CEB says no tariff increase early in 2004
By Munza Mushtaq
Amidst claims by senior Ceylon Electricity Board officials and unions of a possible tariff hike, the board's chairman M. Zubair has assured that it will not impose a hike nor is it even contemplating imposing a price increase early next year.
Referring to the Daily Mirror's lead story, "CEB mulls shocking move", the chairman, in a press release, also stated that the impression created by the story and its headline is that electricity consumers will be subjected to a great deal of hardship and unbearable financial burden.
The Daily Mirror, however, did not confirm the tariff hike but only reported a possible one, due to several funding institutions requesting regular tariff revisions. The CEB has not denied this part of the story which was reported in Monday's lead story.
Even though the CEB in its reply has claimed that the present overdraft of the CEB is well below Rs. 3 billion, sources point out that the board is only taking into consideration the bank overdrafts but has forgotten to mention the long term loans which have been given from the Treasury for certain power projects.
The chairman has also said that 80% of the electricity consumers in the domestic category in Sri Lanka pay well below Rs. 15 per unit.
The CEB has reiterated that it is conscious of its duty by the nation and will not be forced into hasty decisions regarding the tariff or any other relevant matter. Power and Energy Minister Karu Jayasuriya has also stated that no price increase on the current tariff for electricity will be imposed.
Mr. Zubair said that Minister Jayasuriya has advised CEB officials to study the possibility of reducing the unit cost of electricity in order to lessen the financial burden on consumers.
Meanwhile Mr. Zubair also told the Daily Mirror yesterday that even though there is no plan to impose a tariff hike, a request has been made to the government to let the CEB revert hotels to the commercial category.
"At present we charge hotels the industrial tariff rate, but now with the hotel industry picking up, we have made a representation to the government to let us charge the hotels the usual commercial tariff," he said.
The press release issued by the CEB states:
"The attention of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) has been drawn to the front page lead story of the Daily Mirror of Monday 22nd December, 2003. The 'story' is strewn with many inaccuracies and false statements. The impression created by this story and its headline is that the consumers of electricity will be subject to a great deal of hardship and unbearable financial burden. The CEB categorically denies that it will impose a 'hike' early next year or even contemplate such an increase.
"The CEB regrets that a responsible national newspaper resorts to innuendo and unsubstantiated statements to unnecessarily cause disquiet in a large part of the country's population. The only person identified in the article is Dr. Tilak Siyambalapitiya who is quoted as saying 'Currently users of more than 180 units pay Rs. 15 per unit'. Eighty percent of the electricity consumers in the domestic category in Sri Lanka pay well below Rs. 15 per unit. Totally incorrect statements about the CEB's overdraft facility have been made in the story. The correct position is that the present overdraft facility of the CEB is well below Rs. 3 billion. It should be borne in mind that the CEB's monthly turnover is about Rs. 4 billion.
"It is unfortunate that a recognized correspondent of the Daily Mirror has not taken the trouble to clarify the facts from responsible officials of the CEB, before launching on this highly speculative, damaging and insulting story.
"The Chairman and the senior officials of the CEB are always available at any time of the day or night to answer questions, whether they be from newspaper personnel or individual customers of the CEB.
"The CEB reiterates that it is conscious of its duty by the nation and will not be stampeded into hasty decisions regarding the tariff or any other relevant matter. Minister of Power and Energy Karu Jayasuriya also states that no price increase on the current tariff for electricity will be imposed. In fact he has advised the officials of the CEB to study the possibility of reducing the unit cost of electricity in order to lessen the financial burden on consumers."