Roshan Gharana Programme
Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz Sharif has taken a bold decision by announcing free electricity for households consuming up to 100 units, from July. The relief programme is supposed to benefit, as claimed by the government, an estimated nine million poor families, which amounts to about half of the population of the province. According to reports, an amount of Rs 100 billion has been earmarked for the purpose and the Punjab government will pay the bills in August.
This is undoubtedly a commendable and progressive move as part of one of the largest relief packages announced where up to 55 million individuals will receive this subsidy. If implemented properly, this is an example of a well-thought-out targeted subsidy which will seek to assist those who need it the most.
It is important to point out that this announcement comes in the wake of a ban imposed by the Election Commission of Pakistan on initiating any development project until the July 17 by-polls on 20 Punjab Assembly seats. It remains to be seen whether this scheme falls under the ECP’s criteria and if there are any objections raised to this announcement. While addressing a press conference, the Chief Minister stated that he is more than willing to take these difficult decisions despite knowing that there could be potential legal proceedings in play. It would be unfortunate if an initiative to assist the most vulnerable is halted due to such legal and technical stipulations.
Nonetheless, this scheme can benefit those who are disproportionately suffering as a result of record-breaking inflation and would provide some relief considering how the economic crisis is expected to last for a while. The allocation for the scheme also appears to be sufficient considering how the total per-month financial burden for the provincial kitty will be around Rs 7 billion. As long as the modalities are worked out regarding how long the scheme will run, what the exact parameters are and how it will be monitored and implemented, such a plan could serve as a blueprint for targeted subsidies going forward.