Traders warn of strike if power rates not reduced

Say outdated power transmission lines, faulty distribution systems, poor recovery and organised pilferage cause of growing power crisis

Peshawar   -  Backing the call for shutter-down strike against inflated power bills, the business community in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Tuesday set a three-day deadline for the government to withdraw the exorbitant increase in electricity tariff, imposition of various taxes in utility bills, and warned to launch a protest campaign if their demands weren’t met.

The businessmen described the Independent Power Producers (IPPs) as mother of all ills in the existing economic and power crisis and asked to carry out a public audit of these IPPs, what they termed an organized mafia, which caused rising circular debt and power crisis in the country.

The traders community asked the interim government and caretaker Prime Minister to take tangible steps and extend relief and incentives to save the ailing national economy. They said imposition of 14 kinds of taxes in the electricity bills was unacceptable, which should be abolished immediately.

Speaking at a joint press conference here on Tuesday, the Sarhad Chamber of Chamber and Industry (SCCI) Acting President Ijaz Afridi and Industrialists’ Association Peshawar (IAP) President Malik Imran Ishaq said that the government was bent upon increasing the miseries of the business community.

A sluggish growth was witnessed in business, industry, trade and exports while the interim government was yet to take corrective measures and put the national economy on right track, Afridi said and adding the US dollar rate has touched a new peak. He also said that massive increase in power tariff and prices of petroleum products had caused a new wave of inflation, which had hit every segment of society.

Flanked by the SCCI’s former presidents Fuad Ishaq, Engr Masood Anwar, Zulfiqar Khan, Riaz Arshad, Malik Niaz Ahmad, former vice presidents Sherbaz Bilour, Imran Mohmand, and former president FPCCI Ghazanfar Bilour, the Chamber president Ijaz Afridi asked the interim government to sense the gravity of the situation and withdraw exorbitant hike in power bills.

On the occasion, Malik Imran while sharing statistics with media, blamed the IPPs agreements for increasing circular debts, electricity tariff and power crisis in the country. He added the elite class, high officials and powerful people gained special incentives, perks and privileges, in which power charges waiver is also included.

Similarly, he elaborated the outdated power transmission lines, faulty distribution systems and poor recovery, organized pilferage in connivance of WAPDA officials also contributed to the growing power crisis. He explained that power unit has been increased from Rs51 per unit to Rs80 per unit, actually it is increased by 100 per cent, by adding 48 to 50 per cent various taxes in power bills, resulting in the cost of electricity having increased manifold for the industries.

He added billions of rupees collected in the name of Fuel Price Adjustment (FPAs) in power bills, saying the collection of FPAs was an open violation of the 18th constitutional amendments, which should be abolished immediately.

On the occasion, Faud Ishaq said our total consumption is 44,000 megawatts against production of 48,000 megawatt, so there should not any question about carrying out prolonged electricity load-shedding, and imposition of Fuel Surcharges on the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Malik Imran said Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is producing electricity at low cost and available in surplus quantity despite that power consumers have been faced with hours-long electricity load-shedding in the province, even repurchasing its own electricity on double cost.

The IAP president revealed the power tariff will touch at Rs90 per unit, which couldn’t be accepted, so if the government wants to promote industrialization and businesses, it should provide special relief to the business community and improve the system, stop pilferage instead of putting extra burden on them.

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