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PROTESTS AGAINST HIGH ELECTRICITY BILLS

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Electricity prices have gone very high in the past year, while fuel rates have gone up by more than 150 percent.

By Aryan Khan

Protests against high electricity bills in the country have started since a week and the government is unable to slash energy prices without International Monetary Fund (IMF) nod. Protesters in major cities across the country, burned utility bills and blocked highways in response to an unprecedented hike in electricity rates. While caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar has pledged relief, his cabinet cautioned Tuesday that cutting the payments might threaten IMF loan agreement. The inflationary tide has swept us away. It is impossible to pay these prices. It will be impossible for me to feed my three kids this month if I pay the taxi cost,” stated Noorul Amin (a citizen). This month’s electricity cost was 60,000 Pakistani rupees , which barber Mohamed Karamat (a citizen) is bound to pay and he could not afford it.

The caretaker government is unable to control rising power prices, fuel prices, and fast rising inflation. On Wednesday, Interim Federal Finance Minister Shamshad Akhtar told members of the upper house of parliament that the country does not have enough “fiscal space” to help people immediately. She went on to say that taxes might increase even more. By the deal reached with the IMF, national power regulator also raised the national average tariff by almost five rupees per unit. Additionally, the government requested yet another upward modification early this month. Women in the country are selling their jewellery to pay utility bills.

Notably, the protesters are blocking roads and torching tires across the country over the past two days, from the port city of Karachi to Lahore, Peshawar, Faisalabad, Sargodha, Multan, and Hyderabad. With inflation around 28%, the purchasing power of the masses has been steadily eroded. During a demonstration against the power company in Karachi, a video surfaced on numerous local channels showing a mob of older adults knocking up a company representative.

The cost of living have skyrocketed and administration have failed in controlling prices

Financially, the country is under total control of the IMF. Instead of eliminating subsidies, governments can focus on better-targeting subsidies to those who need it badly. Because of this, it is guaranteed that households with low incomes are shielded from the effects of increased electricity prices. Create new social safety net initiatives or improve existing ones to assist vulnerable groups negatively impacted by growing utility bills. Those needing assistance with their utility bills may be eligible for direct cash assistance or subsidies through these programs. Investing in technologies and practices that are more energy efficient is one way to bring down overall electricity consumption. Lowering overall energy bills can minimize the impact of rising tariffs by providing some relief. It is essential to acknowledge that achieving a healthy equilibrium between economic prudence and the general public’s well-being can be difficult. However, open communication, specific assistance, and well-thought-out rules can help lessen the adverse effects of subsidy changes and make the process more palatable to the general public. Moreover, these factors can help make the process more efficient.

The writer is student of semester 8 at University of the Punjab, Lahore. He can be reached at [email protected]

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