The government has issued a notification, announcing an increase of 98 paisa per unit in the power tariff. This will go towards a special Universal Obligation Fund to clear the liabilities of power companies. This is in addition to a debt service surcharge of 30 paisa per unit applied in October last year. This should help to clear bad debts and recover the cost of power theft. However, financial health of power companies depended on the transfer of full cost of generation and supply to the consumers through tariff and its recovery. Those who are “universally obligated” to pay off the circular debt are the consumers, as usual. Owing to poor recovery of electricity bills by the distribution companies (DISCOs), the power system is sustaining a huge annual loss of Rs 100 billion. If this worsening situation is not controlled, and it doesn’t seem likely that it will be controlled, the whole power system could be paralysed. The most recent effects of load shedding and power failures has been the closing of a Parco oil refinery, causing a large-scale fuel shortage in Punjab and KPK.

There has to be immediate investment into alternative sources of energy including hydro, solar and wind to provide electricity at affordable rates. There used to be reports of China wanting to invest in electricity and World Bank giving funds for electricity generation, but even these offers have petered out due to the dismal infrastructure of the system and bad management by policy makers.

With regards to the fuel and electricity shortage in Punjab, the big cats of the PMLN have been quiet. Wasn’t it Shahbaz Sharif who said that he would change his name if he didn’t end the shortage of electricity? People like him have to start paying more attention to serving the nation rather than their own private interest here and abroad. Any other government official in another country would have resigned over the fuel shortage disaster and the woeful state of power generation. Sadly, we have elected people into office who won’t even resign when people are killed on their watch, much less resign, or apologise, over an energy crisis.