Finance Minister Asad Umar stressed on Thursday that the recently announced increase in power tariff was determined by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) “before the PTI government had even taken shape”.
“The power tariff and any hikes in it are decided by NEPRA,” he maintained. “This time, NEPRA, after conducting its review, had recommended that the power tariff should be increased by Rs3.82.
He clarified that his government had nothing to do with even a penny of this hike, claiming that this determination of the price hike was completed in August.
“After the Economic Coordination Committee’s decision and its cabinet’s sanctioning today, the average price hike (per unit) will be Rs1.27 instead of Rs3.82, which is less than one-third of what was recommended.”
The finance minister said that the hike in power tariff will not affect those who consume less than 300 units of electricity.
“Seventy per cent of household connections fall in this category, and they will not have to pay a penny more,” he said. “The 20 per cent people whose consumption is between 300 and 700 units, their rates have been increased by 10 per cent; and consumers of 700 plus units, their rates have been increased by 15pc.”
Umar further said that commercial consumers who consume less than 5KV of electricity, which he said comprise 95 per cent of overall commercial connections, will also remain unaffected.
He said that the government is trying to secure loans not just from the IMF, but from multiple lenders.
Regarding the recent protests by Utility Stores employees in Islamabad, the finance minister said that Abdul Razak Dawood has been asked to make a plan to make the Utility Stores Corporations viable.
He clarified that there is no direct Saudi involvement in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which he emphasised, remains a bilateral venture between China and Pakistan.
“One month ago, when the Chinese finance minister came to Pakistan, we spoke to him about CPEC projects,” he said. “The entire programme is a bilateral project. Underneath the CPEC there are many more plans, in which we had discussed whether we can invite a third country to invest — to which China agreed. In this context, we had talked to Saudi Arabia for a project, and other countries could also join this.”
Umar asserted that there is no direct linkage of Saudi Arabia and CPEC.
The finance minister also dismissed concerns that Pakistan may have had to agree to meet some Saudi demands in return for securing a bailout package.
The Saudis did not make any demands that we refused to meet, he said, adding that they will stand by Pakistan’s side during our time of need.