Increased Cost Of Living, Levied Tariffs: Pakistan Needs An Economic Overhaul

Increased Cost Of Living, Levied Tariffs: Pakistan Needs An Economic Overhaul
The PDM-led govt has emerged as the most corrupt when it comes to being involved in corrupt practices by fleecing the public through utility bills while levying tariffs and imposing anomalous charges in the same.

See the break up of the bill received by a subscriber- Abdul Sattar, a farmer and kidney transplant patient, and imagine the level of plundering of public money.

Break up of the bill:

Gas charges      Rs 681

Meter Rent         Rs 500

G.Sales tax        Rs 213

Adjustment debt Rs 545.

Total charges     Rs 1940.

The subscriber has used only 63 units and has received these extorting utility charges. Calculate ballooning utility bills:

The same subscriber used 63 units in December 2022 and received a bill of Rs 462.

Just after 3 months, the charge which used to be Rs 462 for 63 units has ballooned to Rs 1940.

Worryingly, the same subscriber received the previous month's bill with adjustment debt charges of Rs 391. This time, the adjustment debt charges were increased and made Rs 545.

Instead of fixing the fault lines called economic mismanagement and elite capture, the present government has made an easy way out which is passing on the circular debt to the public already tucked into poverty following storm of inflation. This is nothing but punishing those paying their utility bills.

When the mainstream political parties PML N and PPP were in the opposition, they staged public demonstrations over both inflation and ever-increasing charges in utility bills during Imran Khan -led govt.

Now, those parties in power have resorted to the robbery of public money. Imran Khan had called for civil disobedience over-inflated rates of utility bills during the then government of Nawaz Sharif. Now, Imran Khan is silent as he is busy with petty politics.

Compliance with IMF-dictated policies does not mean putting the economic burden on the pockets of those whose everyday battles in terms of basic commodities like wheat flour, cooking oil, vegetables, chicken, etc beyond their reach are making headlines in national newspapers. Let us not forget recent flour stampedes causality on human lives.

The Sindh government has rejected the meter rent of Rs 500 with the Sindh Energy Minister Imtiaz Shaikh saying that he will write a letter to the federal government on these manipulative policies prioritised by those in the saddle of Ogra. According to Shaikh, the provincial government has conveyed its reservations to the federal government about arbitrary policies.

Surprisingly, the public came to know about spiking gas meter rent from 40 rupees to Rs500 through media rather than the policy announcement by the concerned quarters and that too in April but the gas subscribers were issued spiked prices in February bills to be paid in March.

Regarding the increase in the monthly rent of the gas meter from Rs40 to 500, Aliya Kamran claimed that the increase had been made without the approval of the government.

The lawmaker sought strict action against the concerned quarters for increasing rent without permission of the government. The Speaker of the National Assembly Raja Pervez Ashraf referred the issue of an increase in per month rent of gas meter from Rs40 to 500 to the concerned committee for detailed deliberation.

How come a departmental decision was implemented without the approval of the government? It looks like that this manipulative mechanism called a collection of capital through such murky methods must have the tacit support of the decision-makers. Recently, former primer minister Shahid Khaqan Abbassi accused that Rs20bn were looted during the free floor distribution programme.

The Punjab care taker government has refuted corruption allegations levelled by Abbasi. However, clean governance and transparency are still a distant deam in our dear homeland. The disgruntled PML N leader also dropped a bombshell upon Shahbaz Sharif's government having declared that incompetent people were made ministers.

I must add here that they are not only incompetent but also insensitive to the public bearing the brunt of bad economic arrangements. Failure to speak for weak segments of our country does demonstrate utter indifference to the ordinary.

Keeping quiet over the miseries of those leading miserable lives under the yoke of recent cluster of taxes introduced in mini-budget and staggering increase per month in gas meter rent is nothing but indifference to the ordinary and political crime.

This is a simple case of plundering of public money. Will the Supreme Court of

Pakistan take a sou motu notice of this monetary manipulation imposed by the incumbent government on the public already bearing the brunt of the tsunami of inflation and subsequent food insecurity?

The court is supposed to take notice in matters of the public interest.

But this won't happen as this will not make sensational news like that of politically-motivated cases. The privileged sections of society's failure to feel the pain unleashed by bad economic models on the weak segments of society is a shock indeed which can not be expressed in words.

The salaried class is wailing over gas bills after having received the same with inflated charges. If the salaried class finds it harder to pay such a utility bill then one can imagine the economic conditions of the vast majority trapped in perpetual poverty.

The rising cost of living accompanied by back-breaking utility bills will wreak havoc on the economically impoverished sections.

It is about time to revisit an economic plan that holds the wider sections of our society to account for the suffering of the poor.

The writer is a freelance contributor. He may reached at Nazeer tweets at @nazeerarijo.