Both the Southern and Northern Sui companies have recommended astronomical increases to the price of gas for domestic and commercial consumers – ranging from 40% to a whopping 190% – to the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet, which is really not surprising given the aggressive revenue targets set by the government.

In the absence of a consistent effort to improve existing recovery mechanisms and preventing issues such as theft and waste, utility companies all but compel themselves to taking the easy route and passing on the burden of increased revenue targets to the consumer. The conditions agreed to in the IMF package demanded immediate steps, and this was an inevitable outcome, given that the government did not consider any alternative steps it could have taken before the deal was signed.

This presents a twofold problem that the country as a whole is affected by. The first and more obvious one is about the pain this causes to the public; everyone anticipated a necessary rise in prices, but isn’t the amount being recommended just too much? There is a fine line between paying for the increase with difficulty and not being able to pay for gas at all. The rate at which prices of basic commodities are rising the average consumer’s shrinking purchasing power is not being offset with substantially increased wages and hence consumers might now have to choose between basic goods, which is not acceptable. For commercial users, operating costs might become too much to afford resulting in closure of business or a further increase in prices which will affect domestic consumers even further.

The other aspect of simply increasing prices without provisions for improved collections, decreased costs and greater efficiency throughout the system, is that the situation is not going to improve in the long run. With public utility companies relying on the easy fix to pass on the increase to consumers whenever greater targets for revenue collections are set, the public cannot hope for any improvement to the system. The budget has not even been passed yet and it seems like the government’s ambitions to improve the economy are not matched by any well-thought out strategy.