A convoluted view of governance
The 17 per cent rise in power tariff approved by NEPRA has rightly been faulted by NEPRA members from Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa, but within its sphere of authority. NEPRA can’t do anything except what it did — pass on the cost through the pricing mechanism.
What NEPRA did not do though was to ask the state to absorb part of this cost to reduce its incidence. The fact is that aligning the incidence of market prices with the ability of the various classes to bear them, and absorbing a part of them under other heads of state expense, is the primary obligation of the state.
Exercising this discretion within the spheres of rationality based on social responsibility is the essence of good governance – the ability that is missing in the managers of the state though all were ‘elected’ by the people.
The more unfortunate part is that these managers also refuse to learn from experience.
Last week, in a TV talk show, Naveed Qamar, who heads the Federal Petroleum Ministry, was at pains to make the other participants understand, that by empowering NEPRA to regulate electricity tariff, the state had stopped interfering in the market pricing mechanism; to him this reflected good governance.
Tragically, without realising the gravity of the offence, he was admitting that the state was no longer rationalising the incidence of market prices on the citizens – failing in its basic responsibility – and yet wanted everyone to accept that the state was setting an example of good governance.
Governments that don’t realise what governance of the state implies, at first create problems for their citizens and then for themselves when citizens react to bad governance that manifests itself in increased economic disparities.
That is precisely what is happening but, sadly, the ‘elected’ politicians can’t see it.