ISLAMABAD – As part of its larger plan to cut down circular debt, the government has drawn up a ‘simple formula’ under which the hefty loan of Rs136 billion that it took at a mark-up of staggering Rs15 billion, would be recovered from the power consumers in the shape of tariff hike.

Inflation is expected to soar in the country owing to this government decision that would add to the misery of the masses by multiplying the prices of essential commodities.

Sources privy to the matter informed The Nation that the power distributing companies (Discos) have already submitted applications to the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra), seeking an increase in electricity tariff. Nepra would adjust this tariff increase till the end of February, and then the government would issue a notification to this effect, the sources said, and added that this increase would be collected from power consumers within one and a half year.

While energy crisis has worsened in the four-and-a-half-year tenure of the PPP-led coalition government, the prices of gas and electricity have touched a record high in the country’s history. Ahead of the fast approaching general elections, the government’s plan to heavily charge the over-burdened masses in a bid to pay back the loans it had taken from private banks would not auger well. These loans had been obtained to decrease the circular debt which has continuously been going up, while power thefts and default on bills goes unchecked in many places.

Documents available with this scribe disclose that the Water & Power Ministry, in a bid to bring reduction in the ever-increasing circular debt and to pay off the money it owes to the independent power producers (IPPs), had obtained Rs136 billion loan along with bulky Rs15 billion interest. The ministries of water & power and finance have decided to pay this heavy payment through jacking up the tariff of electric power, and then shift it (tariff) to power consumers, the sources added.

It has also been learnt that initially the Ministry of Water & Power included this heavy sum in the accounts of Discos, and later instructed them to get the tariff increased from Nepra.

The documents further reveal that the Discos had been advised to collect Rs151 billion from power consumers. These included Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (Hesco) Rs4.27 billion, Quetta Electricity Supply Company (Qesco) Rs21.51 billion, Sukkur Electric Supply Company (Sepco) Rs15.73 billion, Multan Electric Power Company (Mepco) Rs18.46 billion, Faisalabad Electric Supply Company (Fesco) Rs6.97 billion, Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco) Rs9.32 billion and Gujranwala Electric Power Company (Gepco) Rs3.62 billion.

Furthermore, with the start of the new year, the Oil & Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) jacked up the gas prices from Rs6 to Rs43/mmbtu. And, the Petroleum Ministry along with gas utilities (Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited and Sui Southern Gas Companies Limited) asked the government to allow the utilities to shift hefty Rs9 billion on account of stolen gas and non-recovery of gas bills along with non-metered losses incurred in crisis-riddled KP and Balochistan to gas consumers paying their bills regularly. Ogra had been declining to pass the burden on to the poor consumers of the country.