people’. There were public protest demonstrations in different areas of the country over the issue. The Supreme Court while taking up the suo moto notice expressed its displeasure over the irregularities in issuing the controversial notification.
The court observed that since it was the duty of NEPRA to issue notification, why the government had done that. Finally, the government bowed on Friday and accepted the demand to withdraw the power hike notification.