Opposition slams electricity tariff hike 

  • JVP’s Handunnetti alleges ploy to privatise CEB 
  • Patali says public shouldn’t pay the price for CEB losses
  • Kiriella calls for P’ment debate to reconsider hike 

By Safrah Fazal

In the wake of the increase in the electricity tariffs, members of the Opposition voiced their concerns on the impact of the price hike on the public amidst an economic crisis, and therefore urged the authorities to reconsider the decision.

Speaking to The Morning yesterday (10), Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) Member and former MP Sunil Handunnetti said that the Government gave the public some relief in terms of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and fuel, before placing an even bigger burden on their shoulders, saying: “First, they slightly reduced the prices of LPG s. 

Accordingly, consumers who use 30 or less units will face a 264% increase, bringing their average monthly bill to Rs. 198. Consumers who use 30 to 60 units will face a 211% increase, which will result in an average monthly bill of Rs. 599. Furthermore, consumers using 61 to 90 units will face a 125% hike, leading to an average monthly bill of Rs. 1,461. 

“Following the CEB’s request to hike the electricity tariff, the PUCSL held a public consultation about the matter on 28 July. Reportedly, many of the participants had stressed that an electricity tariff hike cannot be justified in the current climate, as the daily cost of living is at an all-time high, with Sri Lanka facing its most serious economic crisis in history.and fuel, and then went on to rip off the public.” 

He alleged that this was a ploy to privatise the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB). 

“These are attempts to sell off the CEB. They are attempting to appease the people by stating that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has requested to privatise State institutions that are mired in corruption. The people will go along with this because they are unable to pay huge sums for electricity.”

Speaking at a media briefing on Tuesday (9), former Minister of Power and Energy and incumbent “independent” Opposition MP Patali Champika Ranawaka said that while it is a fact that the CEB is incurring losses with the increase in fuel prices, it is not justified to impose all its costs on the public in the face of the inefficiencies and corruption of the CEB. 

“It is true that the CEB is making losses due to the increase in fuel prices, but the important fact is that it is not justified to impose all the costs of the CEB on the people without a basic evaluation system regarding the CEB’s inefficiency and corruption.”

He further said that the pricing formula introduced back in 2015, during which period Ranawaka served as the Minister of Power and Energy, should be reintroduced to determine the appropriate price increase. 

“In 2015, we made the CEB a profit-making entity. Although it was not implemented, a formal pricing formula was introduced for the electricity bill every six months. Therefore, prepare the efficiency threshold of the CEB according to a formal pricing formula. In 2015, we had already introduced the required efficiency-related cuts to the CEB. We should act accordingly, as otherwise the inefficiencies and corruption of the CEB will be imposed on the people. When the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) was convened for this purpose, I stated very clearly that the principles of social justice should be used in determining the price increase. “

Meanwhile, speaking in Parliament yesterday (10), Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP and Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella commented that the newly introduced electricity price hike has put the public on the electric chair, quipping: “Previously, the Government said that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was being sent to the electric chair, but it is the public that is on the electric chair now.” 

Addressing the Speaker of Parliament, he added: “How can the people live like this? We ask that the electricity price hikes be reconsidered after a Parliamentary debate.”

The PUCSL on Tuesday (9)  approved an average 75% price hike for electricity tariffs for all electricity consumers in the country. Addressing a media briefing held on Tuesday, PUCSL Chairman Janaka Ratnayake said that the electricity tariff hike is the first in nine years, after two proposals forwarded by the CEB this year to hike price