Spurred into action by a desperate populace, the caretaker government has announced plans to take immediate action against the electricity crisis in the country. The first order of business seems to be eliminating losses by tackling electricity theft which amounts to Rs.589 billion on a yearly basis. This is an exorbitant amount of money which, if recovered and reinvested back into the power sector, can improve the functionality of our Discos. The plan of action seems to be comprehensive enough; the onus of swift and timely implementation now lies with the government.
As per PM Kakar, the government is planning on conducting a ‘full-force’ crackdown against electricity theft across the country. At the minimum, Discos experienced a loss of Rs.100 billion due to electricity theft. On a yearly basis, the country accumulates losses almost amounting to Rs.600 billion. Considering these hefty numbers, it would make sense for the government to eliminate theft not only to revive the power sector, but to establish a framework that prevents such criminal activity from taking place in the future. Beyond this, embarking upon reversing fiscal decisions made due to pressure from the IMF does not seem to be a possibility. Thus, the only viable solution would be to cut losses, wherever they may be.
The burden of electricity theft primarily falls upon those who pay their bills on time, since all recovery mechanisms are geared towards them. Beyond that as well, tampering with the distribution system results in technical and commercial losses, which Discos are likely to pass onto the end-consumer as well. In such a situation, we have pushed the masses into a corner and unless action is taken, unrest will continue–and rightfully so.
Fortunately, the government’s plan vows to hold thieves accountable, register FIRs against them through a task force which will arrest them for committing the crime. A public-private partnership will ensure that the procedure is carried out systematically and improving management at Discos might eventually lead to some direction. The government has even proposed an electricity theft control act which, if approved and passed, will create a solid infrastructure of enforcement which we can resort to when needed. In theory, all of this sounds effective but what we lack is an inability to implement such comprehensive plans. If the government is serious about easing the lives of the public, it must remain determined in the face of potential hurdles and delays.