The proposed adjustment to Zambia’s electricity tariffs has elicited mixed reactions from the public, with some lauding it as a way for ZESCO to collect more revenues, while others criticize it as an indirect way of imposing higher costs of living on low-income households. Dr. Fred M’membe, the president of Zambia’s Socialist Party, has weighed in on the matter, describing it as a move that will further burden already struggling Zambians.
Dr. M’membe stated, “The real issue is the burden that will be placed on ordinary Zambians, particularly the poor, who will bear the brunt of this increase. While the high-end users might be targeted, the fact is that the majority of Zambians will be affected by this move, including those who are already struggling to make ends meet.”
He further noted that the tariff adjustment, while based on the concept of High Performance Pricing, is not a perfect solution for Zambia’s skewed economy. The large middle to upper-class population, who will bear the brunt of the price increase, are struggling with high costs of living.
“The cost of electricity is already a significant burden on many Zambians. This move will only serve to make life harder for those who can least afford it. Instead of burdening the poor, the government should be looking for ways to alleviate their plight,” Dr. M’membe added.
He called on the government to address the underlying issues facing the energy sector, such as lack of investment in renewable energy sources, instead of burdening the poor with higher costs.
Despite the criticism from some quarters, the Energy Regulation Board (ERB) has defended its decision to approve the adjustment to ZESCO’s tariffs. ERB Board Chairperson Reynolds Bowa said that the Board had taken into account ZESCO’s financial position, consumer submissions, and government policy to strike a balance between the utility’s viability, affordability, and government aspirations.
“The ERB has also given special attention to low-income households, small commercial operations, social services, and water utilities to ensure that they are not unfairly burdened by the tariff adjustment,” Bowa added.
The new tariffs, effective May 1st, 2023, will also see the introduction of water pumping tariffs applicable to water pumping facilities operated by licensed water utility companies. While the tariff adjustment has been approved, it remains to be seen how it will affect ZESCO’s revenues and the cost of living for ordinary Zambians.