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electricity rate GOVT. bowing to IMF DEMAND

23 April 2013 08:12 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Nobody expected this unbelievable increase in electricity charges. Hence there were protests everywhere including in clubs and associations limited to the industrialists and traders. However the tariff increases are friendly to the class separation indicating the departure from the social welfare ideology. Still, everybody feels that the government is putting the burden of their follies and misdoings on the people. The Government claims that it took the hard decision to increase electricity tariffs to cover the losses incurred by the state-owned power generator. The Chairman of the Ceylon Electricity Board, sternly rejecting the accusation that electricity tariffs are increased to cover wastage, said the electricity generation through fuel combustion should be minimised in order to control the increase of electricity charges. He told the national radio that Lanka is faced with the problem of increasing electricity charges due to the rise in fuel prices in the world market. But nobody appears to believe him, as any with common sense could see the wastage due to carnivals, races, VIP protection, their transport and leisure. The poor can see that the government has lost its sense of justice. Otherwise how could rulers not see, that in the present arrangement, the poor have to pay for things which have no relevance to them.

As Lanka’s hydropower generation is no longer able to meet the country's daily requirement, the CEB increasingly relies on costly imported fuel oil for generating power and the losses incurred by the Board are mounting.  The Board is also compelled to pay Rs. 22 billion to private power stations. This whole operation consists of a number of trade agreements where huge corruption could take place. Several such suspected cases are still not solved and those who were responsible were not made to pay for the losses.

The total labour force of the CEB is 20,000 and 16,000 of them are permanent employees who are committed to work 24 hours of the day. The government accepts that provision of facilities to these employees is not wastage of funds.

The government says 94 percent of the general public has been provided electricity and in this service the CEB spends Rs. 23 for a unit of electricity but sells it to the consumers for Rs. 15.45. But clearly this statement does not reveal the whole truth. It does not reveal that hundreds of units, if not millions, are given free of any charge and the CEB has failed to identify many illegitimate connections that drain electricity unnoticed. The policy of making the CEB profitable by forcing the poor legitimate consumer to pay is a dictate of the IMF. The latter is interested in the development process within the  open market where deregulation is a must to attract investors.
Everything is done to make the environment 'investor friendly'. In this process capital accumulation, even at the expense of social benefits, is a good thing. What we name as wastage they could see as growth of new capital. In the end the emphasis is not to arrest waste but to put the burden on the poor masses.

Globally, social democratic political parties have investigated the process of creating electricity and released details on savings on the cost of electricity, which will greatly benefit older people especially those on a fixed income.

 They have long called for the creation of a central planning body to ensure adequate capacity is developed to meet demand. Also, for retail prices to be controlled to provide affordable electricity prices for domestic consumers. In addition production should be adequate to meet their basic needs. In Lanka the spontaneous protests and mass actions against the price hike have sent a tangible message to the government.

The President has decided immediately to summon officials and consult them as to how this unrest could be curbed. Protests have been successful and several Ministers have protested about the electricity tariff hike and expressed views criticising it. On the other hand  the  opposition has vowed to initiate legal action while the Left is set to launch massive protests against the government's decision to increase the electricity tariffs.
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