ALMOST as if to celebrate the dissolution of the Pakistan Electric Power Company (PEPCO), the power tariff has been increased to coincide with it, and through a 2 to 4 percent increase, it will happen each month for the next 10 months, to help bridge a deficit of Rs 226 billion. PEPCOs dissolution has led other power assets of the country to be placed in the hands of a committee, thereby establishing another transitory arrangement on the way to moving from WAPDA to privatisation. After WAPDA was unbundled, the resulting distribution, transmission and generation companies were placed under PEPCO, which was to act as their holding company until their privatisation. The dissolution of PEPCO is another step on the way to privatisation, and it was announced at the press conference held by Water and Power Minister Pervaiz Ashraf on Friday that the distribution companies would be privatised after they got financial and administrative independence. While no timeframe has been placed for their privatisation, their moving to the next stage means that privatisation is not far around the corner, though it has become even clearer that it will be a piecemeal process which will start with the distribution companies. One of the reasons for privatisation is supposed to be the welfare of the consumer. If that is the case, the increases in the tariff are designed both for prospective buyers, as well as enabling the IMF to fulfill its agenda. The power sector reforms are being carried out to meet the IMFs orders, not necessarily because it will be good for the sector, or even the economy as a whole. Though the present government lays great emphasis on the need to obey the IMF, and relies on that to argue its case, the welfare of the consumer has never been discussed. The consumer needs low power rates not just to make domestic ends meet, but also to make exports competitive, which they are no longer, such has been the increase in power rates. The IMF apparently wants to hike tariffs even higher, so that the domestic consumer is completely crushed, and local industry completely priced out of the market. The government would obtain multiple benefits from exiting the IMF diktat, and one would be an end to the obligation to make the power sector subordinate to the international financial institutions. It must therefore overthrow a policy which keeps it in thrall, and decide for the power sector only what is beneficial for the country. However, that would mean that the government would have to exert itself constantly in the power sector, as opposed to the present trend of taking policies from the international finance institutions.