The news regarding latest raise allowed by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) of up to Rs1.70 in the power tariff for consumers of KESC has probably hit Karachi more than the cyclone Phet. As if this bolt from blue was not enough, NEPRA has allowed KESC to recover a consolidated amount on account of high fuel costs it supposedly incurred from last July to March 2010. The backdated bills would be picked from the pockets of all consumers from June to December 2010. The KESC was privatised in 2005 and given away to an Arab investor by Dr Hafeez Shaikh who was then Minister for Privatisation of the Musharraf regime. Dr Sheikh is now the Finance Minister of Pakistan. Some that had followed that privatisation with interest might recall that the government had invested Rs122 billion in the utility and even committed to provide Rs1.5 billion per month to a new management. The total amount the government had received from that sale, believe it or not, was only Rs20.24 billion for sale of majority stakes (73 percent) of the company. The purpose of this massive injection of funds pre-privatisation was apparently to lure more private investment. The underlying assumption was that the affairs of the KESC that were being mismanaged in the public sector would be managed better and this loss-incurring public utility which required future subsidies to the extent of Rs22 billion would be able to stand on its two feet. As per the terms of agreement, new management was supposed to improve the system by replenishing and refurbishing all old lines and reduce line losses that stood at the time at 40 percent. Contrary to the tall claims and expectations, though, the first buyers management failed so spectacularly that the company had to be taken over by another buyer which, horror of horrors, also failed to fulfil not even a single one of all the commitments made with the government. Not a day has dawned in Karachi since that privatisation when consumer could have had uninterrupted power supply. Not even for a day. The management has not only failed to refurbish the old grids but failed even to maintain them. It has never brought the line losses to anywhere near the abysmal pre-privatisation levels either. Most outrageous of all, they do not even run the power plants they have to their optimum capacity just because they can buy cheaper electricity from WAPDA. All they have succeeded in doing so far is to have exorbitant raises in the emoluments and perks of their executives. The current raise in tariff allowed by NEPRA to the KESC has no relation whatsoever with increase in fuel prices. The NEPRA has simply compensated the KESC management for their inefficacy, corruption and extravagance. They are being rewarded for failing to check the widespread pilferage and other line losses. -R. A QURESHI, Karachi, June 9.