ISLAMABAD - Yet another gift of the so-called democratic government is that the electricity consumers would be facing from July onward every month bill with a new tariff, most probably higher, for being linked to the international crude oil prices. The Opposition as well as Treasury Senators did their best in the Senate Standing Committee on Finance to block the proposed amendment in the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority law through the finance bill 2008 for monthly adjustments of the power tariff. Finance Minister Syed Naveed Qamar very well aided by Abdullah Yousaf Chairman Federal Board of Revenue, however, remained steadfast to defend the proposals, inter alia, of the monthly adjustments. "We are simply unable to finance the difference between the cost of the fuel and the subsidized consumer price of the electricity," the Finance Minister responded to Senator Anwar Bhindar of the PML-Q, who was pressing for withdrawal of the proposed amendment terming it as anti-public. It is pertinent to recall here that it was the same fellow (Abdullah Yousaf) who had been instrumental for the then government in 2001 as Petroleum Secretary to link the consumer prices of the oil and gas to the international crude oil. Therefore, the government represented by Abduallah Yousaf more than Finance Minister Naveed Qamar in the Committee meeting on Monday, appeared to be firm on its proposals and treated the Senators as students. The Senators were mainly concerned about the government seeking, through the Finance Bill, linkage of electricity prices to the crude oil tariff, further taxations, extraordinary powers to reopen cases, and relaxation in the time limit to decide confiscation cases. Bhindar expressed his concerns to the govt seeking relaxation in deciding cases of confiscation by the customs. "The govt should be working on a fast track with optimal efficiency while here the FBR is seeking extension in 90 days' limit up to 120 days," he maintained. Finance Minister at the same time unearthed another fact that the development surcharge of a particular project such as Neelum-Jelham, was never meant for development as such. "We should clear out this misconception because it is a mode of mere cost recovery," he added. Meanwhile representatives of the Petroleum Ministry defended the amendment for development surcharge on the gas sector primarily to bring the gas prices at par with petroleum products chiefly supreme and diesel. Continuing its deliberations on the third consecutive day at the Parliament House today under the Chairmanship of Senator Ahmed Ali, the Committee also considered and finalized recommendations of the members on the finance bill 2008. Earlier the Committee emphasized the need to review oil-pricing formula. Senator Nisar A Memon observed that the performance of ZTBL was not up to the mark and therefore no increase in ZTBL allocation be made to avoid any misuse by those who could and were in a position to influence its disbursement without merit. Senator Haroon Khan highlighted the issue of personal guarantees to Directors of Limited companies in the light of CIB regulations and the issue of putting businessmen names on ECL. Senator Prof. Khurshid Ahmad underscored the need to reduce the markup on micro-financing schemes as they have the potential to bring about poverty alleviation and women empowerment especially in the far-flung areas. Senators Rukhsana Zuberi and Prof. Khurshid Ahmad also recommended that the pricing formula for petroleum and its products should be reviewed in the light of recommendations made earlier by the Senate Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Resources. They were of the view that the mechanism should be evolved to absorb international price variations by drawing upon a standardization fund in which all amounts received in the form of Sales Tax, Excise Duty and other levies should be credited and all other amounts as identified by the Standing Committee be recovered from the oil refineries and credited to this fund.   Senator Ishaq Dar stressed the need to maintain the immunity and exemptions provided in the foreign exchange regulations to certain categories and said that these should not be withdrawn under the Economic Reforms Act otherwise it would adversely impact the foreign investments as well as remittances from abroad. Senator Bhinder proposed 68 amendments in the Finance Bill, out of which the Committee accepted 26 after the latter's deliberations with the officials of the Ministries concerned. At the same time he withdrew 27 after being convinced by the government and 15 were still to be decided after debate in the next sessions of the meeting.