In the name of effects of the recent 49 percent devaluation of the kwacha and “full-cost-recovery”, prices of almost everything are going up. First, fuel pump prices went up, thereby triggering rises in all other sectors such as transport which is a crucial factor in production.
At about the same time, tariffs for electricity went up by 63.25 percent. This increase, according to Minister of Finance Dr Ken Lipenga, will help Escom recover costs of production.
What the hike means is that consumers are now paying more for less electricity used. For example, for pre-paid electricity domestic consumers K500 is enough for 35 units, almost half what the same money bought before the tariff hike. In an average home, 35 units of electricity are just enough for three to four days! Likewise, I expect many post-paid billing electricity users to be “shocked” with monthly bills for the month of May 2012 when the tariff hike was effected.
Full-cost-recovery is good, but that should come with a matching high quality service! Unfortunately, a matching service is what is lacking or has been lacking from the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom), I dare say.
Like many Malawians who use electricity, I will only appreciate the tariff hike effected by Escom if I get “power all day, everyday!”
Demand for energy, electricity inclusive, is at its highest during cold seasons such as the one we are currently experiencing. Given the high tariffs and consumersâ€™ desire to have “power all day, everyday”, it is also important that consumers play a part in saving energy.
This can be done by, among other things, switching off lights, fans and other gadgets when not required. Even computers or television screens should not be left in standby mode. Consumers should also use energy saver bulbs as they consume less electricity than the ordinary bulbs many of us have been used to. In fact, an exercise is underway where Escom is distributing free energy saver bulbs to consumers across the country. That way, our electricity bills will be reduced.
We are told the upward adjustment of the electricity price will allow Escom to do the required maintenance work and also create incentives for private sector investment in electricity generation and distribution. Well, we are here to witness!