NEPRA’s Neglect

With the rising cost of electricity units over the past few years, the summertime has become a nightmare for all Pakistanis. The recent proposal to charge an additional Rs1.45 per unit for three months to recover Rs52 billion from paying consumers will only be rubbing salt in the wound as record-breaking heat waves approach this year.

Many are not surprised by this move, considering the longstanding issues and inadequacies of NEPRA, and how these have repeatedly harmed consumers instead of addressing the root causes of financial shortfalls. The inability to recover Rs1.3 trillion in unpaid dues from chronic defaulters is the primary reason behind this tariff hike. Instead of focusing on effective measures to reclaim these dues, NEPRA has opted to penalize compliant consumers, once again highlighting the unfairness of how burdens are shared in our nation. These are law-abiding citizens, who already bear the brunt of high electricity costs, and now they are being forced to subsidize those who evade payments. In turn this will only create a disincentive for honest behaviour and erode trust in the state’s ability to manage its affairs justly.

Honest consumers should not shoulder the burden created by those who exploit the system. The government’s campaign against theft and non-payments, which recovered Rs104 billion, including Rs10.9 billion against theft, highlights the potential effectiveness of targeting defaulters directly. Similar measures must be intensified and sustained rather than resorting to blanket hikes that affect all consumers indiscriminately, but this will require a systemic overhaul. This situation mirrors the actions of the FBR, which sought to deactivate hundreds of thousands of SIM cards to penalize tax defaulters. Instead of these harsh penalties, both NEPRA and FBR need comprehensive reforms. A top-down shakeup with a strong emphasis on accountability is crucial. Implementing transparent and efficient systems to track and recover dues from defaulters can prevent honest consumers from bearing undue financial stress. NEPRA’s current strategy is not only detrimental to consumers but also counterproductive to its goals.

The move to introduce a 25% increase in the base national electricity tariff will only further strain the already stretched finances of consumers. It is imperative for NEPRA to reform its strategies, focusing on accountability and efficient recovery, thereby ensuring a fair and just system for all.

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