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Massive power hike will hit poor hardest

ELSEWHERE in this issue we carry a story announcing the massive electricity tariffs that are to come into effect beginning next month.
The Lesotho Electricity and Water Authority (Lewa) says it has approved an increase in electricity tariffs by between 13 and 15 percent.
Consumers will with effect from next month fork out M10.30 to buy 10 units of electricity, up from the current M9 they are paying to buy the same units.
This is a huge ask.
The reality is that most consumers will struggle to access electricity to light and heat their homes.
With Lesotho’s notorious winter upon us, we feel for the poor and unemployed who are lucky to have electricity in their homes.
The new tariffs will have a serious and negative impact on consumers who are already struggling to make ends meet.
The majority of Lesotho’s almost 40 000 factory workers earn about M900 a month.
Any increase in the cost of basics such as electricity that is not matched by a salary raise is likely to wreak havoc in the lives of Lesotho’s poor.
This is the reason why it is important for the electricity authority to strike a balance between its need for sustainability with the needs of the poorest of the poor.
The increases could also sound the death knell for struggling businesses that are likely to transfer the costs to long-suffering consumers.
We know that a hike in the cost of electricity will have a knock-on effect on the prices of other basics such as bread.
In all this it is the poor Mosotho who is expected to absorb these costs.
We are in no way suggesting that the LEC should charge ridiculously low tariffs. No.
We are aware of the need to keep the Commission on a sustainable level.
We expect the LEC to replace ageing equipment and ensure customers get efficient services.
It is in the interests of the power users that the LEC remains viable and continues to run efficiently.
The LEC therefore needs to review its charges after every 12 months.
But while they do so, they must also consider that they do not impose further hardships on the people.
It is against this background that we feel the proposed increase sounds a bit on the high given the economic challenges that Basotho are going through.
Would a government subsidy on electricity perhaps help cushion the poor?
This is an area that might need further debate.
We raise this issue because we are fully aware of the pain and suffering that people are going through.
Any measures that could mitigate this pain are very much welcome.
It would be very tempting for the Lesotho Electricity and Water Authority to argue that the new rates are a compromise after the LEC initially requested permission to increase tariffs by a massive 36 percent.
The truth of the matter though is that 15 percent is still way too high for the ordinary Mosotho.
A 15 percent hike is way above Lesotho’s current inflation rate which stands at an estimated six percent.

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