Electricity crisis in Pakistan

Here’s a selection of countries where issues related to electricity pricing have led to protests: Venezuela, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, South Africa, Nigeria, Sudan, Egypt, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Ukraine, Russia, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Yemen, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Haiti, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Paraguay.

In Pakistan, the growing inflation has become a concerning issue. Over the past year, the price of a crucial commodity like wheat has surged by a significant 130%. Additionally, there has been a staggering 108% increase in gas bills, along with individual price escalations of 90% for tea and 80% for rice and sugar. Against this backdrop, the electricity bill for July can be seen as a symbolic culmination.

The electricity bill isn’t just about electricity, as only 20% of the total reflects actual consumption, while taxes constitute 30%, and a substantial 50% is attributed to ‘government inefficiencies.’

Around 2008, the circular debt in the electricity sector was Rs100 billion. Fast-forward to 2023, and this figure has skyrocketed to an astonishing Rs2,400 billion. This steep increase underscores the shared responsibility of various political governments that have been in power from 2008 to 2023 for the complex crisis confronting us today.

Protests in countries like Venezuela, Chile, and Brazil illustrate how even nations rich in resources can falter in managing their energy sectors. Mismanagement and corruption can result in unreliable supply, high prices, and subsequent public outcry due to blackouts and financial burdens. Similarly, in nations such as Sudan, Nigeria, and Egypt, electricity issues intersect with broader dissatisfaction regarding governance quality, sparking mass protests driven by economic injustice perceptions.

Pakistan’s case could reflect this global pattern. Escalating inflation sets a bleak scene for the average Pakistani’s purchasing power. The substantial increases in prices for essentials like petrol, diesel, wheat, gas, tea, rice, and sugar have strained household budgets, creating a tangible environment of economic distress. In this context, the surge in the July electricity bill serves as a poignant symbol of the growing financial pressures experienced by ordinary Pakistanis.

The global landscape of electricity-related protests underscores the potent combination of economic strains and governance deficiencies. Pakistan’s situation mirrors these worldwide dynamics, where mounting inflation and soaring utility bills test citizens’ patience. Beyond mere numbers, the electricity bill signifies the convergence of economic challenges and public demands for fairness and accountability. Ultimately, addressing the electricity crisis and preventing social unrest demands comprehensive actions, encompassing energy sector reforms and broader governance enhancements. Only through such holistic efforts can Pakistan aspire to maintain not only literal but also metaphorical illumination in the lives of its citizens. Could the electricity bill be the final straw that leads to significant change?

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