Islamabad: The Standing Committee on Power given a go-ahead to the proposed amendments in the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) Act 1997, which will allow the federal government to impose surcharges on electricity bills to raise funds for power projects of public interest.
The meeting of the Standing Committee on Power was held under the chairmanship of Choudhry Salik Hussain. Secretary Power Division Ali Raza Bhutta comprehensively briefed the members of the committee on The Regulation of Generation, Transmission, and Distribution of Electric Power (Amendment) Bill 2020. He said that through this amendment, the government will be empowered to impose surcharge up to 10 % of the electricity cost. However, he clarified that it does not mean that the government is considering immediately imposing any surcharges on electricity bills.
Secretary Finance on this occasion said that through this bill, the government is not planning to immediately impose any surcharge, and the decision in this regard can only be taken by the Prime Minister with the approval of the Cabinet. He added that whenever the government has imposed any surcharge it faced criticism and had to justify it.
Federal Minister Omar Ayub said that through this surcharge, the government will initiate new power projects and improve the transmission and distribution system of the power sector. He said the amount of surcharge will be decided on the value and location of the project. Secretary Power said in the next two years, the Power Division has to reduce line losses by 2.2 %. Ali Raza said that right now, recovery in the power sector is 90 % and the task has been given to their Ministry to increase it by 5.6 % so it can reach 96 %. He said the Power Division will increase the supply of electricity to Karachi, adding that Karachi is currently getting 800 MW and will get additional electricity 450 MW, and soon the supply will be enhanced to 1400 MW.
Riaz Peerzada said that he could not support this bill, because it will further increase the problems of the common man who already badly affected by rising inflation. He said the price of a bag of DAP fertilizer has now reached Rs 7000, and if the rate of electricityis further increased for tube-wells, then agriculture will not remain a profitable business.
Saira Bano said the government is introducing this bill to appease the International Monetary Fund (IMF), while Shazia Mari said that she will also not support this bill. She said the people in Sindh, despite such high bills. are facing load-shedding up to 18 hours a day, which is unacceptable.
Omar Ayub said the Sindh government is not cooperating with the Ministry of Power to overcome power theft. He added that the Sindh government has instructed the local police not to register first information reports (FIRs) against those involved in electricity theft.
Shazia Mari said that instead of blaming the Sindh government, the Ministry of Power should arrest its corrupt staff who are involved in power theft. She said the government should share the plan to reduce circular debt with the committee, but Omar Ayub said that this plan will be shared with the committee after the approval of the Cabinet.
Four members of the committee supported the bill, whereas three opposed it. After getting clearance from the committee, this bill will be presented in Parliament for legislation.