Power outages add to business community’s woes – The Express Tribune

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Small business owners reconsider viability of their trade as power cuts become prolonged, fuel prices skyrocket
The summer of 2022 has been a difficult time for most residents of Karachi who have had to endure record-breaking heat and suffocating humidity while experiencing frequent power outages and higher bills. However, as news of three major power companies shutting down operations in Pakistan becomes apparent, it is feared that the energy crisis is likely to deepen and Karachiites might have to deal with even worse load-shedding hours.
For the port city, which is also the country’s business and financial hub, a further surge in power outages could mean a huge dent in the national economy. The local business community fears that if load-shedding hours, which are a nuisance at the moment, become even more prolonged they might have to mull the viability of their business under the current economy.
Those likely to be worst affected by this are small business owners and daily wage workers. Muhammad Irfan, who runs a tailoring service out of a congested shop in the densely populated area of Gulistan e Jauhar says that he has been on his wit’s end trying to make things work with the current power crisis. “We have almost eight hours of scheduled load shedding every day, so work has been greatly impacted during the past few months. For much of the day, we have to use a generator to power the shop, but petrol prices recently jumped to a record high of Rs209.86 per litre, which means that I can no longer afford the generator. Now if power outages also increase, my business will be crushed,” said the tailor master.
Riaz, who works at a mobile repairing shop also faces a similar struggle. A lot of his work, he says, is reliant on a steady flow of electricity which has been hard to come by. “I have to pay rent for this shop, in addition to market union bills and other expenditures. The power outages were already terrible, but now the government also expects us to pay a much higher per-unit price while doing everything to sabotage our businesses. What is a poor a supposed to do in such circumstances?” he protested.
While business people like Irfan and Riaz have been on the front line of the chaos, the triple whammy of heat, load-shedding, and petroleum price hike has also brought chaos to the lives of average citizens. For instance, Mohammad Raheel, who belongs to North Karachi, says that power outages in his area are already so frequent that he has to spend much of his day outside the house, circling tea houses, neighborhood parks, or sitting by the footpath across the street from his house till late hours with his friends. “Our houses are not built to be well-ventilated, so it’s more breathable to be outside than to suffocate in a crowded home when the electricity goes out,” he explained.
Speaking in the same vein, Saima, who is a housewife from Kemari, unlike the men, a lot of women don’t have the luxury or the liberty of leaving the house and going outside during power cuts. Per Saima, women as housewives tend to be in charge of household chores, a lot of which are reliant on electricity. “When the power goes out for such extensive hours our whole life turns upside down. We cannot cook, we cannot clean, we cannot run the motor to fill our water tanks, and our children cannot complete their homework. Even when the house becomes a furnace, we have no option but to boil in it. Those who can afford, install backup power devices like UPS and generators, but for those of us who cannot afford that the only reprieve we get is through an open window, a terrace, or a balcony,” she told The Express Tribune.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 4th, 2022.
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