When it comes to the recurrent shortfall of energy that heralds an unforgiving summer, and the corresponding escalation in power tariffs and fuel charges, our establishment has become quite adept at tying up the excess costs and reforms in pretty little bows to present to consumers.

Where the power tariff for distribution companies has been estimated to decrease by about Rs2.20 per unit in March touted under positive headlines like ‘lower fuel costs’ and ‘a better energy mix’, the fact remains that the tariff respite is in fact a reimbursement of the extra costs that consumers had been charged previously. It calls to the highly flawed and inconsistent system of tariff adjustments that allow distribution companies to charge significantly higher estimated fuel charge to power consumers and later adjust them against actual cost in the subsequent month. The practice helps power companies generate billions of rupees as windfall from consumers in advance and have better cash flows without financing costs. The tariff respite ironically does not extend to our declining agricultural sector or harangued residential sector.

Such ‘elating’ news fails to soften the contradictory blow dealt by the regulator in re-imposing IMF initiated surcharges on electricity consumers, who ironically pay their bills regularly, in a superficial bid to finance the Rs110 billion worth of theft and corruption. It should also be pointed out that the bulk of losses lie with the distribution companies themselves as per faulty lines, interrupted services and load shedding and overall underperformance. Where these surcharges were deemed unconstitutional by Lahore High Court in 2015, the government challenged the orders in Supreme Court and got the previous judgment suspended exposing the general consumer to the ravages brought about by its mismanagement of the power sector and vacuous economic reforms.

Where we have once again submitted to belt-tightening measures as per the instructions of IMF without consideration of which segment of the population bears the brunt of the reforms, the fault lies wholly and completely with our establishment and our archaic economic policies. Where the establishment is unable or unwilling to promulgate proper resources for equitable tax and bill recovery, exempting those with means while the lower-income bracket suffers, the political matrix has historically used the power sector to maintain its political patronage and liaisons in the industry. Such bottle-necks to reliable and efficient energy dispensation, with a reluctance to explore alternate means of energy will continue to cripple our economic and social welfare with no end in sight.