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Editorial: Defaulting trend

In this modern era, Afghanistan still suffers from the scarcity of electricity – imported by the existing power utility from some Central Asian countries – which has proven inadequate to meet the needs of people in the whole country. Besides, it’s been years now that the Da Afghanistan Bareshna Shirkat (DABS), a semi-government power distribution company, grumbles about defaulters who refuse to pay their arrears. The electricity company has so far been unable to collect all of the outstanding power bills. An example of such complaining once again came on Monday when the DABS said power bills amounting to nine billion AFNs remained unpaid by consumers across the country, urging the government to announce subsidy for people. On top of that, there are several challenges the firm is facing and that need serious heed.

DABS is reportedly doing price discrimination across different provinces – with Balkh inhabitants reportedly paying a three-time higher price compared to other provinces. In the wake of these concerns, the Wolesi Jirga or lower house of parliament summoned DABS chief to explain the unequal price of the electricity. He tried to shy away from the issue by saying such authority of increasing or decreasing electricity price rested with the Electricity Board which included four ministers. DABS chief Rahimullah Ghalib, in his defense, argued that such a reduction in power tariff would lead them to incur losses. Besides, he said, in addition to being obstructed by security threats, DABS also faced the issues of non-payment of bills and collection of bills by the Taliban in some areas. This is while there had been reports that DABS shifted the burden of bills collected by Taliban militants to common consumers. Meanwhile, there is also the problem of strongmen who default on millions of AFNs in bills and the company is unable to collect them.

Against the backdrop of all these issues, DABS should be assisted by the government and the private sector. A mechanism should be established to make the defaulters pay their bills – whether it’s a subsidy or bringing them to book – because defaulting is something that has turned into a trend. Also, this sole power utility shouldn’t price discriminate with an aim to compensate its losses caused to it by the defaulters. It shouldn’t take its toll on the rest of the consumers this way and thus it should bring the prices on a par with other provinces. As the company only buys and sells electricity – something that isn’t meeting the needs of Afghans – the private sector and the government, as well as aid-giving countries, should look into this potential successful investment and therefore start projects of hydropower dams. It’s only dams that could satisfy Afghans’ needs in terms of power which will also lead to the construction of irrigation systems as their by-product. Fortunately, we have numerous capable water resources in the country, they just need to be tapped and put into proper use.

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