Home Latest News Human Rights Watch Urges IMF to Help Resolve Pakistan’s Electricity Bills Issue

Human Rights Watch Urges IMF to Help Resolve Pakistan’s Electricity Bills Issue

Global rights body proposes establishing a system of universal social protection prior to phasing out subsidies for vulnerable consumers

by Staff Report

Protesters burn electricity bills during a recent demonstration against the price hikes

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday called on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Government of Pakistan to undertake a thorough assessment of the impact of recent price adjustments in electricity bills to ensure removing fossil fuel subsidies promotes rather than erodes rights.

In a statement, the global rights body noted that protests against a recent hike in electricity prices had been ongoing for a week. “In some cities, the protests have turned violent,” it said, stressing the price hike came amidst one of Pakistan’s worst economic crises, jeopardizing millions of people’s rights to health, food, and an adequate standard of living.

Acknowledging role played by successive Pakistani governments in failing to reform the country’s energy sector, HRW stressed that the present price hike was part of the $3 billion standby arrangement inked between the IMF and Pakistan. The deal, it recalled, mandated the government to remove energy and fuel subsidies and move to a market-based exchange rate, as well as increase taxes.

“Fossil fuel subsidies not only place enormous economic burdens on governments, but they also artificially reduce the costs of fossil fuel production and use, driving fossil fuel dependence at a time when governments should be transitioning to renewable energy to confront the climate crisis,” read the statement. At the same time, it said, removing subsidies without adequately investing in social security often meant price increases disproportionately impacted lower-income segments. “Electricity price hikes can also increase the cost of food, housing and other goods, and essential services,” it said, stressing that the right to an adequate standard of living includes everyone’s right, without discrimination, to sufficient, reliable, safe, clean, accessible, and affordable electricity.

“To ensure removing fossil fuel subsidies promotes rather than erodes rights, the IMF and Pakistani government should undertake a thorough assessment of the impact of these adjustments,” proposed HRW, adding that prior to phasing out subsidies, authorities should implement a comprehensive reform plan aimed at mitigating price increases and facilitating the transition to sustainable energy. “These reforms could include introducing a system of universal social protection, which would provide benefits to people with heightened risks of income insecurity, such as children, older people, and people with disabilities,” it said, noting research had proven such programs were more effective than those that target eligibility based on socioeconomic status.

“The protests should be a warning light for both Pakistan’s government and the IMF,” said HRW. “Tackling climate change and advancing economic and social rights isn’t a zero sum game. Both can be achieved if governments and organizations are willing to adopt a rights respecting approach,” it added.

Related Articles

Leave a Comment